09/09/2001 11:00PM

Arroyo assault charges dropped

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Two assault charges against jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr., his brother, and his father were dismissed Monday in Bronx (N.Y.) Criminal Court, while a third assault charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. The charges had been made in connection with an altercation with a livery cab driver during the summer.

Arroyo, his brother Eric and father, Norberto Arroyo Sr. - a former sparring partner with boxer Roberto Duran - may still stand trial on third-degree assault charges brought after the three allegedly attacked Juan Gil, a livery cab driver from the Bronx, who blew his horn at them while crossing an intersection the night of July 20.

Arroyo said he was walking across the street with his 5-year-old daughter when Gil's car brushed his leg.

Arroyo, the runner-up in the Eclipse Award voting for top apprentice jockey of 2000, missed one day of riding at Belmont but did ride the entire Saratoga meet, where he won 13 races from 126 mounts, tied for seventh in the standings.

David Cohen, the attorney representing the Arroyo family, said he plans to fight the third-degree assault charge. A trial is not expected before mid-2002.

"There was an altercation, no question about that but we don't believe we have any criminal responsibility for what happened," Cohen said. "We acted completely in self-defense."

Arroyo was the leading rider in New York in 2000 with 188 wins.