01/31/2005 1:00AM

Jockeys' Guild to open its books


The Jockeys' Guild has agreed to allow the California Horse Racing Board to examine its financial statements and conduct a limited audit of the organization.

Richard Shapiro, who formed a committee at the CHRB a month ago to assess the Guild's financial health, said that the Guild agreed to the request after a meeting last week with the Guild's California legal counsel, Barry Broad.

California provides approximately $1 million annually in funding to the Guild to manage health insurance claims of jockeys in the state.

"I've been assured that we will be able to see anything that we want to see," Shapiro said.

Broad said the Guild agreed to the plan under the condition that the CHRB limit its audit to how the Guild has spent the money that California has given the organization.

"Anything that involves state money and how it is spent will be answered," Broad said. "But there are other things that we believe are outside of the state's purview to question."

Those items include expenses of Guild officials, Broad said.

California will hold back its Guild funding until the committee's questions are answered. The money, which is provided by uncashed parimutuel tickets, is usually paid in February.

Shapiro also said that he had received a letter from Ron Warren, a northern California jockey, notifying the board that Warren intended to form a new organization, the California Jockeys Guild, which would seek to manage the state's funding. The letter is endorsed by 29 northern California-based riders, Shapiro said.

California law specifies that the money from uncashed tickets be managed by a group representing a majority of California riders.

There are approximately 300 riders licensed in California, but it's not clear how many are Guild members.

The Guild has been criticized by several national racing organizations and a handful of its members because of jockey walkouts in November at Churchill Downs and Hoosier Park. The jockeys walked out in protest of what they said is inadequate insurance provided for them by racetracks.

The Thoroughbred Racing Associations has asked the Guild to allow it to review its books, too, but the Guild had not responded to the request, according to Chris Scherf, the TRA executive vice president.