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Are Exercise Riders and Assistant Trainers Eligible for Benefits Pursuant to the NY Jockey Fund?

Who is covered under the New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund? According to Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law § 221 (6), “[t]he fund shall secure workers’ compensation insurance coverage on a blanket basis for the benefit of all jockeys, apprentice jockeys and exercise persons licensed pursuant to this article or article four of this chapter who are employees under section two of the workers’ compensation law.” Owners and trainers licensed under the Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law are required to pay into the Jockey Fund. Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law § 221 (7).

One question worth asking is whether coverage pursuant to the Jockey Fund is available to exercise riders who are unlicensed for that line of work. According to the Appellate Division, an unlicensed exercise rider who works at a covered facility and who is eligible for a license is covered by the Fund. See Adames v. N.Y. Jockey Injury Comp. Fund, Inc., 15 A.D.3d 696 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dep’t 2005). Accordingly, the question of whether or not the claimant holds a current exercise rider’s license is not dispositive when determining coverage under the Jockey Fund.

Exercise riders, as the name implies, actually ride the horses, in accordance with the direction of a trainer or assistant trainer. Assistant trainers, on the other hand, perform duties such as feeding, medicating, and grooming the horses, as well as organizing the training schedules and other logistics, and providing discipline in the stable,  under the supervision of the lead trainer. Assistant trainers are normally covered under the trainer’s workers’ compensation policy. However, some assistant trainers also work as exercise riders, and can therefore be eligible for coverage pursuant to the Jockey Fund depending on the type of work actually being performed when the injury occurs. See 2008 NY Wrk. Comp. LEXIS 9376

In cases where coverage exists pursuant to the Jockey Fund, as well as pursuant to an employer’s workers’ compensation policy, “the Fund‘s coverage is primary and any other coverage procured by an owner or trainer shall not apply….” See Adames. Accordingly, any New York worker’s compensation claim filed by an assistant trainer or exercise rider must be examined on a factual basis regarding whether the claimant was engaged in work that should render the claim eligible under the Jockey Fund (regardless of whether the worker was licensed for that work).

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