Costs for insuring jockeys at Montana race tracks are going up, and some communities say the expense threatens their ability to continue holding races.
Miles City, Mont., which hosts three days of horse racing, two of them during the annual Bucking Horse Sale, will have to pay an additional $12,400 in insurance this year to keep racing.
Don Richard, president of the Bucking Horse board of governors, said racing will move forward as planned this year, but the rising costs to insure jockeys could put horse racing in jeopardy in the future.
“Horse racing is an integral part of the event,” Richard said. “When you add that cost to that part of the event, it’s really hard to make it up.”
In Missoula, Mont., where horse racing takes place each summer at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, insurance is rising from $1,000 a day to more than $2,000, while insurance deductibles are going from $1,000 to $10,000 per accident.
It has officials there wondering if they will be able to continue with racing.
“Any time you are around high-spirited animals, there’s danger,” said Scot Meader, director of the county fairgrounds. “These horses are just ready to explode; they’re souped-up athletes. You are going to have injuries.”
“The insurance costs are killing us,” added Jay Scott, Meader’s counterpart in Kalispell, where fairgrounds and county officials are grappling with the same questions.
Mather & Co. of Philadelphia, the company that covers all five Montana tracks that offer horse racing, has adjusted insurance costs, starting this year.
The jockey insurance is paid by Montana’s fairgrounds and racetracks, not by the jockeys.
Jockeys have up to two years to file a claim, which leaves open the real cost of medical care and insurance for a long time after a race is finished, fairgrounds officials said.
“What if we have a bad wreck and 10 jockeys get hurt?” said Kalispell’s Scott. “We’d have to come up with $100,000.”
The state Board of Horse Racing was able to provide a temporary patch for race tracks. It found enough money to cover costs for now, a move that will likely ensure tracks can continue racing this year.
How race tracks will deal with the increases after that, however, remains unclear.
“The increased cost is going to really hurt the profitability of the event,” said Richard, of the Bucking Horse Sale.
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