Jockeys Guild News and Articles
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
NBA agent giving jockeys a lift
Originally posted by CNNMoney
finally close to winning modest but important gains in pay and
insurance after turning to former agent for basketball stars.
A weekly column by Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer
YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- No two groups of athletes are farther apart than
NBA stars and jockeys. And height is the least of the difference.
The NBA is the land of guaranteed contracts, million dollar shoe deals and other endorsements, highlights on ESPN, and bling.
Jockeys see only meager pay for a job where they risk death or serious injury daily.
Dwight Manley has moved from representing NBA stars to leading the beleaguered Jockeys' Guild.
Video More video
CNN's Ali Velshi profiles a man who went from the bulls of Wall Street to the ponies of horse racing. (May 3)
Contrast that with the jockey's low-profile hand-to-mouth existence.
Pay for a day's work can be as low as $30, while $240 can be considered a good day's pay - tip money to basketball stars.
lavish lifestyles - many jockeys can't afford basic insurance, despite
a myriad of health problems associated with trying to stay at an
unrealistically low weight. They face the risk of death or serious
injury every day they are on the job, often without any financial
protection that other Americans, let alone other athletes, take for
Dwight Manley is one of the few people to ever straddle both worlds.
year ago this week, the former agent of such NBA stars as Karl Malone
and Dennis Rodman was invited to meet with leaders of the Jockeys'
Guild, which functions as the union for the nation's riders.
Guild leaders were looking for a new national manager after the group's
president, Wayne Gertmenian, was run out of town amid questions about
how he and his allies spent the Guild's limited resources. There were
also questions about why he had allowed the insurance that had once
covered jockeys in case a catastrophic injury to lapse.
said he had never been much of a horse racing fan before that meeting,
other than a couple of trips to the track with Rodman, and he didn't
know much about the jockeys' plight. But when he learned about their
work conditions, he quickly agreed to take the job - for zero salary.
fact, he's donated $80,000 of his own money to the fund that pays
jockeys with permanent disability a modest $1,000 a month stipend.
Manley said that because of the problems with Gertmenian, some jockeys were suspicious at the start.
was justifiably leery of an outsider," Manley said. "But I believe I've
proven myself to the point where I have some confidence and support."
way he's proven himself is by already making some progress in
negotiations with horse owners and tracks in less than a year on the
He's said he's close to an agreement with one key state's
horse owners association to raise the mount fee, the minimum paid to
jockeys, to $75 from $45 - where it has been for decades.
deal will also cut the jockeys in for a share of the prize money that
horse owners get when their horse finishes fourth or fifth. Currently
jockeys only get a share of the winnings if they finish in the top
"Right now there's not much incentive for a jockey if
he's not going to be in the top three," said Manley. "This helps
competition. It's a smart deal, it's good for everybody."
don't get to keep all of their earnings. They pay about a third to
their agents who line-up their rides and their valets who help them
with their equipment.
I asked Manley if, after negotiating
multi-million-dollar basketball contracts, it felt strange fighting for
a $30 increase in the mount fee.
"That $30 increase may not seem like much, but it's a huge increase if you're taking home $15,000 a year," he said.
Sexton, president of Churchill Downs (Charts), the company that owns
the track that is home of the Kentucky Derby as well as several other
top tracks, said that the sport will be better off with a stronger
While it's the horse owners, not the tracks, that pay the
jockeys, some of the other goals of the jockeys, including workers'
compensation coverage for riders, would be at least partly paid out of
the tracks' pockets.
Sexton said he's been impressed with the
leadership of Manley, who has already settled a legal dispute dating
back to a November 2004 work stoppage by many of the jockeys at
"I expected a little more of a Jerry Maguire
type of agent, not one as candid as Dwight is. That was refreshing,"
Sexton said. "He's got ideas to promote jockeys and the sport. He
understands if the industry pie grows, the jockeys' share grows with
But despite the gains in Manley's first year, both he and
Sexton said the Guild is probably a long way from accomplishing all of
The Guild is still close to broke. Reinstating
insurance that covers medical bills in the case of catastrophic
on-track injury is still well out of its reach. So is arranging for an
off-track health insurance plan that most jockeys can afford.
Manley knows that he won't be able to transform the sport overnight.
have the oldest sport in America, and you have 30-something states with
racing, each with their own racing commissions and sets of rules," said
Manley. "When something is 120-130 years old, change doesn't come
But at least he's gotten off to a good start out of the gate.
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