Updated on 03/25/2014 6:04PM

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

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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.

GuyFleegman1 More than 1 year ago
A diamond in the rough that could benefit the Horse Racing Industry in the west a GREAT deal...owned and operated by THE biggest moron in horse racing history. GO AWAY SIMMS...
Bob More than 1 year ago
As far as I'm concerned they can cancel Turf Paradise PERMANENTLY!.....What's the point?
Sheldon Gl More than 1 year ago
If I may ask. What about the affordable health care act that is even available in AZ? Wouldn't this help?
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
The 1 million dollar policy should have been a given. I would hold the guild just as responsible as track management for not insisting on that a long long time ago. It's a shame that an accident, such as this, brings everyone to attention. My heart goes out to Anne and her family. Remember that there is a fund setup for helping her towards any and all costs. You can contact Turf Paradise to help with that fund. As far as Turf Paradise being a pit, you have to understand the bigger picture. Turf Paradise management is trying to survive under very very unfavorable conditions. Competing with all other sports venues in Phoenix and not having the help of an Indian Casino, like most other successful tracks, it has to race on Mondays and Tuesdays, just so it can glean a larger share of simulcast wagering. Really a tough job. Than you have to understand how many people make a living at or by Turf Paradise, that is well over 2,000 people, show me another sports venue in Arizona that does that. So don't be so quick to blame the owner and management for this, they have a huge responsibility to keep this place going. Remember all the people that are effected by bad mouthing the track
Justin McGhee More than 1 year ago
I am a supporter of the track. It's one of my favorite places to visit, but there's no denying that there is a lack of "positive vibe" when attending. The city has the climate to sustain a long fan friendly race meet. 100% afternoon post times in a desert on an unforgiving surface make for gruelling conditions on horses and aren't schedule friendly for most folks that aren't retired yet. Lean purses and loose med testing lead to over racing of the horses compromising the ethics of the sport and safety of the jockeys. It's a reality often overseen by the general public, average fans don't notice "top" trainers horses being raced under assistant trainers names due to suspensions or notice the 7-10 day turnarounds on the low level claimers. In my opinion it's a place where most horseman go to race to try and survive economically over the winter months and enjoy a comfortable climate before they venture elsewhere during the summer months for better racing and more lucrative purses. There's no doubt that there's potential to make this a great place to race. And it would take a significant investment by ownership to make that happen and likely one that wouldn't be recovered overnight. The decline won't end without significant change. The wheel doesn't need to be reinvented to turn things around there, it just needs to be rebuilt rather than driven flat. I hope this place turns around and soon for all the people that call it home.
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
Totally agree...the place is in shambles.
Charley More than 1 year ago
GuyFleegman knows what he is talking about! The owner has had a bad reputation for years.I stopped going to turf years ago when he stopped having NHC contests. He doesn't support the horse player so why support him.
GuyFleegman1 More than 1 year ago
43,000 or not..The owner of Turf Paradise is a parasite and should be run out of the industry. It is a sad miracle that this person has owned this track for so long. I have never heard ONE employee there since 1997 that has said ONE good thing about this guy.
Justin McGhee More than 1 year ago
Any Track that runs 140 plus live racing dates a year should be held at a high level insurance standard. It's horse racing and it's not IF it's WHEN and how bad. Management knows as much as the jockeys that accidents are a reality of the sport, the difference between their involvement is one has a guaranteed salary regardless of their performance. Maybe TUP should consider having an ambulance at the track during live racing (morning training as well), like a real pro sports organization has? Considering Turf Paradise calls itself the first sports franchise in Phoenix. Maybe it's time for them to start acting like one. It looks like the jockeys and horseman are supplied with a first aid responder in a pickup truck and left to lie in peril until an ambulance arrives when they do hit the dirt and that's during live racing! I've been at B class tracks that have stakes purses as high as the bottom purse at TUP and STILL have an ambulance with two medics trackside any time there is a rider and a horse on the track training or racing. It's a shame that it took a serious injury to a good person to bring this issue to the forefront. Another example of profits over people.
Shawn Britton More than 1 year ago
Fantastic post
GuyFleegman1 More than 1 year ago
Right on the money.but Simms wil never do it...He needs to be run out of the business.
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
They can always ride at another track that offers them what they want...last time I checked nobody was forcing them to ride!
mikey More than 1 year ago
With all the small fields there is not many tracks to go to.
Linda Parker More than 1 year ago
I was told in the HBPA office this afternoon the $500.000 has been used already in hospital bills, plus more. In order to get into the Craig Hospital she needed $150 thousand up front. She was $43,000 short with the remaining insurance and available funds, which Turf Paradise did give. Think about what is ahead if have a million was gone in 14 days. These riders need coverage so if, God forbid they are injured, the only thing they have to worry about is getting well, not money.
Linda Parker More than 1 year ago
half a million, not have a million
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Check with the Chaplain, Linda. See if there is some help coming in via mail and Email.
M More than 1 year ago
good point... they should probably look at 5 million policy... maybe 10 million... not sure about the pricing and who would write it and at what costs... i would guess it is a high premium based on the risks. it may be cheaper if all tracks bought in a pool--economy of scale.