05/09/2006 11:00PM

Proposed law change draws criticism


Representatives of trainers, owners, and racetracks said Wednesday that they would oppose any plan to amend the federal Interstate Horse Racing Act to give jockeys veto power over simulcast signals.

The opposition was voiced on Wednesday by officials of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, one day after two U.S. representatives, Ed Whitfield of Kentucky and Bart Stupak of Michigan, said that they planned to introduce legislation that would give jockeys the power to block simulcasts.

The Interstate Horse Racing Act, passed in 1978, gives the association representing the majority of horsemen at a racetrack the power to veto simulcasts of a racetrack's signal, which generate approximately 90 percent of the revenue to the racing industry.

Whitfield, the chair of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, said Tuesday that the proposed amendment would allow jockeys to tap into simulcast revenue in order to fund accident and health insurance for riders. Whitfield has called three hearings in the past eight months on jockeys' issues.

Chris Scherf, the executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group, said that giving riders veto rights over simulcasts would "wreak havoc" on the industry's current practices.

"They all talk as if this is found money, but that's not the case," Scherf said. "Everyone's losing money, and they're talking about fundamentally changing the business structure for 88 percent of our revenues."

Dan Metzger, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, said that his group considers that the current legislation "is set up properly to give owners and their authorized agents, the trainers, the veto rights. The owners are the investors who put on the sport, and they are the ones who are most qualified to make those decisions."

Remi Bellocq, the executive director of the national horsemen's association, said Wednesday that the proposed legislation would "threaten a bedrock of the industry."

The current law "is what allows us to go and get our fair share of purse dollars from handle, and the jockeys already share in that," Bellocq said.