02/21/2003 1:00AM

Court upholds stay of Meche ban


NEW ORLEANS - A civil district court judge on Friday upheld an injunction issued Wednesday that stays a suspension handed to jockey Donnie Meche by the Louisiana State Racing Commission. The ruling means Meche can ride in races until a hearing before the commission.

On Thursday, Meche rode his first horse since Delta Downs stewards suspended him six months on Feb. 8 for not doing his best to win a Jan. 23 race in which his heavily favored mount, Cleaning House, ran third.

Delta stewards referred Meche's case to the commission, which denied Meche's appeal of the ruling and scheduled a hearing for Monday, Feb. 17. That hearing was postponed at the request of Meche's lawyer, Sonny Garcia. The commission then suspended Meche for 30 days because of a Jan. 11 ruling at Fair Grounds for violation of the drug-testing program.

A racing commission official said the hearing on Meche's case will take place at the panel's next meeting, which probably will be before the end of the Fair Grounds meet on March 31.