Jockeys’ Guild Frustrated with NYRA and Withdraws from Safety and Alliance Program

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Jockey’s Frustration with NYRA Boiled Over at Belmont Saturday

In case you missed Saturday’s races at Belmont Park, there was a 37-minute delay to the start of the 11-race program after the jockey colony requested a meeting with the New York Racing Association (NYRA). The Jockeys’ Guild has been frustrated with the NYRA for more than a year, and on Monday the Jockeys’ Guild withdrew its support and resigned from its affiliation with the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

Through the Guild’s National Manager Terry Meyocks and letter to the NYRA, the jockeys have expressed concerns over safety measures and demanded enhanced safety protocols in New York. The lack of progress on issues important to the organization, such as requirements that all accredited tracks employ paramedics, rather than emergency medical technicians, and participate in a database tracking jockey injuries, just some of the safety issues. The Guild’s chief concern–and the most highly publicized one–is the matter of jockeys seeking an adjusted, higher scale of weights that places less stress on riders’ bodies.

“The Guild has lost all confidence in the accreditation process,” Meyocks wrote. “It has become quite evident that the NTRA has not been [an] advocate for the jockeys’ well-being for the past several years.”

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is chairman of the Jockey’s Guild. “There’s a lot of issues involved. We don’t have a contract, and it’s not just weights,” he said. “Those issues need to be addressed.”

Meyocks added, “For more than a year, the Jockeys’ Guild and the riders have talked with NYRA management concerning revising the scale of weights to a minimum of 118 lbs,” the statement read. “In order to make the current weights being used, jockeys are endangering their health, by sitting in the hot box, using extreme dieting, or alternative measures, to lose four to five pounds each racing day. In turn, jockeys can suffer severe dehydration and other health issues, which is not in the best interest of the owners, trainers, and betting public.”

The NYRA sent statements disagreeing with assertions leveled by the Jockey’s Guild. But they did address the weights issue, saying the “NYRA has sent a revised scale of weights to NYTHA for their consideration. The question of the proper weights carried by a rider also demands the input of trainers and owners.”

Races in the UK, Japan or Australia often have many horses carrying more than 130 pounds. While it’s rare in the U.S. for a horse to carry more than 126 pounds like all horses did in the Kentucky Derby and will in the upcoming Preakness Stakes, our research did show that on May 1, 2018 at Thistledown, the winning horse of Race 3 was carrying 136 pounds.

The weight issue is likely to be addressed in the next 1-2 years, and you will likely see more horses carrying higher weight in American races.