After a vigorous discussion, the Maryland Racing Commission approved the first raise in 12 years for losing jockeys during Tuesday's regular monthly meeting at Laurel Park.
All losing riders -- those who finish out of the top 3 spots in a race -- will now make $75 per mount instead of a sliding scale that started at $45.
The commission debated whether $75 was a large enough increase but passed the raise with an amendment requiring the board to reassess the amount of the raise, based on available funding numbers six to 12 months after it goes into effect Jan. 1.
The $75 plan was proposed by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association by unanimous approval of its board. The MTHA discussed the possibility of a raise after the national Jockeys' Guild requested an increase at the September meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission.
"Everyone agreed the jockey fees needed to be addressed," said David Richardson, who became the MTHA's new executive secretary Tuesday, replacing Wayne Wright, who retired Monday after 37 years. "They also wanted to streamline the payouts."
Under current guidelines, which will continue through the end of this year, winning jockeys earn 10 percent of the purse, while second- and third-place riders each earn 5 percent. Jockeys who finish out of the money are paid on a sliding scale, based on race purses, from $45 (for $10,000 to $14,999 purses) to $100 (for $100,000 and up purses). And, at the end of the year, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association also pays a bonus to jockeys earning less than $100,000.
It was a fund that paid out $46,000 to 23 riders last year. The MTHA also spends $1.5 million on worker's compensation for the jockeys, making Maryland just one of four states to do so.
While the horsemen will continue to pay for worker's compensation, the end-of-year bonus will be discontinued and all out-of-the-money jockeys will earn $75 in every race, no matter what the purse money is. The increase totals $150,000 more for the jockeys.
"The way we had it set up before helped the least successful riders," breeder-trainer Katy Voss said. "Now, the biggest benefit will go to the better riders, who already, at times, are finishing in the top three. But those little guys aren't usually members of the Jockeys' Guild and the Guild is campaigning for its members."
The Jockeys' Guild, which was represented by 20 jockeys at the meeting last month along with national representative Terry Meyocks, was not represented at Tuesday's meeting. Commissioner John Franzone, however, said the Jockeys' Guild was not in favor of the $75 raise, having requested $100, to put them in line with other race tracks..
In surrounding states, Charles Town, W.Va., pays from $75 to $105 to losing jockeys; Parx Racing in Pennsylvania pays $100, as do tracks in New York. Meanwhile, Penn National and Presque Isle, both in Pennsylvania, and Delaware Park all pay $75 to losing jockeys in most of their races.
NOTES: Commissioner John McDaniel, who is working with the Maryland Jockey Club and the MTHA on a long-range plan for the racing industry that includes next year's racing dates, said he expects an agreement to be reached before next month's meeting.
"It's a complicated puzzle," McDaniel said. "We're making progress and we hope to make a formal request [for dates] at the November meeting that is a win-win for horsemen, breeders, the track and Maryland Racing."
Also, Ocean Downs sought and received approval for its 2013 summer race card that will expand from 44 to 48 days.
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