04/25/2002 11:00PM

Kinane ban starts riders shuffling

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Mick Kinane lost an appeal on Friday in London of a riding suspension and will not be able to ride Johannesburg in next Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Kinane, the European riding sensation, rode Johannesburg to victory in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

As a result, either Jerry Bailey or possibly Gary Stevens will ride Johannesburg in the 128th Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs.

Bailey had been secured by Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien to ride Johannesburg's stablemate, Castle Gandolfo, but Kinane's suspension could alter the riding assignments. Stevens becomes available to O'Brien if, as expected, Sunday Break fails to get into the Derby field because of insufficient earnings in graded stakes races.

Stevens's agent, Brian Beach, had been in touch with the connections of several Derby horses, including Castle Gandolfo and Johannesburg, in recent days, when it appeared Sunday Break's chances of running in the Derby were worsening. On Friday, Stevens had a lengthy conversation with Demi O'Byrne, the bloodstock adviser for Johannesburg's owners, John Magnier and Michael Tabor; Magnier alone owns Castle Gandolfo. According to Beach, Stevens and O'Byrne agreed Stevens would ride one of the two colts if Sunday Break does not get into the Derby.

"They told us they haven't made a decision which jock will ride which horse, and they probably won't make a decision until Tuesday," Beach said from California. "We'll ride Sunday Break, or one of the Irish horses."

Sunday Break remains 23rd on the list of horses still possible to run in the Derby. Only one horse ahead of him, Mayakovsky - who was scheduled to run in Saturday's Derby Trial - is expected to bypass the Derby. Trainer Nick Zito removed Crimson Hero from consideration on Friday, but Sunday Break still needs two more defections to get in.

Because Stevens is now committed to Sunday Break or the O'Brien runners, Beach told trainer Todd Pletcher on Friday that Stevens would not be able to ride Wild Horses, the runner-up in the Arkansas Derby. Pletcher said Rene Douglas is the likely rider for Wild Horses, but said he had not given Douglas a commitment, just in case another rider comes open in the next day or so.

"I'd just as soon wait it out and see what happens in the next couple of days," Pletcher said. "I'm perfectly satisfied with Rene. Once I commit to a rider, I'm not going back on my word. That's not how I do business. That's why I want to wait to give the call away."

Ron Anderson, the agent for Bailey, said that when he accepted the mount for his rider on Castle Gandolfo, it was with the understanding that Kinane would be on Johannesburg. With that that dynamic changed, Anderson said he is waiting to hear from O'Brien if Bailey will remain on Castle Gandolfo, or be moved to Johannesburg.

"I haven't been told anything different," Anderson said from Keeneland, where Bailey was riding the closing-day card. "I know I'll be riding one of the horses. We'll just have to wait and see where it all lands."

All this jockeying for position is the result of Kinane's ill-timed suspension. Kinane was originally cited for "irresponsible riding of a major nature" by the stewards at Newmarket racecourse after his mount Sahara Desert was disqualified from first to fifth in the Boadicea Condition Stakes on

April 18.

The Newmarket stewards had the option of suspending Kinane for five, seven, or 10 days. They chose seven days, encompassing April 27, then April 29-May 4. Kinane was not suspended on April 28 because there is no racing in Britain that day.

As a result, however, the seven-day suspension runs through the day of the Kentucky Derby. Kinane's automatic appeal of the suspension was heard Friday, before the Disciplinary Committee at the Jockey Club headquarters at Portman Square in London. His appeal was denied. Unlike in the United States, Kinane cannot go to a civil court to seek an injunction. And since Churchill Downs's stewards honor suspensions from other jurisdictions, Kinane has no recourse to ride in the Derby.

"Of course it's a disappointment, but it wasn't meant to be," Kinane told the International Racing Bureau. "I'm worn out trying to explain it."

Kinane said he would spend next weekend in Germany, watching Manchester United play soccer.

In other Derby developments Friday:

* From Ireland, O'Brien reported that Castle Gandolfo and Johannesburg had a strong "canter" of seven furlongs. They are scheduled to be flown to Kentucky on Tuesday.

* Trainer Nick Zito said he would like to run Straight Gin in the Derby, but his $52,500 in graded stakes earnings put him behind U S S Tinosa and Sunday Break. Straight Gin most recently was fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen and Alan Shuback.