Fund established to aid permanently disabled jockeys

Jockeys and racetrack owners joined forces Thursday for a news conference at Pimlico to launch the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund.

The fund aims to raise $1 million this year to assist 60 former riders, including Ron Turcotte, who won the Triple Crown in 1973 aboard Secretariat and was permanently disabled in a racing spill in 1978.

Major racetrack operators including Magna Entertainment Corp., Churchill Downs Inc. and the New York Racing Association have donated $250,000. Fans can participate starting Preakness weekend by purchasing caps and wristbands at racetracks around the country.

The money will cover health care and living expenses for the disabled riders from thoroughbred and quarterhorse racing.

"You read the biographies of these people and their stories are inspirational," said Don Amos, chief operation officer of Magna. "We have to get behind this as an industry."

John Velazquez, a two-time Eclipse Award winner as a champion jockey, spoke on behalf of the riders.

"This really encourages everybody to come to the same table and talk about a cause that affects a lot of riders," said Velazquez, chairman of the Jockeys' Guild.

Velazquez, recovering from a broken shoulder and cracked ribs in a spill at Keeneland on April 20, said he is making steady progress.

He didn't have a return date but said, "Hopefully, I'll be ready pretty soon."