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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Let's Compensate Grooms Better

Blogger's Note - This column has been updated as I have been convinced by many of my readers that I was all wet with my idea of increasing compensation for drivers and trainers.  I have no problem sticking to my guns if I think I am right but after hearing from people who have replied to the original entry and others outside of the blog, I realize I was way off.  When I am wrong, I have no problem admitting it and today, is one of those days.  Two demerits for me.

Grooms deserve to earn commission when their charges earn money.  After all, it is their work which keeps a horse in racing condition as they spend the most time with the horses.  In addition to their normal salary and paddocking fees, grooms should be entitled to a 2% commission as well when their horse earns a check.  After all, they are the ones that have to travel with a horse when it races at different tracks, stays with the horse when it is sick, be the first one at the barn and usually the last one out.  Many grooms put their charges ahead of themselves only to find themselves in a position of possibly being dismissed if one of their horses are claimed.  Many of them do it for the love of the horse, but it doesn't mean they shouldn't be compensated better for their efforts.

Depending on the groom's wishes, the 2% can be paid to the groom monthly, with all or a portion being paid into a retirement fund.  Now, I understand grooms come and go especially when dealing with claiming horses, but the tracks should be responsible with paying out the commission.  When a trainer drops an entry into the box, they have to name a driver.  They should name the groom at the same time.  With the track's bookkeeper paying out the commission checks for grooms once a month it will be the responsibility of the individual groom to give the track bookkeeper their current address and other information in addition to keeping the bookkeeper updated with changes.  If a groom is smart and puts this money into a retirement fund, they will have something to draw upon when they get older.


Pull the Pocket said...

Say what?

Tetrick makes close to a million dollars a year, racing in front of seven fans, a hot dog vendor and a few barn cats at Chester.

Drivers, grooms, trainers, feedmen, drug sales, hay men, farriers etc have NEVER had it so good. The suppliers got subsidized billions of dollars the last decade.

There are many problems in racing, but that's not one of them.


Pacingguy said...

PTP, Yes, Tetrick, Brennan, and the top drivers are rolling in the proverbial hay. But what about those drivers toiling at the smaller tracks?

Jockeys get 10%. Why do drivers get 5% (I realize the jockeys have agents who get their share). Jockeys get riding fees just for getting on top of a horse. I read SC and the USTA and you are consistently getting injured in qualifiers and races. They should get nothing for driving in what apparently has become a more risky proposition.

I will conceed maybe I am wrong and maybe the drivers at the major tracks don't need a raise, but there are drivers at the smaller tracks who could use more money or compensation for driving cheaper stock.

You mentioned a driver like Tim Tetrick, but what about drivers who earn $560,000 a year in purses which translates to $28,000 in their pocket?

Maybe an increase in their percentage and driver fees will make thier lives better and reduce the temptation of chicanery.

JLB said...

As a fan for 45 years and an owner for 23, who has worked his way up to owning 1 or 2 horses at a time in the high minor leagues (Pocono, Tioga), I recommend, at all tracks, a driver fee of $ 50 per drive in addition to the customary 5 %. For a driver who is in enough demand to get several drives a night, no matter where he/she is racing, this will provide a base level of support. For the Tetricks, Brennans, and Sears of the world, maybe they can be persuaded to donate that flat fee to a horse rescue organization.

But nothing in this proposal, or yours, will do anything to reduce the chicanery perpetrated by the tiny percent who realize that the odds of succeeding greatly outweigh the chances of getting caught.

Pull the Pocket said...

There are $200 million in slots purses a year in Ontario alone. That's $10,000,000 in revenue for drivers from slot machines.

When you give away $10M a year in potential salaries, there is going to be demand. In addition, there are going to be accidents, but if you are plying your trade in a craft that pays 6 figures, purchasing your own insurance would be prudent.

I came back from an engagement in Sudbury. Handles at that track are about $5000 per day, with $100k up for grabs in purses, or $5000 revenue an evening for the assorted reinsman. At a tavern on the way home I spoke with a minder from Inco. Starting salary for an underground miner is $28 per hour.

Methinks drivers have it pretty damn good.


Norm said...

Just a quick note about the Jockeys 10%..That they get however in ontario the season only runs from April to December ( may to October @ Fort Erie) the agents receive 10% of the jockeys fee, but unlike harness racing ( and this was something I didnt know until a jockey told me this) They receive 10 % of the purse Only when finishing in the top 3.

Bob said...

Perosnally, I think the drivers and trainers are making more than enough money. But I am sympathetic to the plight of grooms; many of whom take far better care of their horses than they do of themselves…

Pacingguy said...

FYI, I am trying to get the average salary of drivers and trainers in the United States and see what they make. I may find myself retracting my comments on this subject with regards to trainers and drivers or I may not.

The one thing I won't retract is the idea of grooms deserving a small percentage as they are underpaid and give up their life for their horses.