10/06/2005 12:00AM

Baeza pleads not guilty


Braulio Baeza, the former assistant clerk of scales of the New York Racing Association and a Hall of Fame jockey, pleaded not guilty on Thursday in a Saratoga County court to charges of conspiracy, tampering with a sports contest, falsifying business records, and grand larceny.

Baeza, 65, was indicted two weeks ago by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on charges that he knowingly allowed certain jockeys to ride more than five pounds overweight on 67 occasions in the last six months of 2004 at NYRA's three racetracks. Also indicted was NYRA's clerk of scales, Mario Sclafani, who pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Sept. 21.

Baeza's attorney, Paul DerOhannesian, said after the arraignment that the government's case against Baeza "showed a complete lack of horse racing knowledge" and that the government's investigation was "sloppy."

"This trial will be educational," DerOhannesian said. "From a legal point of view, the accusations are deficient, and from a factual point of view, they are just wrong."

Saratoga County Court Judge Jerry Scarano allowed Baeza to remain free without bail. Baeza and Sclafani are both scheduled to be back in court with their attorneys on Nov. 4 to work out a schedule toward the trial and for preliminary arguments from lawyers for both sides.

Baeza said that he was not guilty, and that he was troubled by the attention he had brought to horse racing.

"I'm looking to be vindicated," he said, "not just for myself, but for horse racing."