By Bill Finley
In a June 7 letter, the Jockeys' Guild informed its membership that, starting July 1, Monmouth Park jockeys will no longer be covered by Guild insurance policies. The Guild has been providing temporary disability benefits, life insurance and Accident, Death and Disability benefits to those who have chosen to ride in New Jersey.
The Guild has been adamant in its belief that racing has become more dangerous at Monmouth Park because jockeys are no longer allowed to encourage their mounts with the use of the whip. In the June 7 letter, sent out to all Guild members, Guild President and CEO Terry Meyocks wrote that, “The increase of risk is thereby creating a greater exposure for the Jockeys' Guild and the benefits that we provide to our members who are riding under such regulation.”
Meyocks said that the cost of the insurance policies has, so far, not increased due to the whip regulations, but that the Guild's Board of Directors is concerned that the ban will eventually lead to higher rates.
Once the policies have been withdrawn, it appears that anyone riding at Monmouth will either have to take out insurance of their own or accept the risks that would come from riding without coverage. When asked if he expected that some riders would chose to leave Monmouth because of the insurance situation, Meyocks replied, “I have no idea. I really don't. All we have done all along is to just inform everybody.”
Dennis Drazin, who heads the management company that operates the racetrack, lashed out at the Guild Monday, calling the decision to withdraw the insurance a “cheap shot.”
“This is an uncalled-for reaction to a rule that the racing commission put into effect and now they want to punish their own jockeys because they are riding,” Drazin said. “It doesn't reflect well on the Jockeys' Guild. It is something they should not have done. Insurance companies don't cancel your coverage because of the racing commission putting in a regulation that the Guild has known about for two years.”
Drazin suggested that those who will continue to ride at Monmouth have the grounds for a lawsuit against the Guild.
“The comments I have heard are that some of the jocks are upset with the Guild and don't feel that they are representing them well,” Drazin said. “Now they decide that they're going to suspend the benefits that they provide to our jockeys. Frankly, if our jockeys wanted to, they have a very good lawsuit against the Guild.”
Meyocks said that Monmouth is on a list of tracks that do not make any financial contributions to the Guild's insurance policies.
Monmouth kicked off its 2021 meet May 28 with the strictest rules in the sport regarding whipping. The rules, put into effect by the New Jersey Racing Commission, allow jockeys to carry whips but they can only use them when they feel they are in an unsafe situation. At no point in a race can a jockey use the whip to encourage the horse. Jockeys Joe Bravo and Antonio Gallardo have refused to ride at the meet due to safety concerns, but Monmouth has had no problem finding enough jockeys willing to ride. Ten racing days into the meet, the racing has been conducted without any noticeable safety issues.