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Jockey insurance - working on solutions


February 21, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

By Phyllis Tryon
Racing officials and county fair management at smaller tracks across the nation were recently informed of a large rate increase to cover jockeys by Mather Insurance Company, which is based in Philadelphia but offers coverage to 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.

Racing officials in Ohio announced a solution in early February for their state through Workmen’s Compensation coverage. Tracks will pay the premiums for the coverage and jockeys will be eligible for unlimited medical and disability coverage for work-related injuries.

Doug Demontigny of Chippewa Downs in North Dakota said race organizers were researching the possibility of event insurance with individual participation insurance, which is the type of insurance used to cover rodeo events. Research was in the preliminary stages.

On February 16, the Oregon Racing Commission met with industry representatives in the state to work out a solution to the insurance dilemma.

Fair tracks in Oregon may have reached a solution through a joint effort on the part of the five fair tracks, the Oregon Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Oregon Quarter Horse Association, and the cooperation of jockeys and the Oregon Racing Commission.

Doug Smith of Crooked River Roundup in Prineville, the location of one of Oregon’s fair meets, said it appears there may be an agreement for insurance through MOC Insurance Services in California.

“We put a solution together that will work for Oregon by coming up with alternative ways to fund the insurance,” Smith explained. “We all gave quite a bit.”

Smith explained that MOC Insurance Services writes a lot of workmen’s compensation insurance for the State of California as well as providing insurance for Magna Entertainment race tracks.

“I believe our policy will be written for all 28 days of summer racing at the county fairs,” Smith said. The purchase of the policy had not been finalized at this writing.

Smith noted that the policy with MOC Insurance will prevent the Oregon fair tracks from having to deal with a $10,000 deductible per incident.

The American Quarter Horse Association was also researching possibilities to help tracks which run Quarter Horses resolve the jockey insurance dilemma. Trey Buck, Senior Director of Racing, said the AQHA was simply acting as a facilitator to bring tracks together.

AQHA sent out a short fact-gathering survey in early February to tracks which race Quarter Horses requesting feedback on whether they had experienced a rate increase, what their 2006 race dates were, and how many races they expected to run this season.

“From that survey, we’ve had 42 responses from people interested in looking at the possibility of getting together a group to try to lower the rates,” Buck said. As of February 21, AQHA had compiled their information and was looking to have a spokesperson contact various major insurance companies.

“It’s still no too late for tracks to get in,” Buck noted. “Obviously, the more tracks we get in, the more attractive it will be to these large insurance companies.”

“The chances of something actually happening this year are pretty slim,” Buck added. “If a group forms the way we think we’re going to do it, an insurance company has to go to all the states to get everything clear they need to do, so it probably can’t happen this year. That’s not to say something more positive won’t happen this year. We might be able to get something done, or at least get something rolling this year, and then get something bigger done for next year.”

In Montana, a State Board of Horse Racing meeting was 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.