06/14/2002 12:00AM

Agents file suit to change jockey rule


ELMONT, N.Y. - Three jockey agents have filed a lawsuit against the three stewards who work at New York Racing Association tracks, seeking to change the rule that limits the number of riders one agent may represent.

In virtually every other jurisdiction, agents are permitted to represent more than one journeyman rider. In New York, agents are permitted to represent only one journeyman and one apprentice jockey.

The suit, filed in State Supreme Court in New York County, has angered NYRA chairman Barry Schwartz, who claims that agents could manipulate field size if allowed to represent more than one journeyman rider.

"I will do everything in my power to fight this," said Schwartz, who is not named in the suit. "They're not going to run racing in New York - or I should say ruin racing in New York.

The rule clearly doesn't work where it's implemented."

Schwartz also took a shot at jockey agents in general.

"They're the part of the industry that puts the least amount up," Schwartz said. "Their contribution is about zero. We'll see how much stomach they have. They've come to the right place if they want a fight. They're not going to dictate to me how racing is run here."

The agents who filed the suit are Ron Anderson, who represents Jerry Bailey; Angel Cordero, who books mounts for John Velazquez and apprentice Neftali Galarza; and Drew Mollica, who handles business for Richard Migliore.

The suit seeks to have the "single jockey rule" declared "unconstitutional and invalid." The suit also seeks unspecified monetary compensation for "their economic injuries" created by not being allowed to represent more than one rider.

Anderson, Mollica, and Cordero, a retired Hall of Fame jockey, would not comment on the suit on advice of their attorney, John Behrendt. Behrendt, who owns horses in New York with trainer David Donk, said the rule change would simply allow riders "to pick and choose who they want for their agent. It's the only place in the country that has the rule. It used to be everywhere, and they got away from it."

Behrendt likens the rule to limiting trainers to being able to train for a certain number of owners.

The stewards named in the suit are David Hicks, the NYRA steward; Dr. Ted Hill, the Jockey Club steward; and Carmine Donofrio, the State Racing and Wagering Board steward. All three said the rule, in its current form, is in the interest of fairness.

"Five agents with the 10 top riders, they can kind of control things," Donofrio said. "And, I think everybody deserves a chance to make a living."

There are 21 agents representing 23 riders in the Belmont colony. Seven riders do not have agents.

"This way, it won't put the small guy out of business," Hicks said. "Everybody is on a level playing field. We're not depriving them from making a living."

Not all the agents are in favor of a rule change. Bob Frieze, who represents Edgar Prado, said: "I think one is enough. There would be too much conflict, I think."

* Victory Ride, last year's Grade 1 Test winner, came out of her third-place finish in last month's Shuvee Handicap a bit off in her right front leg, and is out until at least the Saratoga meeting, trainer Rusty Arnold said. Arnold had hoped to run Victory Ride in next Saturday's Ogden Phipps Handicap, but did not even nominate her to the race.