Tracks across the country will hold a moment of silence Feb. 18 in memory of the late jockey Avery Whisman. The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, in coordination with racetracks across the country, is leading the initiative in an effort to shed light on mental health awareness and the challenges jockeys face. Jockeys at all participating tracks will wear black armbands in tribute to Whisman, who died suddenly Jan. 11 at the age of 23 following a prolonged struggle with the physical and mental demands placed on riders.
The 1/ST properties: Laurel Park, Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita and Golden Gate, will all participate and Laurel Park, where Whisman rode primarily in 2019-2020, will have a race named in his honor on its Feb. 18 Winter Carnival program. Jockeys, family and friends will gather in the Laurel winner’s circle following the race and observe the moment of silence.
Whisman’s parents, Lyman and Salli, said, “We are so very proud of our son and all he accomplished in his short life. In the future, we hope to raise awareness and empower dialogue within the racing industry around gaps in needed health and mental health support for its jockey athletes.”
Mike Rogers, acting president of the Maryland Jockey Club, said, “Mental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, no matter your age or profession. It’s important for individuals to prioritize and take care of their mental health, and it’s important for us to reach out to those who may show signs of needing help.”
Terry Meyocks, President and CEO of Jockeys’ Guild said, “The Jockeys’ Guild sincerely appreciates 1/ST Racing bringing attention to the important issues of mental health and other health related challenges affecting jockeys. These are struggles that jockeys and the Guild have dealt with on a continual basis.”
Laurel will also distribute hats and T-shirts for a donation to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity that provides financial assistance to 60 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries. Since its founding in 2006, the PDJF has disbursed nearly $11 million.