Jockey's Guild History
The years leading up to the formation of an organization to speak for jockeys were filled with frustration and pain. There was widespread misuse of power over the jockeys and very few horsemen or track management's were sympathetic to the needs of the riders. In the late 1930's several jockeys held secretive meetings to discuss the idea of raising funds to assist injured or disabled riders and the families of jockeys fatally injured on the racetrack. Some riders, like Tommy Luther, were blacklisted and punished when suspected of attending the secret meetings. The actual formation of The Jockeys Community Fund and Guild was precipitated by the racing injury of Sammy Renick. When Eddie Arcaro visited Renick, who was recovering in the hospital from a broken leg, their discussions led to the formation of an organization that would represent the concerns of jockeys.
The organization's constitution stated that to be in good standing in the club, members must hold a valid, unrevoked [sic?] jockey's license. Dues for the fledgling club were determined as $30 per year, plus 25 cents per mount.
The founding fathers of the organization were the leading jockeys of the turf, prominent among them being Eddie Arcaro, Don Meade, John Longden, Lester Haas, Alfred Robertson, Lester Balaski, Charlie Kurtsinger, Carroll Bierman, Ray Workman, Harry Richards, Irving Anderson, John Pollard, Maurice Peters, George Seabo and Sam Renick.
Many of the leading riders across the country were selected to serve as officers of the organization including, Harry Richards, president; Lester Balaski, first vice president; Eddie Arcaro, second vice president; Ray Workman, third vice president; and Irving Anderson, treasurer. William Gillespie, a non-jockey, was to serve as secretary of the Jockeys' Guild and U. S. Army Colonel, Lewis Landes, was asked to act as general counsel pro bono.
The jockeys quickly commenced the work to build their new organization in the best way they knew how - utilizing their celebrity. They hosted dances, shows and dinners across the country to raise funds. Sam Renick would normally act as master of ceremonies and the Who's Who in racing would attend, including the Whitney's, Vanderbilt's, Sloanes's and Phipp's. The Guild also conducted celebrity softball games and jockey boxing matches to raise funds for the new organization.
In the early 40s the topic of jockey insurance was prevalent at meetings with New York tracks, the California Horse Racing Board and other racing jurisdictions across the country. The issue of insurance for jockeys was clouded by accusations of fixed races in California and a lack of form of racing in New York. Following confessions from several riders involved in the California scandal, the Jockeys' Guild banned the riders from their membership. Colonel Landes opined in the New York Press, "The Jockeys' Guild renews it pledge to give the fullest possible aid in driving from its ranks those who may become involved with activities that are unethical, unfair or contrary to the rules of racing."
While insurance for all jockeys became the major objective the Jockeys' Guild proceeded about the business of looking after the welfare of all riders across the country. They lobbied against undue influence and pressure from stewards and racing associations and they were instrumental in re-instituting the rights for jockeys to have agents after that practice was banned in West Virginia. Guild representatives encouraged tracks to shorten the post parades during cold weather to limit the time that jockeys and horses were exposed to the elements. Jockeys finally had leadership. Sam Renick, one of the founders of The Jockeys' Guild, even refused to accept $350 to lend his name to a beer commercial. Jockeys' Guild members were working hard to live up to their pledge to "uphold the best interests of horse racing."
A pivotal point in the quest for insurance came at a dinner for New York turf reporters hosted by the Jockeys' Guild at Gallagher's Steak House on West 52nd Street in New York. Colonel Lewis Landes, legal counsel for the Guild, made it plain in his discourse that he had full support from the metropolitan racing associations in promoting a suitable insurance arrangement which would safeguard every jockey on the circuit in 1941. The turf scribes were in total support of the jockeys [sic] quest for insurance.
While the first insurance program of sorts was in place at Longacres in Seattle, Hialeah Park was the first organization to commit to carrying insurance for all riders, beginning with their 46-day meeting on January 8, 1941. A similar plan was in place for Santa Anita and the efforts of the Jockeys' Guild on behalf of insurance for jockeys appeared successful at year end.
The year-end jockeys' race in 1940 was a tough battle between two 19-year-old phenoms [sic, slang], Earl Dew and Walter Taylor, with Dew finishing on top by one winner when Taylor was injured in a spill on the last day of racing. After taking a few months off to relax after the long and tiring quest for the riding title, Earl Dew returned to the races in February at Golden Gate Fields. He subsequently accepted an invitation to Agua Caliente in Tijuana, Mexico to accept a diamond-studded watch in commemoration of his championship. Dew was not scheduled to ride at Caliente but decided accept a few mounts on the card—a decision which turned fatal. His mount crossed its legs and went down in a $700 claiming event throwing and trampling Dew on the track. He suffered a skull fracture and cerebral hemorrhage and died in an ambulance on the way to San Diego. The nation was stunned—the leading rider in the country in 1940 had died barely two months into the 1941 racing season.
Walter Taylor had problems of his own. Following his accident on December 31, which cost him a tie for the riding title, he decided to travel home to Houston, Texas to rehabilitate. Fred Wyse, a former bookie turned trainer, insisted that Taylor should come to Florida and not go home to Houston. Such was the typical abuse of jockeys by whoever controlled their contract. Taylor went to Texas but upon his return, Wyse had him ruled off and the stewards would not let him ride. It was later found that Wyse, who controlled all of Taylor's finances, had refused to give the boy his money when the contract was severed. Taylor's mother came to his aid and he got $7,790 that was his due.
Only two weeks after the tragic death of Earl Dew, racing was shocked with another jockey fatality when Joseph Giangspro died as a result of injuries received in spill at Hialeah Park on Valentine's Day. Due to the efforts of the Jockeys' Guild and Hialeah management, an insurance policy was in place for jockeys. The track paid a premium of $80/day to Lloyd's of London to cover rider's injured or killed during races. Joseph Giangspro's heirs were the first in the history of racing to receive benefit from an insurance policy for jockeys. They received their check for $5,000 just a few days following his death.
War was raging in Europe in the Spring of 1941 and jockeys, like all patriotic citizens, were registering with the Selective Service or enlisting in the Armed Forces. The Guild's attorney, Colonel Landes, had returned to his unit while Guild principals, Irving Anderson, Lester Balaski, Carrol Bierman, and others, prepared I [sic] to join in defense of their country. In all, 170 jockeys joined the military with several paying the supreme sacrifice. World War II was to have a profound effect upon all of racing.
Jockeys' Guild founder, Eddie Arcaro, swept the 1941 Triple Crown on Whirlaway to give racing its [sic] fifth winner of the classics. At the same time racing was being restricted in some venues due to the war effort. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, many tracks were leased or occupied by the military to store munitions and supplies. Due to rationing and the food shortage, a number of racing facilities farmed the areas adjacent to the track to provide food for employees. While the Coast Guard occupied the Tanforan racing facility in San Bruno, CA. Hialeah had the Army/Air Force occupy their grounds and Santa Anita was prepared as an internment camp for POW's on the west coast. The Keeneland Racing Association did it's [sic] part, in typical Kentucky fashion, by donating more than 1-million cigarettes to the men and women in uniform. The manpower shortage created by the war led to women being introduced to jobs as tellers and exercise riders at the track. The Jockeys' Guild endured it's [sic] own form of conflict as Guild secretary, William Gillespie, resigned following a misuse of funds that nearly bankrupted the organization. In February of 1943 the Jockeys' Guild treasury had a bank balance of $36 with bills totaling more than $2,400. Sterling Young replaced Harry Richards as president of the Guild.
