10/16/2005 11:00PM

California watches weight

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ARCADIA, Calif. - California racing officials will begin stricter enforcement next week of existing rules pertaining to weight carried by jockeys, following the recommendation of an ad hoc committee of racing officials and horsemen that met at Santa Anita on Saturday.

The committee, chaired by Richard Shapiro of the California Horse Racing Board, discussed ways of eliminating apparent confusion over how much weight a horse carries.

Beginning Sunday, jockeys will undergo spot-checks of body weight, and stewards will oversee the prerace weight out process daily to ensure that weights announced to the public are accurate.

At Saturday's two-hour meeting, Shapiro stated that he wanted to eliminate a suspected practice of some riders of weighing out before a race with light boots and pants, in order to make weight for a riding assignment, and then returning to their lockers and putting on heavier, more durable boots and pants. Safety equipment - helmets and vests - is not counted in the weight jockeys carry.

"We want to eliminate possible manipulation that may or may not be taking place," Shapiro said. "We have to have integrity at all levels of this game."

The committee's recommendations come on the heels of recent indictments and firings of two New York racing officials who have been accused of allegedly falsifying weights carried by jockeys in some races.

The committee also discussed ways to inform the public that published weights do not include safety equipment. With that equipment, some horses carry as much as seven pounds over an assigned weight.

Because weights for helmets and vests can vary by as much as two pounds, the committee recommended that the weight of an individual rider's safety equipment be published in the condition book.

Earlier this month, in an effort to assure uniform weights for safety equipment carried by riders, the state racing board allowed lead to be added to the saddles of some jockeys who had lighter safety equipment. The experiment was stopped by the board after three days.

Investigators for the racing board distributed copies of the rules pertaining to weight to jockeys at Santa Anita and Los Alamitos on Sunday and are scheduled to do so at Golden Gate Fields on Wednesday. Among the rules noted were: the duties of a clerk of scales to verify correct weights; that jockeys must report one hour before the first race, unless excused by stewards; that jockeys must weigh out one hour before post time for a race; and that jockeys who carry more than two pounds of overweight must have the consent of an owner or trainer or risk being removed from their mounts.