07/01/2004 11:00PM

Patin back after long ban

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Jockey Billy Patin, suspended five years by the Arkansas Racing Commission for carrying a buzzer - an electric shocking device - aboard Valhol in the 1999 Arkansas Derby, returned to competition Friday, finishing third aboard 17-1 Freddy Time in the fifth race at Churchill Downs.

Patin, 41, a winner of more than 1,200 races dating to 1979, denied using the device, and Valhol's trainer, Dallas Keen, denied responsibility. Although the race was official for betting purposes, Valhol was disqualified after an investigation. Valhol continued to race, running 15th in the Kentucky Derby under jockey Willie Martinez. Valhol won 6 times in 21 starts and earned more than $400,000 for owner James Jackson. Patin was reinstated by the Arkansas Racing Commission in June after serving his suspension. He received a Kentucky license last week.

Patin described the last five years as difficult. "I did everything," he said. "I galloped horses, laid concrete, worked on farms."

Asked if he still denied using the buzzer, he said only, "I did my time. I'm a free man."

Patin said he would ride at Ellis Park when the Churchill Downs meet concludes Monday.