01/12/2005 12:00AM

NYRA suspends two clerks


The New York Racing Association suspended its clerk of scales and his assistant, with pay, for an indefinite period, pending further developments in an on-going investigation into possible improprieties regarding how much weight jockeys carried in races.

Mario Sclafani, the clerk of scales, and Braulio Baeza, the Hall of Fame jockey who now serves as assistant clerk of scales, were notified of their suspensions on Tuesday. Sclafani, who has served as clerk of scales since December 2002, was contacted in Aruba, where he was vacationing. Sclafani was unavailable for comment. Baeza, who became assistant in March 1995, did not return phone messages left for him.

NYRA president Charlie Hayward said the suspensions were not handed down because of any information revealed by the state attorney general's office, which on Dec. 15 raided Aqueduct and seized records pertaining to weight.

"We're not saying they did anything wrong," Hayward said. "Because the attorney general showed up with search warrants and they wanted to look at these weight issues - the specific nature of which we don't know - a fan could say, 'What are these guys doing in there?' If the attorney general's concerned, it seemed to be better to say let's look at the whole process, let's look at the situation, and take these guys out of the middle. If something comes down that is more serious, then we did everything right."

A spokesmen for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer declined to comment on the suspensions.

Gary Handfield, a placing and patrol judge, served as acting clerk of scales Wednesday, while Bill Nemeti, also a placing and patrol judge, served as assistant.