LOUISVILLE - A California horse owner's donation to a struggling fund for permanently disabled jockeys will keep it solvent for another month, the head of the Jockeys' Guild said yesterday.
Owner Michael Bello has pledged $58,000 to the fund, which gives $1,000 monthly payments to jockeys who can no longer ride. Bello also is giving $250,000 to the Jockeys' Guild, which is struggling with debt, said Dwight Manley, the national manager.
Manley said Bello's gift to the disabled jockeys fund, along with an upcoming charity auction of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's saddle, will give the fund a "cushion." He said the injured jockeys, many in wheelchairs, depend on the monthly payments.
"A lot of them need every penny of this to survive," Manley said yesterday.
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Bello, owner of stakes winner Megahertz, said he hopes other owners will pony up money for the injured jockeys fund.
"As a racehorse owner, I've developed friendships with many of the riders, and that's given me the opportunity to see racing from a different perspective," Bello said in a prepared statement.
Just before the 2006 Preakness, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund was announced as a non-profit charity established by tracks, horsemen's organizations, jockeys and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
The fund, administered through National Thoroughbred Racing Association Charities, is intended to supplement other payments to disabled riders, such as Social Security. The payments cost about $800,000 a year, Guild officials said.
Remi Bello, executive director of the National Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, has said his group is working on a long-term plan to keep the fund solvent.
Manley said Bello's gift to the Jockeys' Guild will help the group settle debts from legal expenses, lobbying efforts and medical claims. He said the Guild has about 1,250 members and an annual operating budget of between $2 million and $4 million.