12/21/2005 12:00AM

Leading jockey ruled off

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MIAMI - Manoel Cruz, the leading jockey during the Tropical at Calder meeting, was asked to leave the Calder grounds by track management shortly after riding El Quixote to victory in Wednesday's third race. He will not be permitted to ride here again during the remainder of the meet, which runs through Jan. 2.

"Calder decided to use its right of private property to excuse Mr. Cruz until the end of the season," said track president Ken Dunn. "We did so out of concern for the safety of our horses and riders after receiving complaints from both the local riding colony and the Jockeys' Guild."

Cruz has been given four separate riding suspensions totaling 23 days by the track stewards since Nov. 3. He appealed and was granted a stay of the first three suspensions, but the stewards refused to allow a fourth appeal for a seven-day suspension he received on Dec. 12. Those days were scheduled to begin Wednesday, but Cruz received another stay from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

Dunn said he could never remember one rider getting four suspensions in five weeks.

"It was recently brought to my attention twice from the riding colony and again by Jockeys' Guild representative Larry Saumell that one of our riders was not being properly disciplined for serious violations that, as a result of a series of appeals, we had been unable to mete out proper punishment for careless and dangerous riding," said Dunn. "And ultimately it is my responsibility to the riders, horses, and our stockholders to conduct our business as safely as possible."

Dunn said he will continue to monitor Cruz's riding behavior once Cruz returns from serving his suspensions before deciding whether to allow him back at Calder in 2006.

"I will abide by whatever management decides I must do," Cruz said.

Cruz, who has finished second in the local standings behind Eddie Castro during the last four Calder and Tropical at Calder meets dating back to the summer of 2004, has led for nearly all of the current session. His victory on Wednesday gave him 68 for the meet, 13 more than second place Jorge Chavez.