Juan Acosta wears a gnarled knuckle and misaligned collarbone like badges earned during his 16 years racing horses nearly 20,000 times. He also recalls times when he’s “seen stars.”
“Concussions, I’ve had maybe five or more,” said Acosta, known as J.D., a regular at the Laurel Park racetrack. “You get back on. We’re always going to try and be tough.”
Jockeys take huge risks for little pay — riding atop horses weighing more than 1,000 pounds running 40 miles per hour. They are independent contractors, responsible for their own health care, and typically paid per race plus a small share of any winnings.
The horse racing industry has long tolerated and even encouraged an...