07/04/2003 12:00AM

Jockey shortage worsens

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EDMONTON, Alberta - Jockeys' room superintendent Dick Armstrong surveyed his domain here the other day and counted heads.

"A dozen," he grumbled. "Serious stuff. Let's hope we don't have a spill, or it would put us in real trouble."

Fears that a serious misadventure might leave the Northlands corps without enough jockeys were heightened this past week when Alex Ferris announced his retirement.

Also, the track's Barbadian connection, the savior of the thin colony of riders the past couple of years, was weakened when Anderson Trotman placed himself under contract to a trainer in his homeland, and Rickey Walcott failed to have his immigration papers in order.

Barbadians Quincy Welch, Desmond Bryan, and newcomer Kenyatta Davis remain key components of the jockey population here.

In sharp contract, Assiniboia Downs has some 24 riders and Hastings only a few less, even though Hastings races only two days a week. Northlands management would love to raid their fellow tracks in the west for a few jockeys, and, in fact, is working on obtaining one from each of them.

Holding up the plan is the red tape that has to be circumvented in order to allow them to change provinces.

Jockeys' Benefit Association manager John Livingstone is seeking to have that process amended, and when immigration officials approve a jockey's application it will embrace all of western Canada rather than a single province.