During the Annual Assembly in Hollywood, Florida, the membership of the Jockeys' Guild has named its list of Worst Deadbeats. These are the horse racing track operators which are most insensitive to jockey health and safety issues.
“Since 1968, the majority of track operators have contributed to the Guild to help pay for needed member benefits,” said Terry Meyocks, National Manager of the Jockeys' Guild. “However, none of these Deadbeats currently contributes to the Guild for members' temporary disability benefits, life insurance, AD&D insurance and health care subsidies for qualifying active riders, as well as supplemental assistance for the Guild's permanently disabled riders.
“And while these are not the only tracks not contributing to help our jockeys, we are listing those operators whose inaction is, in our opinion, most egregious,” added Meyocks. “Legislators, regulators and the public all need to know that these tracks are shirking their responsibilities.”
Penn National Gaming Inc. (PNGI) leads the list, according to the Guild. Its race tracks include Hollywood Casino at Charles Town in Charles Town, West Virginia; Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pennsylvania; Beulah Park in Grove City, Ohio; Zia Park in Hobbs, New Mexico; and 50% ownership of Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, Texas.
“PNGI leads the list because it has the most tracks and in my opinion, has made it clear that it cares about only one thing, casino gaming,” said Meyocks. “Various news reports over the years have documented serious safety issues both for riders and horses at PNGI tracks.”
“Most of these Deadbeat track operators have one thing in common,” added Meyocks. “Most have racinos. They know they cannot get a casino license without horse racing. However, we believe that once they get their license, they focus most of their attention on the casinos and downplay racing. This concerns us greatly.”
The Deadbeat list is as follows:
1. Penn National Gaming Inc. (Hollywood Casino at Charles Town (WV); Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course (PA), Beulah Park (OH), Sam Houston Race Park (TX) and Zia Park (NM));
2. Harrah's, (Louisiana Downs (LA); Thistledown (OH); and part interest in Turfway Park, (KY));
3. Boyd Gaming Corporation (Delta Downs (LA) and Evangeline Downs (LA));
4. MTR Gaming Group (Mountaineer Racetrack (WV) and Presque Isle Downs (PA));
5. New Centaur Gaming, operators of Indiana Downs Racing & Casino (IN);
6. Monmouth Park (NJ);
7. Los Alamitos Race Course (CA);
8. Ellis Park (KY);
9. Ruidoso Downs (NM);
10. Turf Paradise (AZ).
Not all of the Deadbeat track operators have gaming operations. Monmouth Park, in Oceanport, New Jersey, contributed for years. However, last year when horsemen took over the track operations, they discontinued contributing. “Stopping the contributions is a sad way to repay jockeys for keeping a quality product at their race track,” added Meyocks.
In addition, only two of the 18 tracks owned by these track operators are accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance. The Alliance, made up of a variety of professionals in the racing industry, is committed to the standards and practices developed by the NTRA, and members are encouraged to not only meet, but exceed, the set standards. “The fact that only two of the 18 tracks owned by these Deadbeats are accredited by the Alliance speaks volumes about their level of caring,” added Meyocks.
Guild members also thanked track operators they referred to as The Good Guys. These are the tracks that do contribute to the Guild fund for benefits. The Good Guys list includes large track corporations such as Churchill Downs, Incorporated (Arlington Park, Calder, Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds), NYRA (Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga), and The Stronach Group (Golden Gate, Gulfstream Park, Laurel, Pimlico, Portland Meadows, and Santa Anita Park), as well as Arapahoe, Betfair Hollywood Park, California Authority of Racing Fairs, Del Mar, Finger Lakes, Fonner Park, Hawthorne, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Oaklawn Park, Pomona/Fairplex, Remington Park, Suffolk Downs and Sunland Park. “Racing fans who enjoy racing at these tracks can be assured that they value the health and welfare of jockeys,'' said Meyocks. “Members of the Guild appreciate the contributions made by these tracks.''
At the annual Jockeys' Guild Assembly, the Guild's Board of Directors agreed to once again ask all non-contributing tracks to engage in discussions that can lead to improvements and better conditions for jockeys, as well as a long term plan to support disabled riders. “It's time these track operators commit to invest in the health and welfare of jockeys,” said John Velazquez, Chairman of the Jockeys' Guild. “Right now, the track operators who won't contribute are avoiding their moral responsibility, while the ones who do contribute are carrying the load. We must have guaranteed funding from the industry to help these men and women jockeys with their basic needs.”
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