Negotiations between members of the Jockeys' Guild who regularly ride at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga and the New York Racing Association are apparently at an impasse.
If the differences between the riders and track management are not resolved, racing at the Big A could come to a halt on Jan. 6.
The bone of contention is a health benefits and insurance contract being sought by the riders that calls for no change from the present levels for 2018 and a 1% increase in benefits for 2019 and 2020.
Tom Kennedy, an attorney for the Jockeys' Guild, said the NYRA is seeking to pay less in benefits than it did in 2017.
The riders involved are those that ride 200 mounts or more, or 51% of their total mounts, in the calendar year at the three NYRA tracks.
The jockeys are saying they will refuse mounts for the Jan. 6, 2018 card if the matter is not resolved.
Since entries for Jan. 1, 4 and 5 were taken during 2017, the present benefits levels will be in force and those racing dates will go on as usual.
Irad Ortiz, Jr., who plans to spend his winter riding at New York, said the New York riders have met and have decided not ride without a new agreement.
If there is an impass in New York, the star riders such as Hall of Famers John Velazquez and Javier Castellano and the Ortiz brothers, Irad, Jr. and Jose, would have a fairly easy time moving their tack to Gulfstream Park and getting mounts there.
Those that are a few rungs lower on the success ladder do not have the luxury of a backup place to ply their trade.
Kennedy said the Stronach Group, the operators of Gulfstream Park, and Churchill Downs have agreed, at least in principle, to the terms the jockeys are seeking in New York.
After saying “NYRA is one of the strongest supporters of its jockey colony in America,” Martin Panza, NYRA Sr. Vice President for Racing, declined further comment.
Hall of Fame trainer LeRoy Jolley Passes Away
Hall of Fame trainer LeRoy Jolley, the trainer of Kentucky Derby winners Foolish Pleasure and Genuine Risk, died recently at Albany Medical Center at Albany, N.Y. at age 80.
The son of horse trainer Moody Jolley, grew up at Hot Springs, Ark. His first clients as a trainer were his father and mother, Dorothy, for whom he conditioned Ridan, the winner of the 1962 Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.
LeRoy Jolley trained Foolish Pleasure to win the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old of 1974 on his way to win the Derby at age 3.
Six years later, Jolley sent Diana Firestone's Genuine Risk to the Derby to become only the second filly to win the classic.
Three bronze plaques hanging in the Hall of Fame bear Jolley's name. He trained the turf champion Manilla as well as Genuine Risk, the champion 3-year-old filly, and Foolish Pleasure.
He donned the blue blazer as a Hall of Fame member in 1987.
Speaking of Foolish Pleasure, Jolley said, “He was a great competitor. No matter who you ran him with, he gave it his best. That's all you can ask of a horse — or anybody else.”
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