I don't think Terry Meyocks, the former New York Racing Association president and current Jockeys' Guild national manager, has read Dale Carnegie's “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
If he had, he might have thought twice about sending out a press release calling out Penn National Gaming Inc. and nine other racetrack operators as the “worst deadbeats” on the issue of jockey health and safety issues. The press release also thanked a list of tracks the Guild called “the good guys,” including Churchill Downs Inc. and the Stronach Group-owned tracks, among others.
“I'm disappointed with the tone of the release and the accusations and their intents,” said Chris McErlean, the vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming, which Meyocks said was No. 1 on the “worst deadbeat” list “because it has the most tracks and in my opinion has made it clear that it cares about only one thing, casino gaming.”
McErlean said PNGI spends $1.2 million per year on accident insurance for jockeys at its various racetracks.
“That's more than any other company, as far as I know,” said McErlean, who also serves as president of Thoroughbred Racing Associations. The TRA used to provide national coverage for the Jockeys' Guild until the organization self-destructed with the ill-advised hiring of Wayne Gertmenian in 2001. He was ousted five years later, leaving the organization in shambles. Its members are still in the process of cleaning up the mess created by Gertmenian, who the Guild said bilked the jockeys for more than $1 million.
McErlean said PNGI also has been a continuous supporter of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, which provides assistance to more than 60 jockeys disabled through riding accidents. “We think the entire industry should be support the PDJF and gave $30,000 in 2012,” he added.
PNGI is not contributing to health insurance for jockeys, however, in part because the riders are independent contractors and not employees of the racetrack or horsemen.
“I think it's unfair,” McErlean said of the Guild's accusations and the comments by Meyocks. “It's a gross distortion, not just against us but other tracks.”
Dennis Drazin, who advises the horseman's organization that runs New Jersey's Monmouth Park, listed as the No. 6 “worst deadbeat” by the Guild, was more blunt.
“Terry is full of BS,” Drazin said. “He tried to shake Monmouth down for contributions for media rights. New Jersey provides some of the best jockey benefits in the country. Our workers' compensation program is among the best without caps like other states. We traded off media rights years ago for a $150,000 per year jockey health insurance program which Dr. (Angelo) Chinnici, our track medical director, administrated and complained about some charges the Guild tried to charge.
“Monmouth horsemen voluntarily paid a higher $100 mount fee in some categories than Kentucky tracks. We cover our jockeys. During the meeting, Terry refused to pass on other contributions to New Jersey jockeys, insisting on keeping at least half for the Guild when we wanted to give 100% to our NJ jockeys and instead we bought an ambulance to add additional direct benefit.
“He also refused to let our insurance consultant sit in on the meeting to explain the extent of coverages we pay for our jockeys. I could go on, but Terry has now made himself persona non grata at Monmouth Park. He should be ashamed for not telling the truth about NJ benefits for our jockeys. We care about our jockeys and protect them.”
There was a time in the pre-Gertmenian era when TRA racetracks and the Jockeys' Guild worked together in a respectful and collaborative fashion. Too bad Dale Carnegie isn't around to bring them back together.
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