Thursday, April 5, 2007

Governor: Help the Jockeys

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

A fund created last year to assist permanently disabled jockeys is nearly out of money, guild and industry officials said today. Dwight Manley, national manager for The Jockeys’ Guild, said the 58 jockeys who have been getting $1,000 a month have been told they may not get that much this month. "Short of dying, these people, the permanently disabled, are living reminders that this is a dangerous sport," Manley said during a news conference at Churchill Downs to discuss the auction of a Kentucky Derby saddle to benefit the fund.

At the news conference, jockey Edgar Prado showed the saddle he used when he rode Barbaro to his Derby win last year and during the Preakness Stakes where the horse broke its leg. Barbaro was euthanized in January because of complications from his injury.

The saddle, which Prado also used in riding two Belmont Stakes winners, will be auctioned May 4 at the Mint Jubilee Gala at the Galt House. "My fellow riders need it more than me at this time," Prado said. Just before last year’s Preakness, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund was announced as a non-profit charity established by tracks, horsemen’s organizations, jockeys and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

The fund, administered through NTRA Charities, is intended to supplement other payments to disabled riders, such as Social Security. Peggy Hendershot, an NTRA vice president, said racetracks have provided most of the money for the fund. "It’s basically operating month to month," Manley said. Manley said horsemen’s groups have not contributed as anticipated. "Some people have really dropped the ball," he said.

Remi Bellocq, the chief executive officer of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, said that funding guidelines developed for the fund were, in some cases, unrealistic for some HBPA affiliates. "It won’t help things by bad-mouthing folks," Bellocq said in a telephone interview.

Hendershot said a long-term solution is being sought, and that it wouldn’t be unrealistic for the industry to raise the $750,000 to $800,000 needed each year. Bellocq said he believes horsemen would support a long-term solution that included a financial contribution by jockeys. He said contributions for HBPA affiliates are still being hurt by allegations of financial mismanagement by the Guild’s leadership before Manley.

Kentucky and horse racing are unified. Governor Fletcher should become involved. The NTRA is national. The injured jockeys are national. However, horse racing is Lexington, Louisville, and our bluegrass state. Governor Fletcher should showcase leadership. Immediately, he should contribute.

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