03/02/2005 1:00AM

Elliott held on immigration matter

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Stewart Elliott, the regular jockey for the retired Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones and current Derby hopeful Rockport Harbor, was arrested on Tuesday by agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office and was being held on Wednesday while officials reviewed his immigration status.

The arrest stemmed from Elliott's felony conviction in 2001 on charges of aggravated assault. Elliott, who was born in Toronto, is a Canadian citizen, and under U.S. immigration laws, aliens who are convicted of a felony can face deportation.

Supti Bhattacharya, Elliott's lawyer, said she expected Elliott to be released by Thursday, and called the arrest and detention a "procedural issue." She said Elliott had appeared before an immigration judge voluntarily on Tuesday.

"It's merely a procedural issue, and it should be resolved quickly," Bhattacharya said. She declined to comment further.

The Immigration and Customs office did not return a phone call on Wednesday. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Homeland Security office, Manny Van Pelt, told The Associated Press that Elliott needed to have his immigration status determined by a judge, but also said that Elliott "is not here illegally."

Elliott was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport, not far from his home in Washington Crossing, Pa.

Elliott pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault charge in 2001 after attacking Alexander Kovakik with a pool cue and wooden stool at Kovakik's home. The two were described as friends at the time.

Following the altercation, Elliott checked into a substance-abuse program, and claims to have been sober since then.

Elliott has spent most of the winter riding at Aqueduct, where he had 37 wins from 274 mounts through Wednesday.