Getting to the racetracks was difficult since automobile travel was curtailed to conserve rubber. Fans, however, did flock to the races as a wartime diversion. Jockeys' Guild founder, John Longden, won the 1943 Kentucky Derby aboard Count Fleet as the race was dubbed the "Street Car Derby" because no out-of-state tickets to the race had been sold to preclude travel. Longden and Count Fleet went on to sweep the Triple Crown, as attendance and handle at racetracks were soaring to new records. The Labor Day crowd at Aqueduct totaled 48,774, with another 43,000 going through the turnstiles at Narrangansett Park in New England and 38,000 attending the races at Washington Park in Chicago. Racing was contributing to the war effort in a big way. Through Charity Days, special days of racing, the sale of War Bonds yielded more than $17-million to War Relief. On D-Day, June 6, 1944 all racetracks in the country closed as the Allied Forces invaded Normandy.
With racing restricted in 1944, a government ban on racing was in place on New Year's Day 1945 at the request of War Mobilization Director, James F. Byrnes. The Fair Grounds and Tropical Park, the only tracks in operation at the time, terminated their race meetings. The transport of horses was curtailed and track's returned stakes fee nominations to the owners. V. E. Day (Victory in
Europe Day) on May 8, 1945 came just in time to save the Kentucky Derby. The event had been canceled due to the war but now was rescheduled for June 9. Owner Fred Hooper instructed Eddie Arcaro to get the silks dirty from the muddy track and "The Master" followed instructions by leading from wire-to-wire and drawing off to win by 8 lengths on the owner's namesake, Hoop Jr., in front of a crowd of 75,000 fans. In August of 1945, a week after Eddie Arcaro had an emergency appendectomy in New York, the Japanese surrendered to U.S. Forces aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri. World War II was officially over.
Despite the fact that the post-war years brought prosperity to the United States and to racing, the jockeys had a hard time ensuring that their organization shared in the wealth. The basic issues of insurance, health care and safety standards continued in the forefront. As Santa Anita was welcoming 76,649 fans and a record breaking crowd of 64,537 attended the races in New York, the jockeys continued to struggle for their basic needs. Racing experienced [sic] the highs and lows of the sport as George "The Iceman" Woolf died in a racing accident at Santa Anita on Jan. 3, 1946 [sic] and later that year, Warren Mehrtens guided the King Ranch homebred, Assault, to victory in the Triple Crown. Ted Atkinson led all jockeys as he became the first rider to top $1-million in purses after winning 233 races during the year. James "Goggles" McCoy improves safety with the use of goggles during the running of races. The Jockeys' Guild became the new official name for the organization as members considered changes to their logo. In 1947 the Jockeys' Guild boot became the official logo and trademark application was filed for the symbol that same year.
Eddie Arcaro continued his dominance in the major races in the United States throughout 1948. Despite winning 100 races less than John Longden, Arcaro won the big three on Citation as he again swept the Triple Crown. Arcaro had inherited the mount after regular rider, Al Snider, disappeared during a fishing trip in the Florida Keys. Eddie shared the wealth of his earnings from the Triple Crown with Snider's widow. Later that year, members of the Jockeys' Guild elected Arcaro to serve as next president of the organization.
Little noticed in 1949, an apprentice jockey won his maiden victory at Golden Gate Fields on Shafter V. That victory by Bill Shoemaker closed the decade and was the first in a career that would dominate racing for years to follow.
The post-World Ward [sic] II years in the United States were a quiet time. Quiet at least for those who were not involved in the skirmish in Korean dubbed the Korean Conflict. After U.S. troops pulled out of occupied Korean in 1949 the communists found it a perfect time to invade South Korea and the U.S. was back into a major war, albeit this time under the guise of the newly formed United Nations. While 50,000 American troops died in the Korean War, few in the United States felt the effects of the war. The country was recovering from the second major World War and the efficiency and effectiveness of waging that war had turned the public attention to improving the U.S. economy and addressing domestic social issues.
Racing and the Jockeys' Guild also experienced a time of introspection and growth. With the dominant jockey of the 1940s, Eddie Arcaro, at the helm as president of the Jockeys' Guild, the organization was poised to make improvements for riders across the country. Jockeys' rooms at virtually every racetrack were described as dark, dingy, overcrowded, lacking in recreational areas, without proper reducing facilities, no eating and resting spaces, and very little room to move about and work. The jockeys' rooms were not a priority to management but the Jockeys' Guild and its [sic] representatives set about a campaign to improve conditions both on and off the track.
Jockeys still had very few rights when dealing with stewards. If a steward did not like a rider's looks, they could, and often did, tell that rider to go somewhere else to ride. There was still widespread abuse of a jockey's rights to work his trade. The Jockeys' Guild set about to change that situation. [sic]
The leading riders of the 1940s Adams, Arcaro, Atkinson, Meade and Longden, continued to dominate in the early 50s but were joined by a new name; Shoemaker. After completing his sophomore year of racing with 388 victories, good for a tie in the leading rider standings, Shoemaker topped all riders in earnings in 1950 with over $ I-million. His win percentage was set at a lofty 20%, a win-rate that he would continue throughout his illustrious career.
Despite these powerhouse names on the leading rider lists across the country, the biggest race of 1950 was won by an apprentice jockey, William Boland. In a full field of 14 Derby runners, Boland guided Middleground to win by a length-and-a-half over Arcaro on Hill Prince. In doing so, Boland became only the second apprentice jockey in history to capture the run for the roses. Apprentice jockeys [sic] rules were a major concern in the fifties. With different states having varying rules, apprentice jockeys often jumped around the country to retain their apprentice allowances. Through the efforts of the Jockeys' Guild, a uniform apprentice rule was adopted across the country.
The year 1955 was a nostalgic year that saw the opening of Disneyland in Southern California. It was also a time when Colonel Sanders introduced his Kentucky Fried Chicken to the world and millions of American children wore Davey Crockett coonskin caps. While the first horse had been flown to the Kentucky Derby in 1947, the train was still the most common form of transportation for horses. Swaps, the California hopeful, traveled to Kentucky via train accompanied by his trainer, Mesh Tenney and an entourage of California racing fans. They were not disappointed in the Derby as Swaps, with Bill Shoemaker up, drew away from Nashua in the stretch to give Shoemaker his first Kentucky Derby victory.
Consistent with the first decade of the foundation of the Jockeys' Guild, racing experienced several jockey deaths each year with an alarming 10 fatalities in 1951 alone. No death had more impact than that of LeRoy Nelson who died from head injuries at Caliente on January 12, 1956. Following that fatality, John Alessio, president of Caliente racetrack, prompted development and acceptance of an approved helmet for use by jockeys during racing. The "Caliente Safety Helmet" gained widespread acceptance across the country, with support growing from West to East. The California Horse Racing Board soon passed a rule making it mandatory for all jockeys, apprentices, exercise boys, outriders and pony boys or girls to wear the safety helmet while riding a horse on the racetrack.
While television was not yet a dominant part of American life, the infancy of that technology was of curious interest to most in the country who could afford a television set. Among the most popular shows of the decade were the infamous quiz shows with "The $64,000 Question," undoubtedly the favorite. The Jockeys' Guild and racing got a boost in May of 1956 when Jockeys' Guild member, and active rider, Billy Pearson, was invited to participate as a contestant on the show. Pearson did not miss the opportunity to mention the Jockeys' Guild and his fellow riders, as he proceeded to step through the questions on the game show to the loftiest level of the $64,000 question. His hobby of art collecting served him well by helping him win that contest. He subsequently was invited to other T.V. game shows amassing $174,000 from the appearances. Upon his return to the jockeys' room, no one dared to refer to Pearson as a "pinhead."
In the mid-1950s the jockeys continued to fund the Jockeys' Guild through "Guild Days" where jockeys and tracks donated to the Guild's Welfare Fund. It was reported in The Jockey News, "Guild Day has become an annual highlight of the racing season ever since it was instituted by the directors of the Jockeys' Guild in 1942. Each year, approximately $18,000 to $20,000 is raised by the contributions of jockeys and tracks on that day. Jockeys usually contribute their earnings for the day to the Guild, and many of the tracks throughout the country make generous donations, too." The efforts of the jockeys emphasized their credo that "the Guild takes care of its own."
