Jockeys who might have been spending New Year's Day at home instead of on horseback expressed relief at Laurel Park yesterday that a nationwide walkout had been averted and that they will be riding as usual today.
But, at the same time, they are disappointed that more of their goals weren't reached in an 11th-hour settlement on Friday night with track owners and that some of their fellow jockeys were set to ride against them.
"All of this aggravation and we didn't get much of anything," said Mario Pino, a longtime member of the Jockeys' Guild who had planned not to ride today if an agreement had not been reached.
"At least we kept what we had and made a few gains," added Larry Reynolds. "I understand that somewhere along the line the tracks have agreed to talk about putting on an extra race, and hopefully that will generate some extra dollars for the guild."
Donnie Miller Jr. added that "I'm very disappointed in a couple of riders who put their own best interests ahead of what's good for everyone else [by deciding not to walk out]. But each person has got his own opinion. At least we're all saddled up to go [today], and that's something everyone wanted. No one wanted to disrupt racing."
Local guild manager Jimmy Edwards said that the tracks have agreed "to do something. I don't know if each track will put on a race or a handful of races will be run at the better tracks. But we're going to continue to talk about how we can generate some more dollars."
When terms of the agreement were announced late Friday between the guild and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, the only added benefit attached to the new contract was an extra $150,000 annual allotment earmarked for permanently disabled jockeys.
Nothing was said about adding races. But TRA spokesman Conrad Sobkowiak said yesterday that language expressing a willingness by the tracks to talk about such a project "was included in our best and final offer. That was what the guild accepted, plus the added payment for disabled riders. So, yes, we will be talking about the possibility of adding some races around the country to generate more money for the guild [to be used for health and welfare benefits]."
The guild kept a low profile yesterday. Calls to national manager John Giovanni and his public relations representative, George Daffin, went unanswered and the organization released only a terse statement that reiterated what the TRA had announced on Friday.
At Laurel, track senior vice president and general manager John E. Mooney said that although the issue of the planned walkout has been settled, "we're still investigating charges of harassment made to some non-guild riders by guild members. Some of these charges have already been documented and will be fully explored. That was also part of the agreement reached with the guild. There is to be no further harassment by any guild member to anyone that was planning to ride during the walkout."
When jockeys' agents received word on Friday night that the walkout had been averted, "they got on the phone and lined up mounts today for their riders," said Laurel clerk of scales Tommy Lee. "Most trainers went back to their regular jockeys."
A total of 60 rider changes from 86 entries were made yesterday at scratch time. "But there really was no problem," Lee said. Head steward John Heisler said he expects that fewer than half of the trainers will be assessed a double jocks fee after changing jockeys yesterday.
King Leatherbury, who had named Rafael Verderosa to ride four of his horses today, kept the 22-year-old Baltimore rider on his horses instead of replacing him with his regular stable jockey, Mark Johnston.
"I had named Verderosa, and to take him off would have been a slap in the face," Leatherbury said. "He is a competent rider."
L However, Johnston is named on Leatherbury's horses tomorrow.