I’m in the middle of reading T.D. Thornton’s Not By A Long Shot (better late than never), and shortly after reading last week’s report that the Jockeys’ Guild recommended a 50% cut in the fees that jockeys pay their valets, I came across this paragraph:
Aside from laying out the equipment for three or four jockeys…a valet is also
expected to have a correctly weighted saddle and a fresh set of silks ready
for each mount his riders have on the program. In addition, the valets
share rotations for the saddling and unsaddling of horses before and after
each race, and they must also accompany their assigned jockeys to the scales
for the official weighing out and weighing in for each contest. Between races,
valets basically act as personal servants, providing fresh towels, shower shoes,
soap, deodorant, and an assortment of other basic necessities at the request of
Perhaps the truest indication of the anonymous role of a valet occurs when his
jockey wins a race and it’s time for the winner’s circle photograph:
Racetrack tradition dictates that the valet must stand BEHIND the flank of the
winning horse so that he does not show in the picture, a throwback to the
gentrified days of the sport when the blue bloods would be horrified by the
uninvited presence of hired help in their carefully framed portraits of
victory. (Italics Thornton’s) (190- 191)
A reader e-mailed me last week, suggesting that I write about the cut in valet fees as reported by the DRF, a fairly appalling story that certainly struck me at the time and the e-mail was perhaps the nudge I needed to add to what has already been said by Alan. As he noted, mount fees for NY jocks were raised in early March, taking effect on April 2nd.
Now, having worked in restaurants for many years, I get that it can be hard to dole out one’s hard-earned money to the folks who help you get there; tipping out the bartender, busboys, and cooks cuts deep into the evening’s take, and I suppose that the New York jockeys can’t help but be happy that their guild is recommending cutting in half the amount of the income that they pass on to their valets. But as Dave Grening reported, “The New York valets are upset because they believe these guidelines amount to a 50-percent pay cut at a time when riders in New York are about to receive a pay increase beginning with the Belmont meet” (DRF).
Um, yes, valets, that seems to be right. As the jockeys’ mount fees go up, your fees will go down. Even I can do that math.
Grening further reported that
Jockeys such as Eibar Coa, Kent Desormeaux, and Edgar Prado…have indicated they
will abide by the new scale when they return to New York full-time, after
the Kentucky Derby. Coa has already returned and opted to take care of his
personal needs by himself. He said he has been treated like an outcast by
“I always thought they were making too much from the very beginning anyway,” Coa said. “In my personal case, I’ve been paying $50,000 a year to my valet. I’m not
talking bad about them, [but] this is work that you can be hotwalking one
day then the next day you’re a valet.” (DRF)
This would be the same Eibar Coa seen tooling around the backstretch at Saratoga last summer in a mighty smart, late-model, Mercedes sports car. As of December 17th, Coa had won $13,864,627, according to Yahoo! Sports, putting him at that point #7 in the country. 10% of that purse money (the standard jockey’s take) is over a million a year, and while I get that paying anyone $50,000 feels like a lot, you gotta think that Coa would have been better off keeping his mouth shut; it’s hard to defend his thinking, and I am frankly disappointed in him, Desormeaux, and Prado. As they all likely know, a salary of $50,000 doesn’t go all that far in supporting a family in the New York metropolitan area. One likes to think that there are two sides to every story and that these jockeys have some sort of a case to make for embracing this fee reduction, but so far I haven’t seen it. If there’s a good justification for the decision these jockeys made, please post about it; I’d love to be able to see the other side on this.