12/07/2006 1:00AM

It will cost Jara to ride in Florida


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jockey Fernando Jara is expected to work out a deal with his current agent, Randy Romero, to free him from an existing contract and plans to ride this winter in south Florida with Gatewood Bell as his agent.

Jara, who won the Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic and earned $8.6 million in purses with Romero as his agent this year, will ride in New York through Dec. 17 before taking some time off to return home to Panama. It is expected he will begin riding when Gulfstream Park opens on Jan. 3.

It is uncertain how much Jara will pay Romero to get out of his contract, though Romero said Thursday that he has asked for $30,000. According to someone familiar with the contract, Jara has to retain Romero as his agent only if he stays in New York. Romero said his contract with Jara isn't set to expire until Feb. 5.

"I'm not going to let him leave New York unless he wants to give me the money I'm asking for,'' Romero said.

Jara confirmed Thursday that he is going to ride in Florida this winter and said he expected the situation with Romero would be resolved by Friday.

Jara is heading to Florida in part to ride first call for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who conditioned Belmont winner Jazil and BC Classic winner Invasor, both of whom are slated to run in 2007.

"We have 45 horses, we would like him to ride the majority of them if he wants," McLaughlin said of Jara. "It's nice because Johnny [Velazquez] is tied up with Todd [Pletcher] and [Edgar] Prado is tied up with everybody else. Jara is our go-to rider and it'd be nice to be able to go to him."

Romero, a former jockey who suffers from kidney and liver disease, said he is upset with the way this situation unfolded, but added he is still a supporter of Jara.

"This was a bad deal," Romero said. "I'm going to move forward and try to find a new rider as good or better. I wish Fernando the best."

Bell, 25, is the son of Jim Bell, the president of Darley USA. The younger Bell helped out Romero earlier in the year with Jara and the apprentice David Bourque, who did not stay here very long.

Desormeaux also Florida-bound

Though without nearly as much as drama, jockey Kent Desormeaux will also be heading to Florida for the winter, his agent, Mike Sellitto confirmed Thursday.

Desormeaux will ride here on Sunday and again on Dec. 17 and will be in California on Dec. 16 and 18 for stakes engagements before riding at Calder on Jan. 1 and then Gulfstream beginning Jan. 3.

"It was a change of plans over the last week,'' Sellitto said. "Some horses we were riding for [John] Kimmel and a couple of other people we were going to be traveling back and forth anyway. It's just a good idea not to get away from those kinds of horses."

Sellitto was specifically referring to Premium Tap, a Kimmel-trainee whom Desormeaux won two Grade 1 races on this fall.

Awesome Twist stretches out

One Kimmel horse headed to south Florida for the winter who Desormeaux may get to ride down the road is Awesome Twist. But before shipping to Florida, Awesome Twist will attempt to stretch out in distance in Saturday's Grade 3 Queens County Handicap at 1 3/16 miles.

Awesome Twist, a son of Grade 1 winners Awesome Again and Twist Afleet, finished second in the Brooklyn Handicap and third in the Meadowlands Cup, both at 1 1/8 miles. Most recently Awesome Twist finished sixth in the Ack Ack Handicap, a one-turn mile race at Churchill Downs.

Kimmel doesn't fear the added distance of the Queens County.

"If you look at the Brooklyn he was coming at the end, the way he ran in the Meadowlands Cup he was coming in that race too," Kimmel said. "I don't think the distance will be an issue for him. Certainly the competition will be a little easier than what he's been running against. We think he's ready. Hopefully, he'll place himself a little closer and he won't have to make such a huge late run."

Evening Attire back on work tab

Evening Attire, a Grade 1 winner and earner of more than $2.5 million, breezed three furlongs in 37.92 seconds Thursday morning over Belmont Park's training track as he prepares for a possible 9-year-old campaign in 2007.

Evening Attire, a gelded son of Black Tie Affair owned by Joseph and Mary Grant and T.J. Kelly, has not run since finishing last in an off-the-turf allowance race at Belmont in May. Evening Attire, winner of the 2001 Jockey Club Gold Cup, has not won since taking the Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap in November 2005. Last year, he was plagued by slow starts out of the gate.

Trainer Pat Kelly said Thursday's move was more like an accelerated gallop than a workout, but he added that Evening Attire seems enthusiastic about his training.

"He seems to be happy back at the barn," said Kelly, who added that he has no immediate plans for Evening Attire's return. "Believe me, it's literally one day at a time; make sure he's okay and try it again the next day. If we get him back and think he's competitive we'll find something for him."

Toys for Tots on Saturday

The United States Marine Corps will hold its annual Toys for Tots drive at Aqueduct on Saturday. Fans are asked to bring an unwrapped toy to the track. Monetary donations are also accepted.

This weekend is also Aqueduct's annual Stocking Stuffer Giveaway. With each paid admission Saturday and Sunday, and while supplies last, fans will be entitled to receive a free NYRA promotional item such as travel mugs, sports bags, blankets, baseball caps, and bobble-head dolls.