Sports Betting

Jockeys' Guild, Churchill Downs settle suits sparked by boycott

LOUISVILLE - The Jockeys' Guild and Churchill Downs Inc. have settled a lawsuit stemming from two jockey boycotts of the historic track.

The settlement, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Louisville, bars the jockeys from walking out or going on strike until 2011. And it forbids the track from taking disciplinary action against the riders, except under normal circumstances.

The settlement of a pair of lawsuits stems from a walkout by a group of jockeys in November 2004. The jockeys boycotted racing at Churchill Downs and Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind., in a dispute over health insurance and safety. The walkout in Indiana prompted the cancellation of a 12-race card.

Churchill Downs Inc., which owns both tracks, barred the jockeys from riding. Then it sued the Jockeys' Guild, a non-profit trade association with about 1,200 members, claiming it violated antitrust laws by ordering the walkout.

The Jockeys' Guild, based in Monrovia, Calif., countersued, saying the ban trampled the riders' rights.

Jockeys in Kentucky and Indiana are not covered through workers' compensation. Hoosier Park and Churchill Downs had been offering up to $100,000 in medical insurance for jockeys.

Riders claimed that amount is not nearly enough. As a result of the dispute, Churchill Downs stopped contributions to the guild. Churchill Downs gives about $375,000 a year to the guild, part of more than an estimated $2 million the guild receives from all North American tracks.

Under the settlement, which needs to be approved by U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II, the Jockeys' Guild cannot refuse to provide jockey services at thoroughbred tracks operated by Churchill Downs Inc. as part of a plan to increase payment or insurance levels for jockeys.

Churchill Downs agreed not to ban, threaten or discipline any jockey from its tracks, except in situations where any other person would be barred.

Churchill Downs and the guild issued a joint statement yesterday, saying they were happy to have the matter resolved.