Gulfstream jockeys unhappy with

Gulfstream jockeys unhappy with
system for transporting injured riders

By Mike Welsch
BEACH, Fla. – In the wake of Friday’s accident that has left jockey Eibar Coa
seriously injured and the meet’s leading rider Paco Lopez sidelined
indefinitely, the Gulfstream Park jockey colony has voiced its concerns over the
manner in which injured riders are transported to local hospitals.


Jockey guild representatives John
Velazquez and Javier Castellano claimed it took at least 20 minutes for Lopez to
be picked up by a City of Hallandale Beach ambulance and transported to Memorial
Regional Hospital in nearby Hollywood after he fell while attempting to pull up
Precious Lady following the conclusion of Friday’s sixth race.

Gulfstream Park employs two paramedic
staffed ambulances from a private company, AMR, to be on site for each racing
program. Those crews are permitted to treat and stabilize injured riders on
track property but are not licensed by the city to transport patients off the
grounds to area hospitals.

When Coa and Lopez went down on Friday,
track officials claimed they followed procedure and made several calls to the
city of Hallandale Beach’s 911 emergency lines asking for additional ambulances
to be dispatched to the track while AMR’s crews attended to both riders.

According to track officials, the first
City of Hallandale Beach ambulance arrived within three to five minutes to pick
up the more severely injured Coa to transport him to Memorial Regional. But the
second vehicle reportedly did not reach Lopez for at least 15 to 20 minutes
while the injured jockey suffered in pain and the AMR crew denied all pleas to
drive him immediately to the hospital for fear of violating city

Terry Meyocks, National Director of the
Jockeys’ Guild, was at the track Friday when the frightening incident

“The entire process by which injured
jockeys are transported to the hospital needs to be reviewed. We [the Jockeys’
Guild] and Gulfstream management are in total agreement on this point,” said
Meyocks. “Whatever rules and regulations are currently in place, they need to be
changed. The safety of not only the jockeys but anybody else who might be
injured whether it be trainers, grooms, or hot walkers, is what’s paramount. The
first half hour is so critical when dealing with traumatic injuries, especially
of the nature suffered by Coa here Friday, and the only thing that really
matters is getting these people to the best hospital as quickly as

A contentious meeting, attended by
Meyocks, several riders, track officials and two representatives of the City of
Hallandale Fire and Rescue Squad, including Fire Chief Dan Sullivan, who
oversees the city’s rescue team, was held Saturday morning at Gulfstream. Track
officials and Sullivan disagreed vehemently over the manner in which the 911
calls were made to the city’s emergency center in the critical minutes following
Friday’s mishap.

Gulfstream president Steve Calabro
repeatedly suggested to Sullivan that the best and most efficient solution to
the problem would be for the city to license AMR crews to transport injured
riders to the hospital themselves in life-threatening situations rather than
have to waste crucial time before transferring patients from their vehicles to
city-owned ambulances. Sullivan firmly disagreed, stating his crews were far
better equipped and trained to handle patients, especially under traumatic

“I’d have to vote against that idea if it
comes up,” said Sullivan. “If it was my brother or son who fell off a horse and
was severely injured, I’d want my people to be the ones treating them and
transporting them to the hospital. If procedures are followed properly, I can
have one of my vehicles on site within three minutes of a 911 call being
received. ”

Tim Ritvo, a former rider himself and now
vice president of racing operations at Gulfstream, empathized with the jockeys
over the current situation.

“It’s just unfortunate that politics have
to come into play in life and death situations such as the one we faced here on
Friday,” said Ritvo. “It’s all about the unions and protecting city jobs. That’s
why we can’t get the city to give us a certificate to allow our private
ambulances licensed to go off the grounds.”

Ritvo said it would cost the track twice
the amount it pays AMR to hire a City of Hallandale Fire and Rescue vehicle to
be on the grounds each racing day.

“Besides the added cost, the city
ambulances would not be allowed to follow the jockeys around while the races are
being run as the AMR crews currently do,” said Ritvo. “So even if we paid the
city to sit here all afternoon, an injured rider would still have to be
transferred from one vehicle to another before being transported to the
hospital, which in a traumatic case such as Coa’s could even be life
threatening. The bottom line is that the system is broken and needs to be fixed

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