09/30/2004 12:00AM

Amy reinstated after 24-year ban


ELMONT, N.Y. - It has taken 24 years, but jockey Jose Amy finally has his second chance.

Amy, banned from race-riding in 1980 for admitting to fixing races in New York in the mid-1970's, was granted his jockey's license by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board late Wednesday. Amy, 51, said he hopes to begin riding by the end of next week.

"Oh my God, what does it mean to me?" Amy said. "They returned my life to me. My dream came true."

In 1980, the board suspended Amy's license after he admitted to taking bribes to fix seven races in New York in 1974-75. Amy testified to those acts during the race-fixing case against fellow jockey Con Errico, who was given a 10-year prison sentence and fined $25,000. Amy returned to his native Puerto Rico in 1984 and rode there for more than a decade before setting his sights on returning to the U.S.

Amy had applied for a jockey's license on four previous occasions. In 2001, the board granted him an exercise rider's license. Since that time, Amy has worked as an exercise rider for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Stacy Clifford, a spokesperson for the board, said the licensing staff "felt it was appropriate to give him a jockey license. We had given him an exercise license to give him an opportunity to re-enter the sport on a limited basis."

Over the last three years, Amy has garnered the support of many in the New York racing community to help him get reinstated. One of Amy's staunchest supporters is Barry Schwartz, the chairman of the New York Racing Association.

"I'm very happy for him," Schwartz said. "He paid his debt. He was banned for an awfully long time. He proved that he was responsible, he rode in Puerto Rico, he kept his nose clean ever since the incident. I think he certainly deserves a chance. I hope he does well. I hope he has a good winter. I'll certainly ride him."

Amy, who began riding in New York in 1973, said, "I was ready yesterday" to ride, but wants his family and friends from Puerto Rico to be here for his first ride.

"I don't know how many years I will ride," Amy said. "My overall goal is to re-establish my name. Besides my mistakes, I did good and every year I was getting better. They will never regret giving me that second chance. I will never let anybody down and my actions will prove it."