01/23/2013 2:01PM

Jockeys' Guild plans to seek additional funding from tracks

Email

The Jockeys’ Guild plans to seek additional agreements with racetracks this year that would require the tracks to provide funding for the guild’s member benefits, the organization’s top official said Wednesday.

Terry Meyocks, the guild’s national manager, said that the guild would be far more aggressive this year than last year in seeking the agreements. Currently, many U.S. racetrack owners – including Churchill Downs, the New York Racing Association, and the Stronach Group – contribute to the guild’s funding, but many more racetracks do not pay.

Meyocks made the comments just prior to boarding a plane in Lexington, Ky., en route to the guild’s annual assembly in Florida. One of the topics for the three-day assembly will be how the guild can seek additional funding from racetracks.

Talk by the guild of seeking additional funding unnerves many racetrack officials who have battled with the organization through the past decade. In the early 2000s, following the hiring of L. Wayne Gertmenian as chief executive, the guild alienated many tracks as Gertmenian sought to force tracks to pay for the guild’s programs and insurance. Gertmenian was fired in 2005 after items on his r é sum é were revealed to be fraudulent and guild members tired of his adversarial tactics.

Late in 2011, the guild waged an aggressive public campaign against Churchill Downs Inc. after the company said it would no longer provide funding to the organization on behalf of its four tracks. In early 2012, with its account-wagering license in California threatened, Churchill reached a new agreement with the guild to provide the funding.

Ideally, Meyocks said, the guild would seek to reach an industry-wide funding agreement akin to a deal that the guild had for decades through the Thoroughbred Racing Associations. That deal was scuttled in the mid-2000s when the guild and TRA locked horns under Gertmenian’s leadership.

“We’ve been piece-mealing it,” Meyocks said. “My recommendation is that we need to be seeking that funding from everyone in one agreement.

Chris Scherf, executive vice president of the TRA, a trade association of racetracks, said that he doubted tracks would be amenable to reaching a single deal with the guild. The prior deal required tracks to make scaled contributions to the guild through mount fees based on the amount of the track’s handle, while simultaneously funding a catastrophic injury policy.

Scherf said that those insurance policies are now held by individual tracks and that a single insurance policy would be difficult to resurrect in the current insurance market.

“I can’t go to the market anymore for that kind of policy,” Scherf said. “Nor do I have any indication that tracks are looking for a policy of that kind.”