The middle of the decade saw the first jockey use of gloves and earmuffs when Bill Johnston, president of Sportsman's Park sent the items to the jockeys in the room during a cold spell. Johnston stated that if the riders were willing to ride under such cold conditions to continue his meeting, the least he could do was to make them as comfortable as possible. Chicago continued to lead the way with innovations for the safety and comfort of jockeys when Arlington and Washington Park's executive director, Benjamin Lindheimer, announced renovation to the jockeys' quarters and installation of safer aluminum goose neck rails at his racetracks. The middle of the decade also ushered in the widespread use of the film patrol for the integrity of races.
In the spring of 1956, some Jockeys' Guild members voiced a [sic] dissatisfaction with the name of the Jockeys' Guild official publication, The Jockey News. Through a diplomatic vote of the readers other names were discussed for the publication. Boots & Saddles, Saddle Soap, Jockey Jotings, Tack Talk, Post Time and Whips and Spurs were all considered as the membership overwhelmingly [sic] voted that The Jockey News was the most descriptive and appropriate title for their official publication.
The talk in racing in 1956 when not whether John Longden would pass Sir Gordon Richards as the winningest rider in the history of racing—but when. [Sic] Longden achieved that distinction when he added 320 winners that year (the most he ever compiled in one season) in 1,298 engagements to boost his all-time mark, in 30 years of ' riding, to 4,966 wins.
The 1957 Kentucky Derby was a most eventful contest for two jockeys named Bill. In mid-stretch Bill Shoemaker on Gallant Man came alongside Bill Hartack on Iron Liege as the two raced ding-dong down the stretch. Shoemaker briefly stood up on his mount at the 1/16th pole misjudging [sic] the finish in the long Churchill Downs stretch. That error was enough to get Gallant Man beat and fulfill a nightmare that the owner had relayed to his jockey in the paddock. Shoemaker accepted the mistake and the miscalculation gave Bill Hartack his first Derby victory.
Hartack would prove that his victory was no fluke as he added another four Derby victories to his credit over the next dozen years, later retiring in a tie with Arcaro as the winningest Derby jockeys in history.
The new Caliente helmet instituted in the mid-50s could not save the lives of two riders who died on the racetrack in 1958. All of the racing world was shocked when Jackie Westrope and Joe Snyder died as a result of injuries in races just a week apart, on opposite ends of the country. Westrope died on June 19 just a few hours after he was thrown heavily by his mount during the running of the Hollywood Oaks at Hollywood Park. Snyder suffered a fractured skull when he was spilled at Charles Town, WV, on June 11 and died the following day. Their separate funerals saw the leading riders across the country serving as pall bearers.
Three outstanding Jockeys' Guild members were voted into the Hall of Fame of the National Museum of Racing in 1958. The jockeys who earned a permanent place among the all-time greats of racing were Eddie Arcaro, Johnny Longden and Bill Shoemaker. Arcaro was the only jockey to have won the Triple Crown twice and was the leading money and stakes rider in history at the time. Longden was cited as the only jockey to have won more than 5,000 races and was the leading rider for three years. Shoemaker had set the all time record of 485 victories in 1953 and held five riding titles in the decade.
The Jockeys' Guild saluted Lou Smith, of Rockingham Park as the "Man of the Year" during the Guild's 12th annual dinner-dance and show festivities in front of a crowd of 1,000 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Jockeys' Guild newly re-elected president, Eddie Arcaro, presented Mr. Smith with a plaque honoring him for his many contributions to jockeys and racing, among them building the first reducing room and helping pave the way for a master insurance program for jockeys.
The Jockeys' Guild board of directors meeting in the fall of 1958 was highlighted by the announcement that insurance benefits under the Lloyds of London policy would be increased. This was made possible because Lloyd's Underwriters had submitted to the TRA a plan whereby either the premium rate could be reduced or increased benefits made because of the widespread use of the Caliente Safety Helmet and other safety measures. The TRA generously agreed to bypass the decrease in the premium to give the jockeys increased benefits of disability payments by $50 per week. The Jockeys' Guild also announced in late 1958 an additional insurance plan for jockeys that would provide death benefits of $10,000 for both active and retired jockeys. To help pay the premiums for the new policy the board of directors voted an additional assessment of 20 cents per mount, bringing the mount fee assessment [sic] for members to 55 cents.
Ambulance service in the fifties was certainly not the best. Bill Shoemaker recounts a story when he was dumped at the start of a race and knocked unconscious [sic] on the track. With blood coming from his ears, the ambulance drivers were spooked and promptly took him to the nearest hospital. Only slightly injured, Shoemaker awoke in the ambulance and was feeling fine just as they got within a few blocks of the hospital. However, at that point the ambulance broke down and Shoemaker could be seen assisting the ambulance personnel pushing the broken-down ambulance into the emergency room parking area.
The 1959 Belmont Stakes would be one that jockey Eddie Arcaro would remember for a long time—not for a winning ride, even though he enjoyed six trips to the Belmont Stakes winner's circle, but for a surviving a spectacular spill. In front of millions of television viewers Aracaro's mount, Black Hills, went down pitching Arcaro over the top with Walter Blum's mount unable to avoid trampling Arcaro on the track. "The helmet saved me," Arcaro said. "If it hadn't been for it, the horse that hit me would have torn my head off. And the chin strap held the helmet on. It [sic] it hadn't been fastened, I would have lost it when I hit the racetrack." Eddie spent a couple days in the hospital and then took some time off to fully recover before returning to the saddle a month later.
Bill Hartack, riding sensation of the 50s, and John Loftus, one of the greatest jockeys of all time and a star of the 1920s, were selected for induction into racing's Hall of Fame in 1959. Hartack had won three national riding championships from his six full seasons of riding. Lofton earned his position among the turf immortals for his record as rider of Sir Barton, the first Triple Crown winner and the great Man 0' War.
The 1950s closed as it started with Bill Shoemaker atop the leading rider standings in races won, with 347 victories in 1959and as the leading money winning jockey with $2.8-million in purses.
The 60's—the words conjure up images of everything from hippies and flower
children, to the Beatles, antiwar demonstrations on college campuses, the fight for racial equality and of a little boy saluting his father's casket as it passed in funeral procession [sic].
The 1960's were turbulent years. Just as the 40's had World War II and the 50's had the Korean War, the 60's had their own [sic] war—Vietnam. And the Jockeys' Guild had its [sic] own battles to fight. Certain issues, such as safety standards, track conditions, insurance and funding were not only a part of the Guild's early history, but remain primary considerations of the Guild even today.
In one of the most heroic feats ever seen in American racing history, jockey Henry Wajda saved the life of his fellow reinsman [sic], Tony DeSpirito, during the running of a race at Suffolk Downs on June 30, 1960. A crowd of 8,362 fans witnessed the thrilling drama as Wajda prevented DeSpirito from falling from his mount as his mount stumbled and ran off as DeSpirito's foot was hung up [sic] in the stirrup. Wadja rode up alongside him during the race and reached down to grasp Tony under the armpit to bring him under control and save his life. Both horses finished far out of the money—but no one seemed to care since a tragedy had been averted. Wadja was acclaimed a hero as Judge John C. Pappas, president of Suffolk Downs [sic] presented him with a watch in recognition and appreciation of the feat.
