03/08/2006 1:00AM

Jockeys banned for rough riding


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The Aqueduct stewards suspended jockeys Jose Espinoza and Pablo Fragoso 30 days each for "careless and aggressive riding" during the running of Sunday's sixth race. Both riders appealed the suspensions and will continue riding until their appeals are heard.

Espinoza and Fragoso were involved in Thoroughbred racing's version of road rage in the race. Fragoso, aboard Prince Tutta, cut in front of Espinoza, aboard Tsuris, entering the first turn of the mile and 70-yard race. Espinoza was forced to check, and that caused Eibar Coa to check sharply behind him aboard One Starry Night.

Fragoso and Prince Tutta sped to a clear lead around the turn, but Espinoza sent Tsuris right after him and was right outside of him straightening away down the backside. Espinoza made it tight on Fragoso, who in turn guided his horse into Tsuris to make some room. The two horses bumped several times down the backside while well clear of the field.

Entering the far turn, Espinoza still had Fragoso in tight, so Fragoso used his right hand to push Espinoza away. Espinoza came right back on Fragoso, tightening things up again. The two were still head and head coming to the quarter pole, but the rest of the field was catching up. Both horses were done at the three-sixteenths pole, though Tsuris did hold on for third.

"He got mad at me because I came in on the first turn," Fragoso, 23, said. "In a mile and 70-yard race the turn is right there. My horse was [wearing] blinkers for the first time and he kind of ran off with me. When [Espinoza] touched my horse I thought it was an accident or his rein broke, but he did it again and put me in a tight spot."

Fragoso said at the point he pushed Espinoza, "you forget about racing. I was just trying to protect my life."

Espinoza, 34, admitted to being upset about Fragoso's ride entering the first turn. Espinoza said for "just a moment, I lose my mind a little bit."

Espinoza thought the penalties should not have been equal because "he started first and then he pushed me with his hands. It wasn't 50-50 all the way."

The maximum penalty the stewards could have handed out was a 60-day suspension and a fine of $5,000.