06/01/2003 11:00PM

Steeplechase group, amateur riders merge

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The Amateur Riders Club of America and the National Steeplechase Association have agreed to a merger that will put the administrative functions for the riding group into the hands of the steeplechase organization.

The merger, which was announced on Friday, will result in the creation of the Amateur Jockeys Association, an organization that will be managed by the steeplechase association and headed by the riders club's president, Pierre Bellocq, according to a release from the two organizations announcing the move.

The AJA will schedule amateur races at American racetracks and steeplechase meets, and will also send American jockeys to international amateur competitions. The steeplechase association, meanwhile, will be responsible for registering and licensing amateur riders and keeping track of statistics, according to the release, functions previously handled by the riders club.

"I have been searching for a way to ensure the future of the ARCA, and this is it," said Bellocq, who is also the art director for Daily Racing Form. "I can work to increase the visibility and health of amateur racing, like I do now, without worrying about the business details."

The riders club was formed in 1986 to promote amateur riding contests. Members of the organization cannot have a job that is dependent on riding, and all fees and purse winnings in riders club events are donated to racing charities.

The steeplechase association is the national governing body for steeplechase racing in the U.S. It assigns grades to races and coordinates schedules with racetracks and racing grounds.

"Taking over the functions of the AJA will bring us added exposure to potential new jockeys and to potential new racetrack hosts," said Bill Gallo, the president of the steeplechase association, in the release.