The Monmouth Park management made a [sic] outstanding contribution to the welfare of jockeys when they opened a new $30,000 swimming pool exclusively for the use of riders at the New Jersey course. In dedication ceremonies Monmouth Park President, Armory L. Haskell, said, "the [sic] jockey's pool is just one more step in Monmouth's continuing program to provide the best facilities for jockeys." In turning the pool over to the riders, he hailed the jockeys as an important part of the racing scene because of their ability, their nerve and their colorful competitive instincts.
In 1961 the Jockeys' Guild was able to win a major battle increasing jockey's [sic?] fee scales. In addition, the mount fees paid to the Guild by the riders was increased. The first managing director of the Guild had been hired in 1957. His name was Bert Thompson and he set about setting up the jockeys' savings accounts which was the burning ambition of Eddie Arcaro, who served as president of the Guild for 13 years. Years later, Eddie would write about the importance of the savings accounts:
Too many riders, when they decide to quit, have no money laid away to tide them over difficult times until they can get going in another field. I rode for 31 years, which is considered six generations of riders. At this time I regret to say that I cannot count on my two hands the riders in that many years who [sic] had any important money a year after they quit. We decided to set up the compulsory savings plan I only wish this savings plan had been in existence when I started.
Figure it out for yourself. I rode 25,000 races. At an average of more than 800 races a year, the money put into the fund, plus 4 per cent compounded interest, would have amounted to approximately $200,000. It would have been pretty sweet if at the age of 45, I could have withdrawn a nest egg like that, tax fee. If the average jockey today were to ride in the neighborhood of 250 races a year, he would put into his savings about $1,000 a year. Were he to quit riding at the end of 10 years, the withdrawal value of his investment compounded at even 4 per cent—and the interest rate is higher today would amount to between $10,000 and $15,000. Believe me, it is worth sacrificing during a jockeys’ [sic] riding years to have a substantial check waiting for him when he decides to retire. While this isn't a fortune, most jockeys do not have that amount of money and it is the ‘most’ of whom I am thinking. Perhaps I sound a bit cynical, but it really hurts me to see jockeys who have reduced hard and taken thousands of chances with their lives wind up with nothing with which to begin a new life. It is sad but true that we grow too soon old and too late smart.
In the 1960's the Guild would fight another battle with weight limits of jockeys. Sam Boulmetis Sr. had replaced Arcaro in 1962 as president of the Guild and he, along with National manager, Bert Thompson, fought until the National Association of State Racing Commissioners (“NASRC”) agreed to the Guild's proposal to establish a minimum riding weight of 112 pounds. Through the next several years, the NASRC would approve other proposals the Guild had been pushing. These proposals covered a range of areas from engagement procedures to apprentice allowance extensions.
Another name was tragically added to the list of jockeys killed in the practice of their profession when Roy L. Gilbert, a promising young rider, died as a result of injuries he suffered during a race at Aqueduct on April 4, 1961. Young Gilbert, who would have been 23 years old a few months later, died of multiple skull fractures and severe injury to the brain when he was thrown into the rail from his mount that had bolted in the fourth race that day. Gilbert's mother, Mrs. Myrtle Gilbert of London, Ky., received a total of $15,000 from the Guild's insurance policies.
Just about a month later, another jockey died as a result of an incident with hitting the rail. Up and coming Canadian born, Charles Boland, 21, died as a result of injuries in a spill at Fort Erie on May 5, 1961. His parents were with him in the hospital when he died the next day from a fractured skull suffered when he hit the cement base of a post support the goose-neck rail around the track. In the accident, Boland was riding the horse, Wyvern, just about a half-hour after he had captured the feature race of the day at Ft. Erie.
A third jockey would die in 1961 due to a rail incident. In a freak accident at Aqueduct on July 11, Sidney Cole, 31, was killed when the filly Laurel Mac, propped and threw him into the rail on the backstretch shortly after the first race of the day. Cole's back was broken as he hit and spun around the rail, and he never regained consciousness after being thrown into the infield grass. In all, 21 jockeys would lose their lives during races of the 1960s.
Jockeys were held in high regard in the 1960s, in part for their professionalism and dignity showcased in racing's newest medium—television. Walthen Knebelkamp, president of Churchill Downs, penned the following in a letter to Jockeys' Guild managing director, Bert Thompson. Knebelkamp wrote:
Dear Bert: I got a chance to look at the telecast of the recent Kentucky Derby yesterday and aside from a few technical difficulties in the network, I thought it was the best I had seen. This was due in no small part to the tremendous contribution which your boys made by cooperating 100% with CBS. I think it reflected racing at its best and we have received many complimentary letters and verbal bouquets regarding it.
A popular president of the Jockeys' Guild, Sam Boulmetis, served from 1962 until 1967. Pimlico racecourse held a special day in honor of the Baltimore native on November 22, 1963. Tribute was paid to Boulmetis at a luncheon in his honor in the clubhouse before the day of racing. A race had been named in his honor and Boulmetis was to make a presentation in the winner's circle but the Pimlico program was cut short after word was received of the assassination of President Kennedy.
When Sam Boulmetis, Sr. would look back on his tenure serving the Guild he reflected, “Being a member, director, vice president and then president of the Guild is one of the most cherished experiences that I have ever had.” Such is the fervor felt by those who serve the Jockeys' Guild and are acutely aware of the accomplishments of the one organization that looks after the needs of jockeys. Little noticed in the late 60s was a young man preparing to start his career as a jockey, Roger Van Hoozer. This small-time jockey would have an abbreviated riding career and an abbreviated life, but would have a major impact on the history of the Jockeys' Guild. Roger's West Virginia twang pronunciation of "the Guii-lld," would become the verbal trademark for those passionate for the organization.
In April of 1966 John Longden had announced his retirement and would ride his final race in the San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita aboard George Royal. The pair had won the race the year before and while sentiment were [sic] on their side few in the crowd actually thought Longden could end his career with a storybook victory. In Hollywood-movie-like [sic] fashion, John Longden and George Royal prevailed by a nose at 8-1.
The career of one of the Jockeys' Guild founders, and one of the greatest jockeys of all time had come to completion. John Longden then turned his attention to training horses. He would later close the decade by becoming the only man to ride and train a Kentucky Derby winner when he saddled Majestic Prince to win the 1969 Run for the Roses.
The problem of adequate insurance and funding was at the top of the list of problems to be solved when Bill Boland took over as president of the Guild in 1967. Boland was acutely aware of insurance problems and other difficulties of a life of a jockey. "in [sic] the 50s jockeys had to collect their own money from owners and trainers." recounted Boland. "There was a guy in New York who made his own jockey pay scale. Regardless of the purse you got $100 from this guy!" continued the former Jockeys' Guild president. "Another trainer still owes me money. When I went to him for the money he told me he had a check but it was made out to him and if I would see him after the last race he would give me the cash. Well sure enough, when I went to him at the end of the day he just said "Oh, we lost," stated the frustrated Boland.
The trainer had gambled the money which was not the exception. The Jockeys' Guild successfully fought for track management's to deduct the mount fees and purse compensation automatically from the horsemen's accounts with checks issued weekly to the jockey. That form of abuse of jockeys was finally settled.
The 60s proved turbulent years on the racetrack as well as in society as racing endured it's only disqualification in the Kentucky Derby. On May 4, 1968, Bobby Ussery rallied Dancer's Image to the lead on the backstretch at Churchill Downs, dropped his whip when clear and held off Ismael Valenzuela on Forward Pass to win the 94th running of the Run for the Roses. Days later, after it was found that Dancer's Image raced with a prohibited medication, he was disqualified and Forward Pass was determined the winner for first purse money and the gold cup trophy. Forward Pass would go on to win the Preakness a few weeks later but Triple Crown history was saved an asterisk when Stage Door Johnny took the Belmont. The decade would end without a Triple Crown winner.
