Jockeys’ Guild Annual Assembly Focuses On Crop Use, COVID-19 Challenges

The Jockeys’ Guild held its Annual Meeting sponsored by TVG/Betfair virtually this year on Dec. 8, 2020.  The Guild and its members continue to be appreciative of the working relationship with TVG/Betfair and its unwavering support of both the Jockeys’ Guild and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. The virtual meeting was attended by active jockeys from around the country.

The highlights included a riding crop discussion and update with regards to the various state regulations and track house rules which have been adopted this year. Co-chairmen John Velazquez and Mike Smith led a discussion with the riders from the various states where new riding crop rules have been implemented. The jockeys voiced their concerns and input regarding changes that have occurred with racing, as well as their ongoing fears with regards to the safety issues created by the restrictive use of the riding crop. It was noted that the Jockeys’ Guild has and will continue to talk with regulators, industry participants, and stewards, to seek a fair, equitable national riding crop rule for all racing jurisdictions.

John Von Stade, of Accelerated Growth Partners, made a presentation to the members regarding a potential opportunity to provide exposure for the jockeys. The ideas and possibilities would be similar to those being provided to other professional athletes and the leagues through the use of social media and online platforms. This opportunity will potentially provide horse racing fans an insider’s perspective that is interesting and entertaining.

As with the case in most aspects of life, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the racing industry and, in particular, the jockeys. In order to assure that racing is able to continue in the safest manner possible, riders were advised on the current updates to the COVID-19 protocols, recognizing that the protocols vary from state to state and racetrack to racetrack, with changes occurring frequently based on updated recommendations from the CDC, as well as the local health departments.  It was reiterated that jockeys and/or their agents need to make sure they are up-to-date on each track’s current protocols before they make plans to ride at a specific track.

The members were also provided an update on the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (“PDJF”). Like so many other non-profit organizations, COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on the customary fundraising efforts. However, with the continued support of committed and generous donors, as well as many of the individual jockeys who make contributions, some funds have been received in order to continue to provide the ongoing support of those catastrophically injured jockeys who rely on the assistance of the PDJF. It was announced, based on the hope of lessening of COVID-19 restrictions next year, the organization will launch a major initiative in 2021.

The members were updated on the Jockeys’ Guild app which will enhance communication between the Guild and its members. The Jockeys’ Guild budget and financials were also presented.

The riders in attendance re-elected John Velazquez and Mike Smith as co-chairmen, Ricky Ramirez, Julien Leparoux and Javier Castellano as Vice-Chairs, Joel Campbell as treasurer and Rodney Prescott as secretary. Joe Bravo and Alex Birzer were re-elected and Drayden Van Dyke was newly elected to the board of directors.

Additionally, the Guild announced that 27 members have been elected to the organization’s senate, who are elected by fellow members of the Guild, with nine from each of the three regions. Among other responsibilities, the senate determines the levels of dues and assessments and selects the board members. Senate members are elected for a two-year term and were formally inducted during the virtual meeting. The elected senate includes the following individuals:

Eastern – Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano, Mike Luzzie, Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose Ortiz, Trevor McCarthy, Edgar Prado, Sheldon Russell, John R. Velasquez, Junior Alvarado (Alt.)

Central – Robby Albarado, Alex Birzer, Joel Campbell, Jon Court, Tyler Gaffalione, James Graham, Julien Leparoux, Deshawn Parker, Rodney Prescott

Western – J Martin Bourdieu, James Flores (QH), Eddie Garcia (QH), Juan M. Gutierrez, Flavien Prat, Ricky Ramirez (QH), Mike Smith, Drayden Van Dyke, Michael Ybarra, Eduardo Nicasio (QH – Alt.)

“The Guild sincerely appreciates the work and support of the previous Senate members and looks forward to working with the newly elected members,” said Terry Meyocks, president & CEO of the Jockeys’ Guild. “As the organization that provides a voice for the jockeys, it is necessary that we have dedicated jockeys who are actively involved in the Guild working for the benefit of all jockeys.”

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