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Jockey insurance rate increases for race tracks in Montana

January 31, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

Meeting in Helena Feb. 25

With enough financial headaches already on the table for live horse racing at tracks in Montana, racing officials and county fair management across the state were recently informed of a large rate increase to cover jockeys by Mather Insurance Company, which is based in Philadelphia but offers coverage to Montana tracks, as well as tracks across the nation.

The increase is two-fold: the rate to cover one race day with a 10-race card went from approximately $1,200 and a $50 deductible per accident for $100,000 in liability coverage to over $2,000 per day with a $10,000 deductible per accident for $500,000 in liability coverage. In addition, tracks are required to send a deposit to the insurance company before their meets begin. Last year, a deposit of $1000 was required; this season, they are asked to send in a deposit of $10,000. If the meet remains accident free, they will receive a refund, but that takes up to a full year.

Sam Murfitt, Executive Secretary of the Montana Board of Horse Racing, said he thought there were approximately 45 race tracks affected across the northwest and southwest. Montana is not singled out in the rate increase.

Murfitt said a board meeting was being set for February 25 in Helena, with track management invited to attend, to address the issue.

“I don’t know if the Board of Horse Racing can do anything, because we don’t require it (for the tracks to carry jockey insurance), but we have to do something,” Murfitt said.

Murfitt said an exchange of ideas has already begun with the board and track management.

The rules for the Board of Horse Racing include a requirement for public liability coverage on the part of tracks, but not individual coverage for jockeys. However, as Murfitt, noted, no one can afford the liability of having jockeys ride without coverage.

While county commissioners across the state of Montana have struggled with the financial feasibility of keeping live racing at their local fairgrounds, a commitment was made by November 1 to host live race meets across the state in 2006 with the official request of live race dates to the Montana Board of Horse Racing.

Date requests were due by November 1. A date hearing to confirm and discuss requests was held December 3, at which time dates were officially rewarded. All tracks which held a meet in 2005 requested and received dates for 2006.

Before 1999, jockeys were covered under Montana’s State Workmen’s Compensation. When the costs with that coverage began to rise, horsemen and jockeys began looking for an alternative source of coverage. Tracks began carrying coverage for jockeys, who generally do not carry any or enough insurance on their own.