The California Horse Racing Board’s Jockeys and Drivers Welfare Committee held a relatively rare meeting Wednesday in Sacramento to discuss several items, including a new and somewhat controversial proposal to require the granting of a right of single or season breeding to the winning rider of a future stallion who wins certain California ranked stakes.
As the CHRB meeting record points out, owners have generally given a stallion share to the regular rider and trainer of horses retiring to stud. But this voluntary practice “has evolved, some would say eroded, over time and now often includes a single-season breeding right,” the CHRB wrote.
The proposal currently contains few details, such as the graduated issues that such a program would encompass. Nevertheless, during the meeting, the reasons that led to the idea were deepened.
CHRB Executive Director Scott Chaney explained how, due to a recent surge of top jockeys leaving California for supposedly greener pastures, it’s important “to explore ways to retain jockeys “.
Continuing this theme, CHRB Vice President Oscar Gonzales argued that California’s historically strong jockey colony has been a mainstay of the state’s racing industry.
However, “things are changing a bit,” he said, pointing to rapidly changing tastes in betting. And so, the proposal “deserves a thorough examination of what we could do”.
Plus, “anyone who thinks jockeys get paid well for what they do is way off the mark,” Gonzales said, explaining how jockey fees are split between agents and others, and the absence of a uniform retirement plan for riders.
Using a yearbook of 140 mares as a benchmark, “I believe asking for a one-time breeding right, not a lifetime breeding right, but just a one-time breeding right for a graduated-stakes win isn’t too much.” ask,” Gonzalez said.
The other two commissioners present at the meeting, Damascus Castellanos and Thomas Hudnut, both expressed reservations about the proposal.
“I like the idea of wanting to do something for the runners,” Hudnut said. “I’m not sure that’s the best way to do it.”
Hudnut explained that he would have “a hard time” requiring owners to grant reproduction rights – “which are somebody’s property” – to a jockey, and that a thorough legal analysis be done first to understand the legal feasibility of such a mandate.
He also raised the issue of riders temporarily traveling to California to ride in graded stakes. “I wonder what it would mean for him to give Irad Ortiz the reproduction rights,” he said, raising the question of the potential limitation of such a mandate to California.
In response to Hudnut’s comments, Chaney admitted that the proposal has yet to undergo a full legal analysis.
The committee ultimately decided to discuss the idea further before possibly sending a more comprehensive proposal to the full race council. The process of implementing such a proposal would have to go through a public comment period before the full board can take a formal vote on it.
Earlier in the meeting, the committee discussed plans to address a glaring gap in California’s jockey safety net – the lack of regulations governing jockey concussion protocols.
As part of the safety component of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), all tracks must implement jockey concussion protocols by July 1, including both a concussion test basics and a concussion management program.
The meeting package included a detailed concussion program as compiled by the Guild of Jockeys.
Because of the speed with which such protocols must be adopted, Chaney explained how a jockey concussion protocol could be expedited through the regulatory process.
“I think that’s an example of something we could do through a protocol, as required by HISA. It doesn’t need to be regulatory, which would speed up the process,” said Chaney, who suggested bringing the issue to the full board in June, giving the committee more time to assess the plan of the Guild of Jockeys.
Other items on the agenda included a proposal to reduce the weight allowance given to new apprentices from 10 pounds to seven, except in stakes racing and handicaps.
Regarding this proposal, the committee discussed the possibility of increasing the minimum weight from 112 pounds to 114 pounds and reducing the maximum amount of overweight from seven pounds to five.
Both items will now go in front of the full race board at some point in the future.