01/22/2016 11:02PM

Thoroughbred owners in California to receive higher participation bonuses

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ARCADIA, Calif. – In an effort to offset rising costs for workers’ compensation in California, Thoroughbred owners will receive higher participation bonuses for each starter beginning Feb. 1, according to a statement released by the Thoroughbred Owners of California on Friday.

Beginning Feb. 1 at Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita, horse owners will have $95 deducted from their paymaster accounts for each starter to cover workers’ compensation coverage for jockeys in races. To offset costs, the guaranteed purse distribution paid to each runner will rise by $95, to $345 at Southern California tracks and to $225 at Golden Gate Fields and the Northern California fairs.

In most races, purses paid for the first five finishers will exceed that amount. For runners who finish sixth or worse, and for some fifth-place finishers in races with low purses, at least $345 or $225 will be paid to owners.

Rates for trainers are unchanged from 2015, according to the TOC. The TOC described workers’ compensation costs as “skyrocketing” and said changes were needed to offset higher fees.

Three sources of revenue are utilized to cover workers’ compensation costs in California, according to Brad McKinzie of the Finish Line Self Insurance Group, which has managed workers’ compensation accounts for Thoroughbred horsemen in California since 2011.

Owners pay a fee per starter to cover jockeys, trainers pay a daily fee to cover exercise riders and stable staff, and one-half of 1 percent of the takeout on handle from exotic wagers on California races is dedicated to a fund to pay workers’ compensation costs.

Legislation passed in 2004 allowed for the increase in takeout to offset worker’s compensation costs.

The deduction from takeout amounts to approximately $6.5 million annually, McKinzie said. Owners and trainers pay the remaining costs. The fee paid by a trainer amounts to approximately $100 per month per horse in their stables.

The TOC is part of the California Thoroughbred Business League, a consortium of racetracks, horsemen’s groups, and fair organizations that oversees a program to provide workers’ compensation subsidies to owners. The cost of the 2016 program has been estimated at $12.6 million, according to the TOC.

The Finish Line Group has handled workers’ compensation for Thoroughbred horsemen in California since 2011. McKinzie founded the Finish Line Group. He is also the general manager of the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred meetings.