07/22/2001 11:00PM

Arroyo free to ride Spa meet


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr., who was arrested on Friday night and charged with two counts of assault, was free on $1,500 bail Saturday night and returned to race-riding Sunday at Belmont Park. He should be able to ride the entire Saratoga meet, as he is not scheduled to appear in court again until Sept. 10.

Arroyo, 24, along with his father, Norberto Arroyo Sr., 45, and brother Erick, 21, were each arrested and charged for punching and kicking a livery cab driver, Juan Gil, in an incident in the Bronx. Gil was taken to Bronx hospital where he was treated and released for "a serious injury to the eye" according to Bronx police.

According to Arroyo, he was crossing the street with his 5-year-old daughter when the car driven by Gil got close to them in the intersection. Arroyo said he was hit in the leg by the car, although police reports do not verify that account.

"I got hit in the leg," Arroyo said Sunday as he entered Belmont Park. "My daughter's fine, that's the main thing."

Arroyo, who went winless in four mounts Sunday, said he could not comment further on the case.

Gil told The New York Daily News that he blew his horn at the Arroyo family "because there was a guy in the middle of the street."

Arroyo's father was a former sparring partner with former boxing champion Roberto Duran. He and Arroyo's brother Erick were released on their own recognizance. A fourth man, Humberto Omende, 39, was also arrested in the case and released on his own recognizance.

Arroyo was the leading rider in New York in 2000 with 188 wins from 1,165 mounts and earnings of $6.9 million. He finished second to Tyler Baze in the Eclipse Award voting as North America's top apprentice rider.