05/20/2004 12:00AM

Four Venezia finalists named


Patricia Cooksey, Aaron Gryder, Edgar Prado, and John Velazquez are the four finalists for the 2004 Mike Venezia Award, the New York Racing Association announced Thursday.

The Venezia Award was instituted by the NYRA to honor the memory of jockey Mike Venezia, who was killed in a spill at Belmont Park on Oct. 13, 1988. The award honors riders who "exemplify extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship."

The 2004 recipient will be decided by voting among fans, turf writers, and jockeys. Each group has an equal voice. Fans are encouraged to vote on NYRA.com or with ballots in the track program. Voting will be conducted until Monday.

Cooksey, 46, has won more than 2,000 races and successfully fought breast cancer last year. Gryder, 33, has won more than 2,600 races, and has been a fixture on the NYRA circuit the last few years. Prado, 36, captured his 5,000th race earlier this year and three times has led the nation in wins. Velazquez, 32, has been New York's leading rider the last three years. Last summer, he won a Saratoga meet record 61 races.