Praetereo (#5) is along in time to take the Valley Forge S. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Praetereo (#5) was along in time to take the Valley Forge S. at Parx in December. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Nutshell: Parx Racing and the Jockeys’ Guild averted a possible weekend shutdown with a deal that allows riders to continue to be covered by the track’s insurance.

by Linda Dougherty

A dispute between jockeys and Parx Racing over on-track accident insurance that threatened to shut down live racing this weekend has been settled.

After discussions today between the Jockeys’ Guild, which represented more than 50 riders in the matter, and Parx management, all jockeys will continue to be covered by the $1 million dollar on-track accident policy both during morning training and in the afternoon for racing.

It was agreed that Parx can require the jockeys, who ride or participate in racing, to file any lawsuit in Bucks County, where the track is located.  Parx Racing officials likely hope that Bucks County courts and juries will be friendlier to the track than was the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court that awarded  nearly $7.8 million to the family of exercise rider Mario Calderon, who was killed in 2010 at Parx when the horse he was riding during training hours spooked and dragged him.

Jockeys who ride regularly at Parx Racing gave notice March 14 that they would not accept mounts beginning March 19 unless they were guaranteed unconditional coverage by the Bensalem, PA oval’s on-track insurance policy.  When entries for Saturday’s card came out, just three of the 87 entered horses had named riders.

In November, Parx management required all license holders to sign a waiver – or lose backstretch privileges – that indemnified the track from responsibility should an injury or death occur.

The Jockeys’ Guild’s Terry Meyocks had said the Guild had been attempting to negotiate with Parx management since that time. It sent a letter Nov. 6 to Parx chairman Robert W. Green, reinforcing the fact that state regulations forbid the track from requiring jockeys to sign the waiver as a condition of riding there.

The move by Parx came in the wake of the April, 2014 jury verdict in the Calderon case.

“For the past 75 years the Jockeys’ Guild has been working to assure the safety of the jockeys as well as their interests and be a voice for the riders in the industry. We look forward to working with Parx management in the future,” stated the Guild’s National Manager, Terry Meyocks, in a joint press release with Parx Racing announcing the resolution.

“I am pleased that there will not be an interruption of racing at Parx,” said Joe Wilson, Parx Racing’s Chief Operating Officer, “and that we were able to resolve this matter in an amicable fashion without any impact on the horsemen, fans, or jockeys.”

Losing more live programs had the dispute continued over the weekend would have proved a hardship for many trainers. Since January 1, Parx has lost 18 live racing days – including five of the first nine cards in March – because of weather and unsafe track conditions.

Linda Dougherty has been writing about horse racing since 1990 for publications such as Daily Racing Form, The Blood-Horse and Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred. Follow her on Twitter @PaThoroughbred.