Bill Shoemaker continued his dominance of the jockey ranks he started in the 1950s into the next decade. He led the nation in purse earnings every year from 1958 through 1964 but was supplanted by Braulio Baeza who took the honors of leading rider from 1965 through 1968 inclusive. In addition to those honors in the decade, Baeza won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont aboard Chateaugay in 1963 and two other Belmonts in 1961 and 1969 aboard Sherluck and Arts and Letters respectively. Baeza was also the regular rider aboard Buckpasser who he rode to a world record mile in 1 :32 3/5 and then broke that mark by two-fifth's of a second aboard Dr. Fager in 1968. That skein, and a brilliant career that lasted sixteen years [sic] resulted his in election upon his retirement in 1976 to racing's Hall of Fame in Saratoga.
In 1969 Walter Blum was elected as president of the Jockeys' Guild. Blum had his own story regarding abuses of jockeys. When riding in California in the 60s, Blum was called before the stewards because he had dinner one evening with an individual that the stewards termed “an undesirable.” Blum was told to pack his tack and leave, [sic] he could no longer ride at Santa Anita. Even though the Jockeys' Guild was almost 30 years old the jockeys were still fighting for respect.
Richard Milhouse Nixon, elected president in 1968, had a term filled with anti-war protests on college campuses which disrupted the entire country. His presidency was marred by the resignation of vice president, Spiro Agnew, and Nixon's own resignation, following the Watergate affair. Yet, amidst this political turmoil of the early 70s came perhaps one of the greatest decades in the history of racing.
Laffit Pincay, Jr. rose to the top of the national jockey ranks in 1970. Pincay had been brought to the U.S. from his native Panama by renowned Florida horseman, Fred Hooper. Arriving in the states in 1966, Pincay was the national leading money winning rider by 1970 with $2,626,526. It was a position he would hold for the next five years in a row—amassing more than 1,600 victories and nearly $18 million in purses over that timeframe. Hooper, whose practice it was to bring promising Latin reins men to this country, had done it again. He previously had encouraged jockey Jorge Velasquez and Braulio Baeza to come to this I country and ride. The three Panamanian jockeys—Pincay, Baeza and Velasquez—accounted for the leading money-winning rider title for 11 straight years from 1965 through 1975, with Pincay and Baeza winning five titles apiece during that time. It was just the beginning for Pincay, who would be a rider to be reckoned with for a long, long time.
Another fact to be reckoned with for jockeys was women entering their ranks. Diane Crump made history by becoming the first woman to ride in a pari-mutuel race in North America when she rode at Hialeah in 1969. She made history again, the next year, when she became the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 15th aboard Fathom. Even though the male jockeys fought the presence of females in the irons, the barrier had been broken.
In 1972 one of the greatest racehorses of all time debuted his 2-year-old [sic] racing career. With Ron Turcotte aboard, Secretariat captured Horse of the Years honors as a two-year-old. In 1973, he fulfilled that confidence with a sweep of the Triple Crown.
Following record setting performances in all three races, Secretariat and Turcotte were the talk of the nation, appearing on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated. The racing star was great news for the sport and the nation that was still mired in the midst of the Viet Nam [sic] War and a presidential resignation.
The U.S. presidency was in shambles but jockeys were in good hands. Bill Shoemaker had taken over the presidency of the Jockeys' Guild from Walter Blum, who retired in 1974. While Shoemaker experienced a Derby-drought in the 1970s, he did enjoy great success with riding three-time Horse of the Year, Forego, in '74,'75 and 1976. Forego was competing as a 4, 5 and 6-year-old while his jockey was celebrating his 43rd through 46th birthdays during the same timespan [sic].
With Shoemaker in charge, the Jockeys' Guild was poised to solve several problems of safety nagging jockeys for decades. With improved jockeys' quarters, insurance, safety helmets and on-track ambulances, attention was turned to increase health and medical benefits for jockeys, worker's compensation, on-track first aid, safer racing surfaces and representation for jockeys with management and horsemens' [sic?] groups. Shoemaker would say this about the organization, "The Jockeys' Guild is built on the bones of those who have gone before. While I was fortunate enough to win 8,833 races, including four Kentucky Derbies, I think all jockeys are alike. We all put our boots on the same way. All we want is an opportunity to safely and fairly work our trade—riding horses," continued the Hall of Fame president.
The Jockeys' Guild was challenged by a rival organization to represent jockeys during the 70s but the Guild prevailed as the organization that truly represented the jockeys across the country.
The Jockeys' Guild continued to work for the benefit of jockeys. National manager, Nick Jemas, testified before the House Ways and Means committee to help create a national retirement program for self-employed individuals. Jemas received a personal letter and presidential signing pen from President Ford, thanking Jemas for his work on the bill.
Racing suffered a tragic loss in 1975 when veteran rider, Alvaro Pineda, was killed in a starting gate accident on January 18 at Santa Anita. Pineda's mount reared in the gate, causing the rider to tragically hit his head on the top of the gate. In all, 24 jockeys would lose their lives during races in the 70s, with seven jockeys dying on the racetrack in 1974 alone.
After a Triple Crown drought of twenty-five years, lasting from Citation in 1948 to Secretariat in 1973, racing was treated to two additional Triple Crown winners in the 1970s. Jean Cruguet guided Seattle Slew to win the coveted races in 1977, achieving the prize undefeated in Slew's 3-year-old [sic] season. Seattle Slew was voted Horse of the Year, supplanting Forego, who received the honors in the three previous seasons.
As the 1977 racing year unveiled a Triple Crown winner, it also ushered in one of the greatest apprentice riders ever to climb onto a horse—Steve Cauthen. The Kentucky riding sensation led all jockeys in both winners (487) and money won ($6,151,750). Even that spectacular year was only a harbinger of things to come. While Pete Axthelm was penning his book, The Kid, Cauthen was bringing home three Eclipse Awards as leading apprentice, champion jockey and the Eclipse Award of Merit. It was the first time in history that any individual had captured three Eclipse Awards in a single year. To cap that success in 1977, Cauthen won the Triple Crown the following year.
Cauthen and Affirmed entered the Derby second choice to the Calumet charge, Alydar. Six furlongs into the race, Cauthen moved the Harbor View colt to the lead and prevailed to the wire to hold off the strong finishing favorite. "The Kid" had won the first Kentucky Derby that he had entered and the stage was set for greatness. Two weeks later the result was the same as the Affirmed/Alydar rivalry was forged, putting Cauthen and his colt two-thirds of the way to the Triple Crown.
The Belmont was to be a repeat of the previous two races but not without a lot of hard work on the part of Cauthen and Affirmed. Cauthen on Affrimed, and Jorge Velasquez on Alydar, were locked in a fierce battle with seven furlongs to run in the 1-1/2 mile classic. As the horses were nose-to-nose in deeps stretch, Cauthen deftly switched his stick to his left hand (he's right handed [sic?]) and gave Affirmed the encouragement and direction to prevail in a photo.
Ron Turcotte, the regular pilot for the great 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, experienced the cruel ups and downs of racing. After being on top of the racing world in 1973, Turcotte was involved in a racing accident in 1978 that would change his life. On July 13 at Belmont Park, Turcotte was thrown from his mount, Prince of Leyte Gulf, and was left paralyzed from the waist down. A lesser-known, but equally courageous jockey, was also injured in July of 1978. Roger Van Hoozer was riding a maiden filly at Charles Town racetrack when the filly snapped both forelegs and threw Van Hoozer to the track. Paralysis set in almost immediately and Van Hoozer was told he would never walk again. He defied all the odds by rehabilitating himself to the use of a walker and became the Jockeys' Guild Special Representative to the Disabled. He would serve in that position until his death on the eve of the Breeders' Cup in 1993.
Little would anyone know that 1978 was to be the last of the Triple Crown winners for the century. The decade closed with a near-miss as Ron Franklin and Spectacular Bid took both the Derby and the Preakness before running third in the 1979 Belmont.
