Bill Would Provide Injury Insurance for Jockeys

On the eve of the Kentucky Derby, two federal lawmakers introduced a bill that would provide injury insurance for jockeys, trainers and backside workers in the horse racing industry.

Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. – the top Republican and Democrat, respectively, on the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – proposed the “Jockeys' Insurance Fairness Act” (H.R. 6158) for the purpose of addressing the safety and health needs of workers who toil in the horse racing industry – which according to legislators, is in dire need of improvement.

“Horse racing is and will continue to be a very dangerous sport,” Whitfield said. “Instead of turning a blind eye to that reality, we should establish a basic level of injury coverage for workers in the horse racing industry. That's exactly what this bill is intended to do.”

The Jockeys' Insurance Fairness Act proposes to amend the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978 by redirecting at least 50 percent of the fees that horsemen's groups receive for approving simulcast racing agreements to state racing authorities. The state racing authorities then would be required to use those revenues to offer on-track injury and health insurance for jockeys, exercise workers, trainers and track workers.

In addition, the bill also would ban horses that have received anabolic steroids of any kind. When administered, steroids can cause a horse's muscle mass to dramatically increase but steroids also can damage a horse's ligaments, weakening the horse's foundation. The provision is meant to help improve racing safety and reduce the number of catastrophic accidents that happen on the track.

Stupak: Horses Receive More Attention than Jockeys

“During last year's Kentucky Derby, spectators were buying $1,000 mint juleps with the proceeds going to what is essentially a retirement fund for the race horses,” Stupak said. “Yet, there was no mention of any similar fund-raising going on for the jockeys who risk their lives to earn millions of dollars for the owners and trainers of these horses.”

Dwight Manley, national manager of the 1,300-member Jockey's Guild, said the proposed measure is “crucial to the nation's jockeys who risk their lives in every race in the world's most dangerous professional sport.”

“Many race track workers are not currently covered by workers' compensation in most states,” Manley said.

The bill is the latest effort by Stupak and Whitfield to improving health and welfare conditions for workers in the horse racing industry. Since 2005, Stupak and Whitfield have held three hearings in which it was alleged that the guild's past management squandered the organization's resources and, in the process, allowed jockeys' catastrophic injury insurance to lapse.

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