04/29/2003 12:00AM

Donnie Meche suspended a year


The Louisiana Racing Commission decided Tuesday to increase the suspension to jockey Donnie Meche from six months to a year, according to a state racing official.

Delta Downs stewards handed Meche a six-month suspension last winter for failing to do his best to win a race. On Tuesday, the commission upheld the stewards' ruling and tacked on an additional six months during a three-hour hearing in New Orleans, said the official, who asked not to be named. Meche and his attorney, Sonny Garcia, said they would appeal the suspension in district court.

"I wouldn't ride the race any differently if I had to do it again today," Meche said Tuesday. "There's no reason they should have given me a year with all the evidence we had that this horse grabbed a quarter."

On Jan. 23, Meche rode Cleaning House, a 3-5 favorite, in a trial race for the Graduation Futurity but finished third, beaten almost three lengths. Cleaning House qualified for the Graduation final, which he later won by a nose. On Feb. 8, stewards at Delta suspended Meche for six months, the maximum penalty they could assess, and referred the case to the commission. On Tuesday, the commission heard testimony from a Delta steward and Meche, who has contended that Cleaning House grabbed a quarter, injuring his hoof when he stumbled out of the gate. Meche said he rode carefully to protect Cleaning House. Meche and Asmussen contend that a state veterinarian confirmed the minor injury.