11/04/2011 4:29PM

Jockeys' Guild still seeks payment from Churchill Downs Inc.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Representative of the Jockeys' Guild held a press conference in downtown Louisville on Friday morning restating their desire for Churchill Downs Inc. to re-commit to annual contributions to the fund that pays for jockeys' benefits.

In September, Churchill Downs Inc. notified the guild that it did not intend to renew its three-year agreement and would not conduct negotiations over a new contract. The agreement costs Churchill's four tracks $330,000 annually, according to Terry Meyocks, national manager of the guild, and provides compensation in exchange for the guild declining to pursue payments for the use of riders' television rights for the purposes of simulcasting. Churchill still plans to pay for $1 million accident insurance policies at its tracks that cover jockeys and exercise riders, a Churchill spokesman said at the time of the notification.

Agreements such as those recently renewed by the Stronach Group, which owns six racetracks, and the New York Racing Association, the operator of Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, provide the bulk of the guild's revenue. Churchill Downs Inc.'s present agreement with the Guild expires on Dec. 31.

"All we are asking is that CDI return to the negotiating table," said Meyocks. Churchill's chief operating officer, Bill Carstanjen has, according to Meyocks, "told us CDI has made up its mind and will not change its mind over this issue." Meyocks said.

"Ever since I got involved with the guild back in 2007, I've said that if it weren't for Churchill Downs and Magna the Guild would not have made it through its bankruptcy," said Meyocks. Magna Entertainment Group was the former corporate owned of the tracks now operating under the banner of the Stronach Group. "But we desperately need all the tracks to support us again. Even some of the smallest tracks in the United States, some of whom are barely able to hang on financially, have stepped up to help us."

Meyocks said nearly 250 jockeys who have ridden over the years at Churchill-owned tracks have signed a petition asking Churchill management to reconsider its decision. He also made it clear the Guild is not threatening any job action at Churchill Downs or any of its properties, at the present time.

"Right now our only wish is to get CDI back to the negotiating table," said Meyocks.