11/14/2008 12:00AM

Calder jockey barred through Jan. 2


MIAMI - Churchill Downs Inc. said on Friday it has barred leading jockey Paco Lopez from riding throughout the remainder of the 2008-09 Tropical at Calder meeting, which runs through Jan. 2, 2009. The ban also applies to all other racetracks owned and operated by CDI during the same period.

CDI officials refused to comment any further on their decision, but Lopez has accumulated 65 days' worth of suspensions for riding infractions at Calder that are on appeal with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. He has engaged an attorney, who has been in discussions with officials from the Florida wagering division and the track in an attempt to reduce the number of days Lopez will ultimately serve.

"We are presently working to get these issues resolved and are confident they can be resolved soon," said Lopez's agent, Cory Moran. "Paco is looking forward to resuming riding in the near future."

Lopez was involved in a frightening spill here on Tuesday, when his mount, Survi Star, clipped heels during the running of the eighth race. Both Lopez and jockey Christian Dominguez fell as a result of the incident, although neither sustained serious injuries.

Eddie Plesa Jr. and Marty Wolfson, two of the leading trainers based at Calder, have both been major supporters of Lopez throughout the 2008 season.

"I'm disappointed he's out of here," said Plesa. "Paco is a young, aggressive rider following in the footsteps of top riders like Eibar Coa, Cornelio Velasquez, and Javier Castellano who have come out of here in the past. But when they were around there was always an older, respected rider in the room who would talk to younger jockeys if they felt they were being reckless. We don't have anybody here stepping to the forefront now."

Said Wolfson: "I think Paco's a very talented and promising rider and I've had no problems with any of the horses he's ridden for me. He's ridden some of my top horses, and neither I nor the other trainers who put him on stakes-type horses would do so if we thought he was a danger to the other riders or the horses themselves."

Lopez dominated the Calder meet that ended on Oct. 19, and he is dominating the standings at the Tropical session. He is also one of the leading candidates to win the Eclipse Award as the nation's leading apprentice in 2008. Lopez lost his bug during the first week of September.

Lopez becomes the second top rider at Calder to be barred from riding out the Tropical meeting during the last two years. Track officials also asked Manoel Cruz, a four-time Calder and Tropical at Calder champion, not to ride here during the final nine days of the 2006-07 meet.