10/19/2004 11:00PM

Stevens to pass on Cup Cites inadequate insurance

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens said on Wednesday that he will limit his riding to states in which jockeys are covered under workers' compensation plans because of concerns over inadequate insurance coverage in other states.

Because of his decision, Stevens has canceled an appearance at the International Jockey Championships at Lone Star Park on Oct. 28, as well as what he said were several potential mounts in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 30, also at Lone Star.

Stevens, who is based most of the year in California, a workers' compensation state, said he had learned within the last 72 hours that insurance coverage in non-workers' compensation states was limited to $100,000. "I think we've all been a little bit naive, and I don't think we all understand the risks we are putting ourselves in by riding," Stevens, 41, said, from the jockeys' room at Santa Anita.

Stevens said that even if he has a mount in the Kentucky Derby next year, he will not ride unless riders have unlimited insurance coverage.

Jockeys are currently covered under a policy purchased by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group. The policy, which expires at the end of 2005, limits coverage to $100,000 in the case of death or disability in states that do not have workers' compensation policies. Five states cover jockeys under workers' compensation laws, including California, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey.

The Jockeys' Guild, a group that represents riders in negotiations and lobbies on behalf of jockeys, had in the past purchased supplemental insurance that typically covered jockeys for $1 million in medical bills. That policy, however, was canceled by the Guild's board of directors in 2002. The board cited increased premiums as the reason.

Earlier this year, a jockey at Mountaineer Park, Gary Birzer, was critically injured in a racing accident, and his inability to pay an estimated $500,000 in medical bills has led to criticism of Guild management. Many jockeys and jockeys' wives have complained recently that riders were never adequately informed that the Guild's supplemental policy was allowed to expired.

Stevens said that Lone Star had offered to increase workers' compensation coverage to $500,000 for Breeders' Cup week. Lone Star officials confirmed the offer on Wednesday, and said they had been working for several months to increase coverage for riders during Breeders' Cup week, a process that is ongoing.

"It's something we care deeply about, and we're still examining all of the issues and options right now," said Lone Star spokesman Darren Rogers.LEXINGTON, Ky. - Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens said on Wednesday that he will limit his riding to states in which jockeys are covered under workers' compensation plans because of concerns over inadequate insurance coverage in other states.

Because of his decision, Stevens has canceled an appearance at the International Jockey Championships at Lone Star Park on Oct. 28, as well as what he said were several potential mounts in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 30, also at Lone Star.

Stevens, who is based most of the year in California, a workers' compensation state, said he had learned within the last 72 hours that insurance coverage in non-workers' compensation states was limited to $100,000. "I think we've all been a little bit naive, and I don't think we all understand the risks we are putting ourselves in by riding," Stevens, 41, said, from the jockeys' room at Santa Anita.

Stevens said that even if he has a mount in the Kentucky Derby next year, he will not ride unless riders have unlimited insurance coverage.

Jockeys are currently covered under a policy purchased by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group. The policy, which expires at the end of 2005, limits coverage to $100,000 in the case of death or disability in states that do not have workers' compensation policies. Five states cover jockeys under workers' compensation laws, including California, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey.

The Jockeys' Guild, a group that represents riders in negotiations and lobbies on behalf of jockeys, had in the past purchased supplemental insurance that typically covered jockeys for $1 million in medical bills. That policy, however, was canceled by the Guild's board of directors in 2002. The board cited increased premiums as the reason.

Earlier this year, a jockey at Mountaineer Park, Gary Birzer, was critically injured in a racing accident, and his inability to pay an estimated $500,000 in medical bills has led to criticism of Guild management. Many jockeys and jockeys' wives have complained recently that riders were never adequately informed that the Guild's supplemental policy was allowed to expired.

Stevens said that Lone Star had offered to increase workers' compensation coverage to $500,000 for Breeders' Cup week. Lone Star officials confirmed the offer on Wednesday, and said they had been working for several months to increase coverage for riders during Breeders' Cup week, a process that is ongoing.

"It's something we care deeply about, and we're still examining all of the issues and options right now," said Lone Star spokesman Darren Rogers.