By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Canada’s jockey “watchdog” was in the house at Hastings Racecourse on Mother’s Day and liked what he saw. Robbie King, Jr., Executive Director of the Jockey’s Benefit Association of Canada headquartered in Toronto, said in the aftermath of Sunday’s card: “The riding talent at Hastings is deep with a strong top 10. It’s very competitive and that’s always encouraging.”
He was particularly impressed by the work of Denis Araujo, winner of four races on a seven-race card that bolted Araujo into the early lead among jockeys this year with nine victories. His trips to Sunday’s winner’s circle included Brother Rod ($5.30), My Greyson ($3.10), Hold the Giant ($7.50) and Mustachio ($8.90).
The role of the Jockey’s Benefit Association (JBAC) is to represent active riders across the country – approximately 150 in number – in areas such as disability insurance, career ending insurance, life insurance, safety issues, counseling for personal or physical issues and dealing with the Provincial Racing Commissions over riding infractions at hearings.
A former jockey whose career included stops at Hastings where he won the 1995 BC Derby aboard Flying Sauce, King, Jr. has been the voice of jockeys in Canada since taking over the Association’s Executive Director chair in 2012.
“I’ve been in the game since I started riding professionally at 18,” he says. “I deal one-on-one with tracks and jockeys across the country and it seems there are issues to deal with seven days a week.”
A two-time Sovereign Award winner (1983-84) as Canada’s top apprentice rider and recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award in 2009 for his contributions to the sport, King, Jr. is abundantly qualified in his current role.
The racing facilities he monitors on behalf of jockeys include Hastings, Northlands (Edmonton), Marquis (Saskatchewan), Assiniboia (Winnipeg), Fort Erie and Woodbine in Ontario and soon to be Century Downs (Calgary).
“Quite frankly,” he says, “I’d like to see more riders under contract to owners to give them a little security and stability. The life of a jockey is tough. I know … I’ve been there.”