03/03/2004 1:00AM

Fonner: Jockey colony dwindling

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - The Fonner jockey colony had shrunk to a dangerously low level by last Sunday's final race. A pair of accidents on Saturday, coupled with an illness on a rainy, windy Sunday, left just nine riders in the room by the time the final race of the weekend arrived - and it was scheduled to be a 10-horse field. As a result, Goin Deep was scratched.

On Saturday morning, Dan Beck suffered a torn Achilles tendon in a training accident behind the starting gate. Later in the day, Mark Luark's mount stumbled out of the gate and the rider aggravated a shoulder injury.

Luark said he was having the shoulder examined Wednesday afternoon, but was afraid it would require surgery.

"I'd like to just go ahead and get it fixed up now," he said. "Hopefully I would miss four to six weeks of riding, but getting in to get it operated on can take so much time."

Jockey William Henson took off Goin Deep in the ninth because of illness. Since the jockeys who had ridden earlier on the card had left for the day, no one was available to fill in and the horse was scratched.

Two new riders have joined the local colony. By midafternoon Saturday, exercise rider John Conheeney had been paged to the jockeys' quarters to pick up mounts, a week or two earlier than he had planned.

Luis Ranilla, second in the standings at Columbus last fall, is scheduled to arrive back in Nebraska on Thursday afternoon, and was named to several horses on Friday's card.

The additions of Ranilla and Conheeney boost the active jockey count to 14 going into this weekend.