Track operator Joe De Francis vowed yesterday that Laurel will race on Wednesday despite a threatened New Year's Day strike by jockeys.
The riders, who are members of the Jockeys' Guild, are in the midst of a contract dispute with the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, representing about 55 tracks nationwide, including Laurel.
When the Laurel entries were drawn for Wednesday, no jockeys were named on any of the 103 horses on the 11-race holiday card.
"That's because none of our jockeys are going to ride, unless they have a signed contract," said Mickey
Solomone, regional manager of the Guild, who was at Laurel yesterday.
At the heart of the dispute is whether the jockeys should be paid for television and radio rights.
"For the last 23 years, the jockeys traded their radio and television rights for [health insurance] coverage," Solomone said. "Then, all of a sudden, the TRA said they don't want to do that anymore."
The Guild filed suit against the TRA in Los Angeles Superior Court last week to end all simulcasting and other broadcasts until an agreement is reached between the two groups.
Meanwhile, the TRA has offered a three-year health insurance package to the jockeys and said they are content to let the issue of television and radio rights be settled in court.
The Guild insists that the issue of the television and radio rights be settled before the jockeys' current contract is up tomorrow.
Guild and TRA representatives are expected to continue negotiations today. De Francis said he is optimistic the matter will be settled by this afternoon.
However, he met with the track stewards yesterday and set up contingency plans in case of a strike. Non-Guild jockeys and out-of town replacement riders are expected to fill in for Laurel's regular jockey colony should a strike occur.