12/23/2001 1:00AM

Jockey Ruiz remembered

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GROVE CITY, Ohio - A memorial service for apprentice jockey Arnold Ruiz was held Sunday in the Beulah Park winner's circle prior to the races. Ruiz died in a three-horse spill here Saturday afternoon.

The accident happened when Winds of Sonora, ridden by Ruiz, took a bad step and fell in midstretch of the third race. Both Kaicoltra, ridden by Chuck Costanzo, and My Martina, ridden by Mike Heath, fell over Winds of Sonora and Ruiz. Neither Costanzo nor Heath was seriously injured.

Kaicoltra appeared to step on Ruiz as she fell. Medical personnel worked to revive Ruiz on the track for more than 20 minutes. He was taken by helicopter to Grant Hospital where he was pronounced dead from head trauma and internal injuries.

Ruiz, a 33-year-old native of Arlington Heights, Ill., began riding in August 1997 at Arlington Park after working in the banking industry in his hometown. Ruiz did not ride competitively for two years, from late 1997 to late 1999, instead galloping horses at Fairmount Park. Ruiz rode his first winner on July 5, 2000, at Prairie Meadows aboard Forbes Play.

Ruiz had 427 career mounts and had a record of 24-38-47. His mounts earned $267,506. Ruiz's agent, Brian Assman, said his rider had a great attitude and loved riding horses. "He was always positive, he worked hard," Assman said. "After the races he would go to the library and look up charts on the Internet."

Ruiz's family attended the memorial service and said a wake for the rider would be held at Glueckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights next week. A date has not been set for the funeral.

The last jockey to die in a race-riding accident was 23-year-old Isiah Sala on Aug. 18 of this year at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon, Canada.