LAUREL -- Stalled negotiations between Thoroughbred Racing Association tracks and the Jockeys' Guild has made the threat of a jockeys' strike at Laurel Race Course and other racetracks in the nation a real possibility.
Maryland's jockeys met Saturday night at a Laurel motel with Mickey Solomone, regional manager for the guild, and resolved to support a work stoppage if the guild's contract with the TRA is allowed to expire on Dec. 31.
A letter from John Giovanni, national manager for the guild, to jockeys said they would "have to make a personal decision" whether to support a walkout.
At issue are money, insurance and safety. The main sticking point, according to guild members, is publicity rights. The TRA, which includes virtually all major tracks in the United States and Canada, no longer wants to pay the jockeys for those rights. All sides agree that the per-day amount is less than $100 per track, but one jockey yesterday said: "It's the principle. They're trying to take away what's been ours for 23 years."
Giovanni has asked individual tracks to purchase insurance for the jockeys in lieu of a satisfactory contract offer from the TRA. However, Joe De Francis, Laurel president, said he had no timetable for entering into negotiations, saying: "We are staying within the TRA unit for the time being."
De Francis said he met Saturday morning with Solomone, and although little of substance came of the meeting, he "would be very surprised if this actually comes down to a work stoppage. I honestly think this will be resolved."
NOTES: A little more than 2 lengths separated the first and last finishers in yesterday's Laurel feature. Muddy Rudder ($7.20) won over 6 others, with Win a Game second and Temper Time third. Mike Luzzi rode Muddy Rudder, who was winning for the first time in 19 starts this year. . . . Luzzi rode 2 other winners on the 11-race card, giving him 72 at the meet. He's only 1 win behind leader Edgar Prado. . . . Laurel offers a 10-race card today before a 2-day break. Racing resumes Thursday with an 11-race program that begins at noon.