06/04/2001 12:00AM

Illinois jocks may pay, not sit

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Jockeys guilty of riding infractions on the Chicago circuit now have the option of paying a fine rather than accepting a suspension from the stewards. The new rule assigns a fine to each penalty, for instance $1,500 for a 3-day riding suspension or $2,500 for a five-day suspension.

The practice has already been put into use at other Illinois racing jurisdictions, including Fairmount Park, a Thoroughbred track.

"Harness tracks have been using it for years," said Steve Morgan, a steward at Hawthorne. "The thinking was that the public complained about coming to the races and having the top drivers out on suspension."

"We think it's fair because it's a choice," steward Larry Hill said. "A lower-tier rider can take the days, because they're probably not going to be riding as much anyway. An upper-tier rider can make $5,000 during that time."

The new regulations have gone into effect here already, and jockey Chris Valovich, who the stewards ruled against for two infractions Saturday, has paid a pair of fines rather than taking a six-day suspension.