The decade of the 70s was over. The 1980s were a decade of yuppie wealth and excesses. Everyone was out to get everything they could in life without caring too much about who, or what, they left in their wake. Women in the U.S. had worked hard to earn equal rights and were finally receiving their due. On the racetrack, a filly by the name of Genuine Risk, I brought the equal rights issue to a head in the Kentucky Derby as she whipped the boys to become only the second filly in the history of the Derby to win the spring classic; the first being Regret in 1915.
While women were working for equal rights in American society, the management team of the Jockeys' Guild had the same goal for all members of the Jockeys' Guild involved in racing. Inflation was soaring in the United States and the jockeys [sic] pay scale had been frozen in place since 1967. National manager, Nick Jemas, and his regional management team, were waging a state-by-state battle to raise jockey mount fees across the country. Some states came in line quickly as selected HBPA Divisions and state racing commissions in California, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nebraska, Massachusetts and New Hampshire readily adopted the increase. Selected HBPA Divisions chose to ignore the request or directly challenge the Jockeys' Guild. The Pennsylvania HBPA displayed the most arrogance for the jockeys by filing suit in Federal Court challenging the Pennsylvania Racing Commission's approval of the increase. The battle in the Keystone State was destined to be waged in the courtroom.
While Guild management was making slow but steady progress toward resolving the increase in the mount fee schedule, they were rapidly increasing insurance benefits for Jockeys' Guild members through the Guild's Blue Cross program. In early 1980 the basic contract was revised and improved to drop the deductible from $100 to $50, while raising the major medical coverage from $50,000 to $250,000. It also provided for full coverage of basic hospital bills of members. Blue Cross officials attending the Guild's 1980 annual meeting reported that more than three-quarters of a million dollars were paid out in benefits to Guild members and their families during the previous year. Guild president, Bill Shoemaker commented, “These improved benefits and lower deductible levels should be good news for members and their families.”
In addition to making headway on major insurance issues, the Guild was also providing protection for some of the most unlikely of events. During an unfortunate string of major racetrack fires, many jockeys lost their tack and personal items in the conflagrations. The Guild lobbied successfully with track management's to compensate those riders for their lost personal items. The Guild also secured an insurance policy, at no cost to the members, to cover jockey equipment (saddles, boots, goggles, whips, etc.) for up to $6,000 and personal items up to $1,000. The coverage applied to all racetracks in the United States and was exclusively for Jockeys' Guild members.
Tragedy struck racing in the summer of 1980 when Michelle Higley died of injuries she received in a race at Centennial racetrack in Colorado. Michelle was the second female jockey to die on the racetrack, following the death of Nelma Joan Henderson at Churchill Downs in the mid 1970s. A year after Higley's death, Cheryl Haden died on August 22, 1981 from injuries received at Prescott Downs.
Jockey deaths and severe injuries on the racetrack did not abate. One of the most gruesome of spectacles was a photo taken of jockey Roy L. May who was severely injured in a rail incident at Prescott Downs. May was impaled on a broken section of the wooden rail. The extension of the board had to be sawed off before May could be loaded into an ambulance. Miraculously, he survived the incident.
In March of 1982, the U.S. District J Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled against the HBPA in their suit opposing the jockey (mount fee increase requested by the, Jockeys' Guild and adopted by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission. The Jockeys' Guild was victorious in it's [sic] first major legal conflict with horsemen.
In the Spring of 1982 the Jockeys' Guild would again win a landmark battle in court. In a unanimous decision, the five-member Appellate-Division of the New York Supreme Court upheld that state's Racing and Wagering Board requirement that owners of Thoroughbred horses must provide Workmen's Compensation for jockeys riding those owner's [sic] mounts, The ruling overturned a lower-court decision. The New York Division of the HBPA had launched the original legal effort to divest themselves of the responsibility and cost for providing Workmen's Compensation, National manager, Nick Jemas was quoted as saying, "I find it ironic that the Appellate Court's upholding the Guild and the Racing and Wagering Board was made the very same week that another jockey died of his injuries suffered in a racetrack accident." New York jockey, Amado Credido, died at Aqueduct in late March.
In April of 1982 one of the most innovative marketing programs ever introduced in racing was announced by leading Thoroughbred owner and breeder, John R. Gaines. The proposal established a year-end championship series of races run on a single day. With that announcement, the Breeders' Cup was born. The inaugural Breeders' Cup Championship Day of racing was held on November 10, 1984 at Hollywood Park in front of 64,254 fans. Pat Day won the first running of the Breeders' Cup Classic on long shot [sic], Wild Again. A thrilling three-horse photo, inquiry, disqualification and 30-1 payoff, [sic] put an exclamation point on the $10-million day of racing.
The Jockeys' Guild has always been a proponent of safer racing for both man and beast. In the mid 1980s a new form of covered gooseneck rail was introduced to protect both horse and jockey. Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Southern California would be the first to install the new and safer rail, with other tracks to follow across the country. The Jockeys' Guild made it their goal to have every racetrack in the country install this new safety rail to protect all participants in racing.
Jockeys' Guild president, Bill Shoemaker, spearheaded an initiative in 1985 to build public confidence in racing and jockeys through drug and alcohol testing. The initiative drafted by the Guild, was submitted to the Uniform Rules Committee in March of 1985 where it was adopted unanimously by the National Association of State Racing Commissioners. Instead of singling out riders forrandom testing, the measure covers all racetrack licensees and employees. It could be invoked for probable cause.
The 1986 Kentucky Derby proved a crowning moment forthe trainer and jockey team of Charlie Whittingham and Bill Shoemaker. The pair became the oldest trainer and jockey to win the Kentucky Derby when Ferdinand surged along the rail to take the spring classic. Whittingham at age 73, and Shoemaker at age 54, silenced their younger doubters with the victory. The team also hooked up the following year to win the Breeders' Cup Classic in a fantastic photo finish over fellow-Derby winner, Alysheba.
After forty five [sic] years with the Jockeys' Guild, first as a jockey, then regional manager and finally as national manager, Nick Jemas announced his retirement in 1986. In an election at the 1986 annual meeting, the Jockeys' Guild Board of Directors reelected Bill Shoemaker to serve as president and John Giovanni to replace Jemas as national manager. Giovanni had served as regional manager of the Guild for 5 years after having served as a director for 15 years. Jemas was retained as a consultant to aid in an orderly transition. One of Giovanni's first orders of business was to establish safety standards with the TRA establishing criteria [sic] for rails, setback of marker poles, lighting and backup lighting systems at racetracks.
The last public act of Jockeys' Guild vice president Don MacBeth was his acceptance of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1987. MacBeth died 10 days after receiving the award, culminating a one-year fight against cancer, and an 11-month struggle to recuperate from a fractured back, suffered in a racing spill. MacBeth was a unanimous choice for the Woolf Award, selected by his fellow jockeys.
The fall of 1988 saw two other jockeys die in racing accidents. Celso Camarion died from injuries received in a race at Fairplex Park in California. About ten days later, New York racing would be shocked with the tragic death of jockey Mike Venezia at Belmont Park. Venezia was killed when he was snatched over the head of his mount, Mr. Walter K., after the horse broke down during the race. Venezia was trampled by another horse and died instantly on the racetrack. He was eulogized as an outstanding rider, a devoted family man, community leader and champion of improved safety standards in his capacity as director of the Jockeys' Guild. The New York Racing Association paid tribute to the fallen rider with an award named in his honor.
