06/16/2003 12:00AM

Arroyo out with broken neck


ELMONT, N.Y. - Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. is expected to be out of action a minimum of six weeks after fracturing the C-7 vertebrae in his neck following a spill in Sunday's second race at Belmont Park.

Arroyo on Monday remained in North Shore University Hospital where he was to undergo further tests after he complained of discomfort in the center of his back, according John Kolb, Arroyo's agent.

"They're going to do more tests, he'll be there at least for another couple of days," Kolb said.

Arroyo was aboard Exotic Angel, who finished fifth in Sunday's second race. About 100 yards past the wire, Exotic Angel took a bad step and unseated Arroyo, who went head over heels and landed on the back of his neck.

Arroyo was immediately taken from the track on a stretcher and transported via ambulance to the hospital. Exotic Angel was uninjured.

"Just talking to the doctors this morning they said any kind of broken bone - whether it's in the neck or elsewhere - is a minimum of six to eight weeks," Kolb said. "Of course, we all hope it's going to be sooner.''

This has been a difficult year for Arroyo, who this winter spent nearly six weeks in the Nassau County Correctional Facility for second-degree assault charges stemming from a pool hall incident in June 2002.

Arroyo, 26, was runner-up in the Eclipse Award voting for the nation's leading apprentice rider in 2000, the same year he was New York's leading rider with 188 victories.