Workers’ Comp Plan for Kentucky Jockeys Hits the Starting Gate

The athletes who compete in Kentucky’s most recognized sport – horse racing – will reportedly be protected under a new workers’ compensation plan announced this week by Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Rep. Carolyn Belcher (D-Owingsville). House Bill 741 tracks recommendations issued by a blue ribbon panel appointed last year by Gov. Fletcher to study the issue.

“This legislation is modeled from the recommendations of the panel,” Gov. Fletcher said. “I am pleased Kentucky is taking this step to help jockeys who are injured on Kentucky race tracks.”

The blue ribbon panel – which included representatives from the General Assembly, the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority (KHRA), horsemen’s organizations, a jockey’s organization and race tracks – recommended the creation of a fund to provide benefits for jockeys and apprentice jockeys.

“If we are to maintain our reputation as the horse capital of the world then we must address the protection of the athletes who are at risk in racing,” said Rep. Belcher. “The fund in this bill will provide for the purchase of workers’ compensation insurance for these riders.”

“I have not seen the details of the bill, but support the concept of Governor Fletcher’s plan and applaud his leadership on this issue,” said Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown).

The blue ribbon panel held numerous meetings and received testimony on how a Kentucky plan should be structured.

“We reviewed legislation from other states and listened to comments and concerns from jockeys, industry groups and the public,” said Tom Ludt, chairman of the panel. “We believe the solution lies in the creation of a non-profit fund that would provide a policy for jockeys and apprentice jockeys.”

The bill creates the Kentucky Jockey Injury Corporation (KJIC), governed by a nine-member board of directors that will be responsible for purchasing workers’ comp insurance for licensed jockeys and apprentice jockeys. It also creates the Kentucky Jockey Injury Fund, which will be financed by a premium paid by race tracks in Kentucky based on starts, a premium paid by owners per start and by 1 percent of the owners’ share of the winning purse.

The fund is expected to need approximately $1.2 annually to pay for the program.

All licensed jockeys and apprentice jockeys will be considered employees of the KJIC for the purpose of the workers’ comp fund and will be required to undergo an annual physical examination. The fund will pay for the examinations.

Also under the bill licensed exercise riders are considered employees of the trainer who has hired them to work horses. As a result, all trainers will be required to purchase workers’ comp insurance for exercise riders.