As racing in New York shifted from Belmont to Aqueduct, the most significant battle for the jockey fee increase was waged. Growing dissatisfaction with New York's reluctance to approve the increase resulted in the jockeys brandishing picket signs instead of whips for the beginning of the Aqueduct fall meeting of 1988. Most of the big name jockeys refused to ride until they were granted the new pay scale, which was already in place in most of the other states. The more successful jockeys were walking the picket line to improve the lot of those that were least successful in the riding colony. Initially, no one believed that the sentiment was legitimate, but when a strike fund was established and jockeys were donating out-of-town riding fees to their needy colleagues—it became clear that the jockeys were sincere. The strike came to a critical juncture on October 22 with the carding of the $500,000 inaugural running of the NYRA Mile. Laffit Pincay, Jr., based in California, shipped in to New York to ride prohibitive race-favorite, Forty Niner, for trainer, Woody Stephens. As the jockeys huddled in the jockeys' room before the races to discuss the situation, someone declared, "Well, what do we do?" As everyone's eyes turned to Pincay, he calmly proclaimed, "I'm going shopping!" As Laffit was walking the sidewalks of New York, Forty Niner waltzed in the NYRA Mile with a scab-jockey on his back.
The jockeys were resolute and they were rewarded for their unanimity. Since attendance and handle in New York decreased due to the lack of fan interest in betting on sub-par racing with second-class jockeys, NYRA eventually capitulated and granted an increase in the pay scale. Steve Crist wrote the following in the Thoroughbred Times,
They (the Jockeys' Guild) won an important legal opinion when the New York State Supreme Court, denying a bully boy motion by the New York Racing Association, said that the riders had a right to organize and picket. That decision, coupled with the emergence of strong organizers and negotiators, gave the jockeys their strongest organized labor position ever. Their Jockeys' Guild national director, John Giovanni, has brought that organization into the modern era of labor relations. The jockeys now also have a strong collective bargaining unit, the Jockeys' Organizing Committee, which includes skilled attorneys and lobbyists.
Within two days of the return of the regular jockeys, the betting handle was exceeding the previous year's daily totals.
As Bill Shoemaker planned a farewell tour for his retirement from riding, the Jockeys' Guild held an election in December 1989 to fill the unexpired term. Jerry Bailey was elected as the new president. Bailey had served as vice president of the Guild representing the eastern section. A native of Dallas, TX, Bailey began riding Quarter Horses in 1974 before he moved to the Midwest [sic] and then on to NY/FL circuit.
While racing did not have a Triple Crown winner during the 1980s, the decade closed with a near-miss when Sunday Silence won both the 1989 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but was denied the Belmont by Easy Goer.
The decade of the 80s was over and the Jockeys' Guild prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 1990.
The last decade of the millennium began with the Jockeys' Guild celebrating their 50th anniversary while moving their central office from New York to Kentucky. The move was not only cost effective for facilities but placed the Jockeys' Guild management closer to other racing headquarters in Kentucky thereby reducing travel costs.
In 1990 the Jockeys' Guild bid farewell to their former president, Bill Shoemaker, one of the greatest jockeys of all time [sic]. Shoemaker, who had been riding in six decades, had orchestrated a farewell tour, riding at the major racetracks across the country. He picked his home track of Santa Anita as the occasion for his final ride.
On February 3, 1990 Bill Shoemaker traveled to Santa Anita for his last official “day at the office” as a jockey. The fifth race, dubbed “The Legend's Last Ride” placed Shoemaker on part of an entry, Patchy Groundfog, who was the program 2-1 favorite but went off at odds-on due to the sentiment of the occasion. For the 40,352nd time in his career, Bill Shoemaker broke from the gate. Unfortunately, he would not add to his career victory total of 8,833 wins. Shoe and Patchy Groundfog took the lead with an eighth of a mile to go, but the Julio Canini trained horse tired to finish fourth. Not a storybook ending for a storybook career but Shoe was adored by thousand [sic] none the less. He reported for work the next morning as a trainer.
A tragedy struck Bill Shoemaker just one year after his retirement from riding. Despite the obvious risk of riding countless horses in the morning and 40,000 plus races in the afternoon, Shoemaker suffered a severe injury in an automobile accident after a golf outing. While reaching for his cell phone, Shoe's Ford Bronco hit a curb and flipped down a hillside. Shoemaker laid in grave condition for weeks, paralyzed from the neck down. He would recover, but his life would never be the same.
In celebration of their 50th Anniversary the Jockeys' Guild Board of Directors unanimously approved a proposal to introduce Jockey Trading Cards to commemorate the occasion and to raise funds for disabled jockeys. In a move unprecedented in sports, the jockeys waived all of their publicity rights for trading cards (like baseball cards) to raise money to benefit the Disabled Jockeys [sic] Fund.
Bill Shoemaker was selected to serve as national spokesman for the project with six different cards issued chronicling the six decades of Shoe's career. A tragic, yet strangely comforting story unfolded soon after the first set of Jockey Trading Cards was issued to the public in the spring of 1991. Young apprentice jockey, Rodney Dickens, was riding at Keeneland and eagerly flipped through the inaugural set of cards to see if he was featured. When he found his own card, mixed among riding greats Pat Day, Jerry Bailey and Bill Shoemaker, he was ecstatic! He called his family that evening to proclaim the news—that he was featured on a trading card. Rodney Dickens tragically paid the ultimate price in racing when he died just two days later in a racing accident at Sportsman's Park. Racing was denied the career of a rising star. A family was denied the life, love and affection of a fine young man. Before the 1991 racing year was finished, two other jockeys featured in the inaugural set of trading cards died on the racetrack. Quarter Horse jockey, Lute Proctor, died at Bay Meadows on June 15 when his mount clipped heels and trampled its rider. Jockey, John Hoak, died in an accident at Sun Downs in Washington on September 15. Hoak's mount bolted at the start of the 350-yard Quarter Horse race and he died from massive neck and chest injuries received during his fall to the track. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
Privacy in the jockeys' quarters became a major issue in the 90s. Spilling over from the proliferation of women sportscasters, racing experienced its own form of controversy with sportswriters eager to interview jockeys after major races. After turfwriters [sic] virtually followed jockeys into the shower room for interviews, it became necessary for the Jockeys' Guild to institute a program to protect a jockey's personal privacy. The jockeys' room at every racetrack was determined off limits for the media during the races. An area adjacent to the dressing room was designated for interviews following the races.
The Guild is continually seeking ways to improve safety for jockeys on the racetrack. One of the greatest innovations to personal safety since the introduction of the helmet came in the early 1990s when safety vests were introduced to jockeys in the United States. Padded vests, first called “flak jackets,” provided padding and a measure of protection for back and rib injuries. After alleviating the concerns over the extra weight carried and the annoyance of added equipment, jockeys quickly recognized the advantages of this new form of safety protection. The Guild's National Manager, John Giovanni, was successful in drafting a resolution to waive the weight of the vest for a jockeys [sic] assignment in races. The resolution was accepted in every racing jurisdiction in the U.S.
Julie Krone, the winningest female jockey of all time [sic], took the legacy of female jockeys to a new level in 1993 when she captured the Belmont aboard Colonial Affair. Krone said after the race, “When we were going around the turn, I was so calm and trying to wait. And, I said to myself, wow, it wasn't too long ago I was sitting in front of the TV with my mom and told her, ‘Mom, I'm going to be a jockey.’ And now I'm turning for home about to win the race that I watched on TV with my mom as a kid. When I was pulling up, I started to cry.” With that Triple Crown victory and a stellar career, Krone sealed her position in racing history and a probable place in the Hall of Fame.
The Jockeys' Guild lost one of its most valued members when Roger Vanhoozer, the Jockeys' Guild special representative to the disabled, succumbed to cancer in the fall of 1993. Vanhoozer, who had been disabled in a racing accident in 1978, had been the Guild's special liaison to the disabled members of the Jockeys' Guild.
