09/19/2006 11:00PM

Agent says Torres is in rehab, will miss meet

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CHICAGO - Francisco Torres, who came back from substance-abuse problems that derailed his North American career in 2000, was off his mounts on Wednesday at Hawthorne Race Course and has checked into a rehabilitation clinic in Kentucky, according to his agent, Bobby Kelly.

Torres finished a strong second behind Chris Emigh at the recently concluded Arlington meet, and had worked his way into many of the Chicago circuit's major stables. But while making a run at Emigh in the final month of the Arlington meet, Torres's business appeared to go strangely flat. He missed one day of mounts at Arlington due to a reported illness, rode last weekend during Hawthorne's first three racing days, but was scratched from Wednesday's card.

"He said he checked himself into rehab," said Kelly, who picked up Torres's book early last spring. "He said he'd called the stewards to say he's going to be there 30 days, and isn't going to ride here the rest of the meet."

Chief steward Eddie Arroyo said he couldn't comment on any aspect of the Torres situation because of privacy issues.

Torres has said alcohol is his primary problem; drug use has followed bouts of drinking. Torres - candid, lucid, and reliable this summer - said in August that he was actively involved in a 12-step program to try and stay clean.

Torres rode in Kentucky in 2000, but was ruled off Churchill Downs without losing his Kentucky jockey's license. He rode in Saudi Arabia and the Far East before returning to action in the U.S. in 2004, only to be suspended in Louisiana after he was found to have falsified part of his license application. Torres came back late in the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs early this year, then was injured early in the Oaklawn Park meet. But his business was decent coming out of Oaklawn, and Torres quickly jumped near the top of the standings at Arlington.

Kelly, who still represents jockey Larry Sterling, said he hoped Torres could be ready to return for the Fair Grounds meet, which opens Thanksgiving Day.

Full fields, but no clear feature

Those full fall fields Hawthorne trumpets? They're here. Saturday's nine-race program drew 95 entries (not including also-eligibles), and the card's last four races all went with full 12-horse fields.

What the card does not have, however, is a lot of quality. Race 4, an entry-level sprint allowance, is the only open allowance race on the day. It drew a field of nine, with no clear-cut favorite to be found.