03/16/2015 2:55PM

Parx jockeys threaten to sit out

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Approximately 50 jockeys have notified management at Parx racetrack outside Philadelphia that they will not ride beginning this weekend unless the track rescinds a demand that jockeys indemnify Parx as part of a new insurance policy, according to the Jockeys’ Guild.

The Guild said in a release on Monday that the jockeys refusing to ride are based at Parx and at tracks in the Philadelphia region. If the figure is accurate, Parx is likely to have difficulty filling races for its Saturday card, the first scheduled after a Wednesday deadline for riders to sign up for the track’s new insurance.

Michael Ballezzi, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said on Monday that he is attempting to negotiate a solution to the dispute between management and riders, and that trainers will not name riders on their horses until the matter is settled.

“At this time, that is what we are doing,” Ballezzi said. “We’ll take entries, and hopefully we’ll get it resolved, but if they don’t want to ride, we will honor that.”

The dispute between Parx and its riders began late last year, when Parx distributed a form to jockeys indemnifying the track in the event of an accident. The form stated that jockeys would not be able to ride at the track unless they signed, but it was rescinded by Parx after riders objected and legal counsel for the jockeys got involved.

Late last month, Parx told riders that they would be required to sign two forms in order to be eligible for a new insurance policy that goes into effect on March 19. The first was an acknowledgement that they accepted the terms of the new policy, and the second was a waiver indemnifying the track. Riders have so far refused to accept the indemnification language.

Negotiations between legal counsel for riders and Parx management on removing the disputed language have gone nowhere over the past three weeks, according to riders’ representatives. Parx officials have not returned repeated phone calls since the dispute arose. Aside from the waiver requirement, the ontrack insurance policy going into effect on Thursday is typical for racetracks across the country, with $1 million in medical coverage and $200,000 in coverage for accidental death and dismemberment.