The decade of the nineties was a series of frustration for the management of the Jockeys' Guild in their business negotiations with the TRA regarding funding. For more than 40 years, the Jockeys' Guild had been exchanging jockeys' media rights for payment to underwrite an on track [sic] insurance policy for jockeys. In the 90s, the TRA suddenly took the position that jockeys did not have media rights. The every-other-year cycle of the contract precipitated hard-feelings and threats of strike with parties finally coming to terms—neither side feeling they were satisfied. The subject of funding for the Jockeys' Guild continued to be of utmost importance in the 90s. It would be an issue that the management of the Guild would pursue relentlessly until some measure of compensating the jockeys' organization could be found which would allow the Guild to share in the growth and expansion of simulcasting.
One of the greatest jockeys of all-time, Jerry Nicodemus, retired in 1996 after 26 years in the saddle. Nicodemus, who started out riding Thoroughbreds then switched to Quarter Horses, amassed over l,200 Quarter Horse victories including three runnings of the All American Futurity and two Champion of Champion Stakes. Nicodemus' mounts earned in excess of $18 million during his riding career.
A refreshing management wind blew into racing in the middle nineties with the formation of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), whose charter was to serve as a national office for all of racing. The NTRA was self-described as a broad-based coalition of Thoroughbred interests, which in addition to racetracks, includes owners, breeders, off-track betting organizations, trainers, jockeys, veterinarians and sales companies, among others.
Through membership dues and funding from other horseracing interests, such as the American Quarter Horse Association, the NTRA markets, advertises, promotes and televises Thoroughbred racing in North America. It also serves as a catalyst for industry-wide programs benefiting members in group purchasing, telecommunications and technology, consumer research and legislative initiatives. The Jockeys' Guild wholeheartedly supported the efforts of the newly formed NTRA.
Newly opened Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas was so enthusiastic about jockeys that they created an innovative marketing event to focus on the jockeys and benefit the Disabled Jockeys [sic] Fund. The All-Star Jockey Championship was the brainchild of Corey Johnsen, general manager at Lone Star Park. Johnsen attended baseball's All-Star game in Arlington, Texas and conceived that racing should host a similar event to showcase the human stars of racing—the jockeys. The inaugural event in 1997 featured racing's finest with Hall of Famers from across the country converging on Lone Star to compete in a four-race series for bragging rights as top jockey and a first place prize of $25,000. Lone Star's event was so focused on jockeys, that the horses [sic] names never got a call, with the announcer calling the jockey's names and positions in the race instead. The first year's event, with autograph signing, memorabilia auction and special tribute to legendary jockey, Eddie Arcaro, netted more than $160,000 for the Disabled Jockeys [sic] Fund, including an unprecedented 1% of the handle. The All-Star Jockey Championship would be the last public event attended by Jockeys' Guild founder, Eddie Arcaro. The racing legend succumbed to cancer later that year. Gary Stevens, who a year earlier had succeeded Jerry Bailey as president of the Jockeys' Guild, won the inaugural event. Before the decade was over, the NTRA would join as sponsor, and, in total, the NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship would contribute nearly a half-million dollars to the jockey charity. The decade, the century and the millennium, would end with the last and greatest individual accomplishment in all of sports: Laffit Pincay, Jr., broke Bill Shoemaker's lifetime career win race record of 8,833 victories. It was a record many thought would never be broken.
When Bill Shoemaker retired in 1990, virtually no one in racing thought that his record of career victories would ever be surpassed. However, that would underestimate the drive and determination of Laffit Pincay, Jr. who had experienced resurgence in his riding career.
His every move had been trailed by the media, including TVG, the new horse racing television channel created to exclusively cover the sport of racing. Pincay's family and friends spent their days at Hollywood Park, while his biggest admirer, Bill Shoemaker, was on hand to be the first to congratulate Pincay after the milestone victory.
“I can't think of anybody better to break the record than Laffit. He's become a statesman for our profession. He's a real man,” said Shoemaker.
Pincay offered, “I'm happy Shoe feels that way. He understands records are made to be broken. Somebody will come by and break mine.”
Pincay’s record would stand for some time since the next closest active rider was Pat Day, trailing Pincay by just over 1,300 victories. With Pincay still riding in fine form, the record was safe for the near term.
The Jockeys' Guild turned the calendar to the new millennium with a great measure of pride and satisfaction as their organization prepared to celebrate its 60th Anniversary on May 4, 2000. The 21st century would also welcome a new president of the Jockeys' Guild since Gary Stevens announced his retirement at the end of the racing year because of arthritis and chronic knee injuries.
With the election of John Velazquez as Guild chairman and the selection of Dwight Manley as national manager in 2006, the tide began to turn in a positive direction. Manley loaned the organization $500,000 and Michael Bello donated $250,000 to help the Guild stay afloat financially. Manley resigned in 2007 for personal reasons and was replaced by Terry Meyocks in September of that year.
After careful review of the Guild’s finances, it was determined that the best course of action was to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, which occurred in October 12, 2007. The filing allowed the Guild to stabilize its financial outlook and the organization emerged from bankruptcy December 8, 2008.
The Guild worked to rebuild its reputation in the racing industry, working with key industry groups including The Jockey Club, the NTRA, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) as well as the HBPA, American Association of Equine Practitioners and the Thoroughbred Racing Associationson on issues facing the sport in the 21st century
Foremost among those issues was improving safety, both human and equine. Efforts were made to set minimum standards for on-track emergency medical care, set fair minimums for on-track catastrophic accident insurance, updating the scale of weights at a more reasonable level to consider the health of jockeys, design healthy nutritional programs, research and development of safety equipment such as improved helmets and safety vests and mandatory pre-race veterinary examinations of entered horses. Other key efforts included establishing uniform rules throughout the nation’s racetracks, including weighing in/out to simplify those procedures as a rider travels from track-to-track.
The Jockey Health Information System was developed and rolled out in 2008. It was created in collaboration with InCompass, The Jockey Club Technical Services, the Jockeys’ Guild, Keeneland and Keeneland medical director Dr. Barry Schumer. The secure, internet-based system provides a medical database on each jockey for on-track emergency medical personnel to access after an injury occurs. It has been supported by racetracks across the country.
The Jockeys’ Guild also continually consults with the Miami Project and the
A step forward was taken to aid jockeys who become permanently disabled on the track with the establishment of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) in 2006. Originally under the auspices of NTRA Charities, the PDJF became a stand-alone charity on
Throughout the Guild’s history, jockeys have faced a monumental issue with spiraling health insurance costs. Recently, though, two breakthroughs were achieved. Through legislation in 2007, jockeys in
Another of the major goals of the Guild was to increase the base mount fee across the country. Aside from a $5 per mount increase early in the century, jockeys in many racing jurisdictions had not received an increase in the base mount fee in decades. At the close of the decade, through the Guild’s efforts, increases had been obtained in every major racing center except
Increasing sponsorship opportunities for jockeys also became a priority. In 2010, a Kentucky Derby sponsorship netted $97,500 to the PDJF and $7,500 to the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation. the 2009 Kentucky Derby sponsorship netted $125,000 to the PEDJF and $75,000 to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. From the 2009 Preakness Stakes sponsorship, $45,000 was raised for the Jockey Club Foundation and $7,500 the Susan G. Koman Foundation. The 2009 Belmont Stakes sponsorship distributed $18,750 each to B.E.S.T. and the PDJF. Including generous donations from Bill Casner, Richard Santulli, the jockeys have raised more than $1 million for racing-related charities since 2008.
By the end of the decade significant progress had been made in restoring respect in the industry for both the jockeys and the Guild.
Thoroughbred Jockeys' Leaderboard: Mount Earnings
Thoroughbred Jockeys' Leaderboard: Wins
Quarter Horse Jockey Standings: Mount Earnings
Quarter Horse Jockey Standings: Wins
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