Updated on 03/25/2014 7:04PM

Turf Paradise Tuesday card canceled, track agrees to provide better insurance for jockeys


Racing was canceled at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Ariz., on Tuesday after jockeys refused to ride and met with management over their concerns about the track’s insurance policies in the wake of an accident earlier this month in which a rider was paralyzed, according to officials.

Races were called off before the day’s card began and after Turf Paradise officials met with a representative of the Jockeys’ Guild and a handful of riders based at the track. The meeting was called to discuss the track’s $500,000 insurance policy covering medical bills for catastrophic injuries, officials of the track and Guild said.

Vincent Francia, the general manger of the racetrack, said that Turf Paradise officials said at the meeting that the track would purchase supplemental insurance covering up to $1 million in medical bills for the remainder of the meeting and would also buy a new policy for $1 million in coverage for the 2014-15 meet. The supplemental coverage will go into effect on Wednesday, Francia said, and he expects jockeys to ride the live card that day.

However, Francia also said that jockeys made the decision to refuse to ride after the meeting, in which track officials told the riders that the track would seek to buy additional insurance. Although he said that the refusal would not impact the track’s decision to increase the insurance coverage, he expressed disappointment with the jockeys’ actions.

“That is not a way to conduct good-faith business,” Francia said. “This hurt my track, and this hurt the whole horseracing community here.”

Scott Stevens, a Guild representative at Turf Paradise and a leading rider at the track, said that riders had not been assured that Turf Paradise would buy insurance at the time that the meeting broke up. Instead, track officials told the riders that they would consider buying additional insurance.

“When we left the meeting, they had only said they would look into it,” Stevens said. “If the insurance was in place, we’d have no reason to cancel.”

Darrell Haire, the representative of the Jockeys’ Guild who met with track management, said that jockeys refused to ride on Tuesday out of “safety concerns” stemming from the track’s $500,000 insurance policy. While most racetracks have insurance covering medical bills for up to $1 million, the Guild has been pressing all tracks that do not have the coverage to up their policies.

“The riders understand the situation,” said Haire, who flew to Phoenix on Tuesday morning. “It’s dangerous out there and they accept that. But these guys have children and families, and they can’t go out there knowing that they can get financially ruined along with their physical injuries.”

Both Stevens and another leading Turf Paradise rider, Kelly Bridges, also a Guild rep, said they would ride on Wednesday if the supplemental insurance policy was in effect. Turf Paradise runs on a Saturday-through-Wednesday schedule.

The riders are scheduled to meet with management on Wednesday morning, the riders said.

Ann Von Rosen, a 43-year-old journeyman, suffered a severe spinal injury on March 11 at Turf Paradise when a horse she was riding fell on the backstretch, pinning the rider. Her initial medical bills have exceeded the $500,000 insurance policy covering catastrophic injuries at the track, Haire said.

Supporters of the jockey have been trying to get her transferred to Craig Hospital in Denver, which specializes in spinal-cord injuries and rehabilitation, according to Haire and other officials. After initially declining to accept Von Rosen, the hospital agreed to take her on as a patient beginning Thursday, Haire said.

Francia said that Jerry Simms, the owner of Turf Paradise, provided $43,000 to Von Rosen to get her into the Craig Hospital for rehabilitation.

Turf Paradise has scheduled a fundraiser for Rosen for April 12 as part of its Fan Appreciation Day.