10/19/2005 11:00PM

Belmont jocks air concerns over weights

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Riders based at Belmont Park said Thursday morning that they are upset with the New York Racing Association over inconsistencies in conveying and reporting to the public the esoteric ways in which weight is calculated.

Much of the contentiousness stems from the fallout over grand jury indictments last month of Mario Sclafani, the clerk of scales, and Braulio Baeza, his assistant, both of whom were subsequently fired by NYRA. The riders believe misunderstandings over the ways in which weight is calculated led to the indictments.

Last week, NYRA began publishing a notice entitled "New York Rules on Jockey Weights" in its large-size official program. The rules outline what equipment is counted as weight, and what is not, when riders check in before and after races. For instance, the rules say, when jockeys weigh out before a race in the jockeys' room, items such as a whip, blinkers, saddle cloth, safety vest, and safety helmet are not counted. When jockeys weigh in after a race - on an outdoor scale in public view - none of those items is considered relevant, although jockeys typically carry them onto the scale and thus can register a number higher than published in the program, especially if they have picked up mud or water in wet weather.

"This accounts for additional weight, depending on specific equipment, as well as weather, track and racing conditions," the notice says.

"It's four or five pounds, minimum," said jockey John Velazquez.

When a jockey weighs in several pounds over the weight published in the program, it is leading to confusion for the public, the riders said. They asked for the notice to be published in the program. It appears in the large program but not in the smaller official program.

"We want to get that notice out there to limit our exposure," said jockey Richard Migliore, who along with Mike Luzzi, Jose Santos, and Velazquez expressed the riders' concerns.

Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president, said putting the notice in the program "is in the interest of full disclosure."

"It helps the public, as well as the owners and trainers, understand the process," Nader said. "And for the jockeys, it gives them comfort that there's better information out there, it's more descriptive about the truth."

Nader said he would not comment on Baeza and Sclafani, pending the outcome of their case.

"Those two guys," Migliore said, referring to Baeza and Sclafani, "didn't deserve this. Braulio spent years forging an impeccable reputation, and now it's ruined. All they were doing was following the guidelines set forth by the people who employ them. We need the public to know what's going on with the weights. Those guys were just following the rules set forth by NYRA and the state racing and wagering board, and now they're being hung for it.

"What's also insulting is that some of us have made a lifestyle out of making weight, and then you end up with a perception that we're a bunch of fat guys who are cheating."