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Friday, February 23, 2007

Court to Receive Woolf Award

Originally published on Bloodhorse

Jon Court, a Florida native who has won more than 3,000 career races, has been selected as the winner of the 2007 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. Court, 46, is the 58th recipient of the award, which honors the memory of one of the greatest Thoroughbred jockeys of all time. The Woolf Award will be presented to Court March 25.

"I tell you what, I just never dreamed I'd see this day," said Court. "Winning the Woolf Award is a dream come true. Just to be a part of such an elite group of riders is far beyond any honor I could ever imagine achieving." The Woolf Award honors riders whose careers and personal character reflect positively on themselves and on the sport of Thoroughbred racing. Since 1985, jockeys nationwide have voted to determine the winner and as such, it is considered by those that participate in the balloting to be one of racing's most prestigious awards.

It was named after the legendary George Woolf, known as "The Ice Man" due to his coolness in big race conditions. The jockey died shortly after a spill at Santa Anita in 1946.

The trophy is as replica of the full-size statue of Woolf that was created through donations from the racing public after his death.

"I would like to express my appreciation to all of the horsemen who've helped me along the way in my career," said Court of receiving the honor. "Without them, I wouldn't be in the position I am in today."

Court has won riding titles at Oaklawn Park (2000), Hoosier Park (1996, 1997), and Birmingham Park (1987), and he is the all-time winningest jockey at Ellis Park, where he was leading rider from 1987-91.

Largely due to the urging of trainer Doug O'Neill, Court moved his tack from the Midwest to Southern California in March of 2004. The next year, he piloted eventual Eclipse champion Leroidesanimaux to victories in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile and Citation Handicap (both gr. I).

Court was also an integral part of Cambiocorsa's six-race win streak during the 2005-06 Santa Anita meeting. Trained by O'Neill, Cambiocorsa became the undisputed "queen" of Santa Anita's downhill turf course.

In addition to Leroidesanimaux, Court's other group or grade I victories have come aboard Fleet Street Dancer, Healthy Addiction, and Pure as Gold.

Court resides in nearby La Verne, with his wife, Krystal, and their 3-year-old daughter, Aubrey.
Thursday, February 08, 2007

Guild Seeks Improved Benefits

Jockeys' Guild Seeks Improved RiderBenefits on National and State Levels

(Monrovia, California) - The Jockeys' Guild has launched a federal and state legislative agenda for 2007 aimed at improving pay and other benefits for riders, according to the organization's National Manager, Dwight Manley.

On the national level, the Guild is working with several members of Congress to introduce federal legislation that would give jockeys rights under the Interstate Horseracing Act. Currently, jockeys are not considered "horsemen" under the Act and, therefore, are not afforded the right to negotiate agreements concerning the broadcasting of the racing signal.
In California, the Guild will be sponsoring legislation to increase jockey mount fees. "Mount fees are the minimum wage for jockeys. They've rarely been raised and are now inadequate," said Manley.

"California is a state with a high purse structure and its industry can afford to compensate jockeys better. Since 1970, jockey mount fees have lost so much value that they would have to be increased by 200 percent in order to keep up with increases in the minimum wage."

According to the Guild, in the average California race a jockey on a losing mount earns about $50; however the jockeys must pay from that fee for agents and valets, and because they are considered independent contractors, must pay 15 percent of their earnings for Social Security and Medicare.

The Guild is introducing legislation in Louisiana that would provide funding to assist jockeys to purchase health insurance. Last year, a similar bill passed the Louisiana legislature with strong bipartisan support, but was vetoed by Governor Kathleen Blanco.

"We are now working with the Governor's office to come up with a funding formula that will meet with her approval," explained Manley.

The Guild also is reintroducing legislation in Kentucky to bring jockeys under that state's workers' compensation system. Last year, the legislation passed the Kentucky House, but stalled on the Senate floor.

"We hope that this year we can move the bill to Governor Ernie Fletcher, who was in support of the legislation," said Manley.

"The Guild believes that we must have a strong legislative agenda to increase the safety and economic security of our members throughout the country."
Friday, February 02, 2007

Guild Seeks Payment for Rider

Jockeys' Guild Tests Recent Law, Seeks
Payment for Rider of Disqualified Horse

(Sacramento, California) - In apparently the first test of a recently-enacted state law, the Jockeys' Guild is asking the California Horse Racing Board to order payment for an innocent jockey who rode a winning horse later disqualified from the race.

Jockey Roberto Gonzalez was riding Magic Destiny when the horse won the eighth race at Bay Meadows in San Mateo on February 24, 2006. But after Magic Destiny tested positive for two prohibited substances, hydroxyzine and cetiritzine, the track stewards disqualified the horse and the winning purse was ordered redistributed, including the jockey's share.

The horse's trainer, Richard Baltas was suspended for 15 days and fined $2,500. The Jockeys' Guild now wants Baltas to refund Gonzalez's share of the winning purse under a California law enacted in 2005, AB 1180.

"Roberto Gonzalez was an innocent victim of Trainer Richard Baltas' illegal conduct and should not forfeit his share of the purse. The interests of justice would be best served if the guilty party, Mr. Baltas, bore the entire financial responsibility for his illegal actions," wrote Guild attorney Barry Broad of Sacramento in a petition to Richard Shapiro, Chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, on January 31, 2007.

In the petition, Broad emphasized that the recent law created the Business and Professions Code section (19582.5) for the purpose of permitting the Racing Board to spare innocent jockeys from economic harm when a horse is disqualified for illegal drugs, and to punish the trainer who administered the drugs or was responsible for the horse.

The Guild's attorney says to his knowledge this is the first petition of its kind to be filed under the new law.

Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine, and cetirizine is a pharmacologically related medication used for treating allergies.


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