04/16/2008 11:00PM

Proposed cut upsets valets

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - New compensation guidelines issued by the Jockeys' Guild are creating a rift between riders and their valets in New York.

The guidelines suggest that jockeys pay their valets 2.5 percent of their earnings for races run at a specific meet and nothing for purse money earned out of town. Also, the fee would be capped at the rider's winning share of a $250,000 gross purse.

Previously, valets in New York were paid 5 percent of money earned at that specific meet, 2.5 percent for money earned out of town, and there was no cap. Valets, whose job is to take care of a rider's personal needs as well as saddle the horses, also receive a weekly salary from the New York Racing Association, their employers, ranging from $250 to $325 a week.

The new pay scale was outlined in a memo sent out by Terry Meyocks, the national manager for the Jockeys' Guild, in January. Meyocks said that these were only guidelines and believes riders should work out their own deals individually with the valets, such as is the case in California.

The New York valets are upset because they believe these guidelines amount to a 50-percent pay cut at a time when riders in New York are about to receive a pay increase beginning with the Belmont meet.

"The fellas that are making more and more want to pay less and less," said Harry Rice, who works as a valet for Mike Luzzi and Rajiv Maragh.

According to Rice, the majority of riders have continued to pay at the previous scale. Jockeys such as Eibar Coa, Kent Desormeaux, and Edgar Prado, however, have indicated they will abide by the new scale when they return to New York full-time, after the Kentucky Derby. Coa has already returned and opted to take care of his personal needs by himself. He said he has been treated like an outcast by the valets.

"I always thought they were making too much from the very beginning anyway," Coa said. "In my personal case, I've been paying $50,000 a year to my valet. I'm not talking bad about them, [but] this is work that you can be hotwalking one day then the next day you're a valet."

Coa said that the jockeys were planning to meet with the valets in two weeks to discuss the situation.