11/12/2004

Horse jockeys

How nice would it be to know that before every event you begin, you have the first $100,000 of your health covered? In most states, horse tracks pay for this amount in insurance. But what happens if the rider becomes paralyzed? What if costs are more than this amount?

Jockeys feel that this is not enough. When asked before the Churchill Downs meet in Kentucky, some jockeys voted no on this issue. Because of this, they were ejected from the rest of the meet. Jockeys who were banned from riding at Churchill are still able to ride elsewhere in the country. It is the individual track that determines whether to stick with the jockeys ejection from another track or to let them ride.

Whey should they be able to obtain more money for their insurance when they put themselves at this risk? Shouldn't they be partially responsible? Honestly, it isn't the track that comes down to the reason why they get hurt. (Except in some cases, which is a completely different issue) It can be the horse, the rider next to them, or just a simple jockey error. Injuries are common in this line of work.

Because these jockeys are not riding, it can hurt the economic point of view as well. There are less jockeys racing, making less award money available. Is this going to hurt the horse owners? The horse owners pay the jockeys to ride. The jockeys don't ride. The jockey's don't get any award money. Therefore, the overall winning dollar amount is lower. Is it worth a horse owner to put a jockey on their horse to race when the cost can be greater than the reward?

11 comments:

pramahaphil said...

One must also consider into hazard pay. Soldiers going into battle put themselves at risk by joining the armed forces, shouldn't they shoulder some a big load of the burden if they get hurt or wounded. Why should taxpayers be forced to insure every soldier for upwards of 300,000 dollars? The answer is simple jockey's like soldiers are put in hazard for the largest benefit of others, there fore the should that they expect that they will be taken care of inthe event of an accident.

pramahaphil said...
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John West said...

Being a jockey is done so by choice and I think that $100,000 is an adequate amount in insurance coverage. The tracks should have the right to not allow those jockeys to race that disagree with this requirement.

Biancca said...

I wouldn't compare jockeys to soldiers. Soldiers are at risk to protect the country, while jockeys are at risk to provide entertainment. I guess it depends on which you think is more important.

peter_parker said...

It would be interesting to know how much the average jockey makes if they win and when they don't win. Why couldn't riders seek their own insurance above that provided by the tracks? Sure companies would take into account their lifestyle, but maybe the money they make would make higher premiums insignificant.

natty said...

Perhaps the horse owner's should take some of the liability responsibility. Maybe their horse is extra risky to ride...maybe the value of the jockey they choose is in high demand.

I think we would all agree that being a jockey is a risky profession and those who do it understand this. A jockey's benefits must outweight the perceived risks.

Dr. Tufte said...

You all missed the prisoner's dilemna here. It is in the interest of an individual jockey to refuse to ride unless there is enough insurance. But an owner or track can go to two different jockeys and say you can either ride without insurance or not ride at all. The jockeys are then likely to both choose to ride without insurance.

Unions get a bad rap in this country (somewhat well deserved for their lousy historical behavior). Anyway, a jockey's union could prevent this by presenting a unified position.

Anonymous said...

While it is true that a jockey has a choice to face the danger or another career, remember that the racing industry has cheated the jockeys and their organization in their media rights. When the TRA suggests that the $2.2 million dollars that they pay to the Jockeys Guild is supposed to be used for jockeys' health insurance, they neglect to say that the $2.2 million is what was promised to the Guild through negotiations and is strictly voluntary on a track to track basis. It is like pulling teeth to get most of the tracks to pay and many are years behind. Another forgotten fact is that that paltry amount is for the rights to use the jockeys' likenesses in simulcasting and television. The horsemens' associations get 2-6% handle revenues. If the jockeys got half that much, not only would all have free health care but pensions. 1/10 of 1% of that money would be $10 million per year and would fund all the programs the jockeys would need.
In 1960, the average major-league baseball player made $29,000 a year, this is what the average jockey makes in 2004. What does that tell you about pay versus risk?
On an average 2 jockeys a year are paralyzed and two die.
By the way, on the plane Saturday, I met a man whose wife died in a training accident at Pimlico a week before she was about to ride her first race. Do you know that the racetrack made him pick up her medical bills even though she was DOA, they stated that she was an independent contractor as a jockey and these things happen. It was a lie because Maryland is a workmen's comp state for jockeys so she should have been covered. It was a heart-breaking story. The compensation for jockeys is way below other athletes compared to risk.

Anonymous said...

A union would be perfect but at this moment in time the jockeys are not recognized by the NLRB. If the jockeys were to strike they would be violating anti-trust laws.Such as what happened in 1995. The horseracing industry states that jockeys are independent contractors when it suits them in issues such as workers' comp or unionizing but change their tune when it comes to issues like advertising. In reality, it is a very gray issue, and will be in the courts for a while to come in the near future

Anonymous said...

A number of the comments here demonstrate a lack of understanding I would like to remedy.
biancca - I agree with you that the entertainment value jockeys provide shouldn't be compared with the risk soldiers take, but our society values entertainment: if movie stars and basketball plyers get paid millions, while police officers and firefighters put themselves at risk for the public good ... I think a lot of our society's priorities are in te wrong places, and this issue isn't the one to take a stand on.
peter_parker - the average jockey makes 10% of their winnings. I don't have exact figures, but I seem to recall that the average trainer makes about $20 000/yr. I know that the average horse costs more to keep than he will ever earn, so teh average owner is losin money. Jockey's don't make that much. The whole sport is really a labour of love, something you can't help but be a part of.
natty - some horses are especially headstrong, but that doesn't factor into the majority of accidents, which are the result of a bad step or a horse spooking or something equally impossible to predict or prevent. Also, as I said above, most owners lose money.
I don't want to anger anyone, I just want to correct some misconceptions.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand how states get away with saying a jockey is an independent contractor. State of Texas says, if you tell someone when to be there, what uniforms to wear that they do not own, ride someone else's horse on a track I am surprised there have not been more considerations for the jockeys. Most, if not all, of the horses have insurance. Most owners have insurance, for the people owning racing horses have that kind of money. If you hold public office you have insurance, just not all the people you represent do, nor can they afford it. I would be interested in finding out more information on this frustrating problem. Is social medicine or unions the answer? Our elected officals need to figure this out very soon, before no one other than the rich and politians have insurance.