NY: Unbridled Workers’ Compensation Rates Slow Thoroughbred Racing Industry

Chriss Swaney

Albany, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – The winners’ circle, and even racing in general, may remain elusive for trainers and jockeys, as some sluggish insurance premiums create workers’ compensation issues in the thoroughbred racing industry.

New York thoroughbred owners and trainers for the first time in more than a decade will see a decline in overall insurance premiums paid to provide workers’ compensation coverage for jockeys and exercise riders.

The New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund, which runs the work comp program for the thoroughbred industry in the state, said the overall premium costs for coverage in 2018 may drop by more than $750,000.

Analysts report that the insurance coverage in 2017 cost the industry about $9 million.

According to New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association President Joseph Appelbaum, the looming workers’ compensation crisis can’t be solved in one year.

In talking with trainers and owners throughout the state, Appelbaum said that work comp is one of the industry’s biggest challenges.

“If we keep focused on the work environment, on track safety, and claims management, we can drive our costs lower and lower, ‘’ said Appelbaum, who operates Off The Track, a breeding, racing and sales company with a farm and training center in Ocala, FL and an office in New York City.

Appelbaum also said there is a current ongoing commitment to safety and claims management, and the industry will explore all options for program structure. Ideally, he said, this will make New York state a better place for business and save money for New York horsemen.

The thoroughbred industry has already made great strides in safety equipment for jockeys and exercise riders, from protective exercise vests to specially padded helmets. However, many tracks are still lax on creating concussion protocols for jockeys or exercise riders.

The announcement about the decline in overall work comp insurance premiums for jockeys and exercise riders affects insurance expenses for owners and trainers at New York Racing Association (NYRA) tracks and the Finger Lakes racetrack.

“The Jockey Insurance Fund has done a good job to reduce those insurance costs, but they are still very high,” said David Brown, president of the Finger Lakes Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Brown also said a combination of insurance costs and lower purses offered at Finger Lakes, compared with other NYRA tracks, is making recruitment of owners and trainers increasingly difficult.

At Finger Lakes, for example, Brown said owners and trainers were responsible for nearly $2,200 in upfront insurance payments in 2018; and that amount was paid whether an owner raced one horse or 50 horses.

Industry analysts report that the workers’ compensation issues for New York racetracks could trickle down to other tracks nationwide.

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