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Injury costs rise for owners, trainers Proposed legislation redefines who pays


LAUREL -- When Frank Hopkins Sr. renewed his owner's license for 1992, he was concerned not only that the licensing fee had doubled, but also that the mandatory cost for jockeys' workmen's compensation coverage had jumped nearly 120 percent.

Just more news that would discourage horse owners from getting into the game, he figured.

The annual insurance fee rose from $70 to $150. It is still below the $253 fee charged at New Jersey tracks. But Hopkins was by no means the only owner or trainer upset by the increase. "A whole hue and cry went up in the industry," said Alan Foreman, counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which represents about 4,000 owners and trainers.

By law, all owners and trainers that race in the state must contribute to a blanket policy that covers injuries to jockeys, both during morning training hours and during races in the afternoons.

Now the MTHA wants that changed.

It plans to introduce a bill in the General Assembly next week, sponsored by Del. George W. Owings III, D-Calvert, that will keep all benefits for the jockeys, but will redefine who pays for compensation when injuries occur in the morning or the afternoon.

"What we found is that a substantial number of claims, more than 30 percent, were made by exercise riders who had a jockey's license, but did not actually compete in races in the afternoons," said Wayne Wright, executive director of the MTHA. "These were people whose names you would never recognize. Not everyone who holds a jockey's license is named Prado or Pino. Those a.m. injuries should be paid by workmen's comp policies held by individual trainers, not the Jockey's Injury Compensation Fund."

One blatant example, Wright said, was a jockey from Charles Town who moved to Maryland and exercised horses in the morning, but never rode in the afternoon. "He weighed 140 pounds," Wright said. "He was involved in a head-on collision with another horse during morning training hours at Laurel. We ended up paying something like $220,000 in claims. We had no recourse. He held a jockey's license

NOTES: The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has overturned the Circuit Court of Baltimore County and made Lady Winner and trainer Maurice Zilber official winners of the 1989 Martha Washington Handicap at Laurel. Lady Winner originally was disqualified in the race by the stewards, then made the winner after an appeal was filed before the Maryland Racing Commission. Lady Winner lost a subsequent appeal in Baltimore County, but that decision has been reversed. Akindale Farm, owner of runner-up Yesterday's Kisses, may appeal the recent ruling to the Court of Appeals of Maryland. . . . Vinnie Blengs, who sent 19 of his horses to Florida for the winter, was at Laurel yesterday to see one of his runners, Mogambo's Pleasure, win the feature race. Blengs said he still has 14 horses in Maryland, and will send the rest of the Florida string back here by May. Blengs, a friend and golf buddy of former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, said he has been so busy "that I haven't made it on the golf course yet." . . . Ben Perkins Jr. plans a busy weekend with a trio of 3-year-olds owned by the Candy Stable, nom de course for Chesapeake City-area farm owner Herb Moelis and partners. He runs Surely Six in the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream, Dr. Unright in the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct and Luramore in the Gold Finch Stakes at Garden State Park. Perkins has 30 head at Laurel, 16 at Gulfstream Park and 25 2-year-olds at three training centers in Florida and the Carolinas.

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