Lawyers jockey for power in Cal

Jan 25, 2005 5:51 AM

The little athletes are raising hell again.

Well, at least their attorneys are, and they probably are a bit -bigger.

The latest move on the part of jockeys, who want to become America’s highest paid sports stars, is to have their attorney, a skilled practitioner named Barry Broad, use retribution as their latest weapon. They are mad at everybody else in America, have a belligerent leader who teaches negotiation but thinks bulldozing is the way to handle this matter, and are playing an even more dangerous game than riding horses. Their latest ploy is directed against members of the California Horse Racing Board, one of whom had the effrontery to ask what happens to the cool million bucks a year that California has been paying to the jocks from uncashed pari-mutuel tickets.

The jockeys’ revered leader, Wayne Gertmenian, has issued a manifesto telling American racing what it has to do to keep these little guys riding.

More about that in a minute.

Attorney Broad, who also represents a number of labor interests in Sacramento (the jockeys’ headquarters are in California) says he will introduce legislation that would prevent individuals with financial interests in racing from serving on the California Horse Racing Board.

If passed, this would disqualify the chairman of the board, John Harris; the vice chairman of the board, Bill Biancho; commissioner Jerry Moss; and the latest member of the board, Richard Shapiro. All own horses.

The move appears to be aimed conspicuously at Shapiro, who chairs a committee that notified the Jockeys Guild that unless it sent an accounting telling where the million from California goes, there will be no more millions forthcoming.

Who Broad proposes putting on a racing board has not been announced.

Perhaps undertakers? Truck drivers? Insurance salesman? Models from Victoria’s Secret? Lawyers looking for clients?

The idea that people not involved in racing should administer racing is one of the biggest racing states in America is bizarre.

California right now has a dedicated group of commissioners who know racing and are trying their best to return it to its former state of glory in the national picture. Perhaps they should not race their horses in a state where they govern racing — I can buy that — but to suggest turning out people who know the sport and its problems, and replace them with others who would have to undertake learning the complexities facing the game today, makes absolutely no sense. It could, in fact, negate the progress the current board is making in correcting a number of things California has been deficient in, including medication rules and violation penalties.

Broad also talks about the issue of jockeys weights. The jocks want the weight bar raised, which is okay in itself. Too many of them go to inhuman ordeals to make low weight, while the human race, including their small part of it, is getting bigger.

But when Broad makes the statement, as he did, that jocks’ weight "is an issue as serious as drugging horses," he shows he has been spending too much time in his law library and not enough at the track.

To equate those two issues is a racing absurdity, and a good lawyer like Broad must know that.

The jocks are playing a dangerous game, as they discovered last fall when they struck Hoosier Park and other jocks quickly showed up to take their place.

It is likely that an ad in the Panamanian or other Central and South American newspapers for jockeys would bring a planeload. And not amateurs, either.

The proposed legislation is more spiteful than substantial. But there always is the possibility that a well-connected lawyer in Sacramento can find a legislator who will introduce anything if it suits his needs. The state has a reputation for the bizarre, and Sacramento is not geographically immune.