03/06/2003 1:00AM

Pincay will be sidelined indefinitely


ARCADIA, Calif. - Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., the world's winningest rider, will be out of action indefinitely after hospital tests on Wednesday revealed that he suffered two fractures to a cervical bone in his neck in a one-horse spill at Santa Anita on March 1.

The diagnosis will require Pincay to wear a halo cast for up to eight weeks, according to a statement released by Santa Anita.

In the statement, Pincay's son, Laffit Pincay III, said that his father had been hospitalized and could be released by the weekend. He described the injury as two fractures to the same bone, cervical two.

The injury could threaten the career of the 56-year-old jockey, although his agent, Bob Meldahl, downplayed the chances of retirement on Thursday.

"I wouldn't count him out," Meldahl said. "They'll evaluate him after he's healed. He heals better than anyone."

In the statement, Pincay's son said: "A decision on his career will be made at a future date. We expect a full recovery."

Pincay has won 9,531 races. Despite his age, he has been a fixture at the top of the jockey standings at Southern California tracks in recent years. At the current Santa Anita meeting, Pincay is ranked second with 52 winners, trailing leading rider Patrick Valenzuela by 11.

Pincay was injured in the fifth race last Saturday, a claiming race on the hillside turf course. Pincay's mount, Trampus Too, clipped heels and fell after Rainman's Request drifted into his path when the field crossed over the dirt and onto the main turf course.

Pincay was thrown to the ground, but got to his feet shortly after the spill and walked into an ambulance. He was taken to the track's first aid station and was released.

Pincay did not ride the remainder of his mounts on Saturday and took off on Sunday and Wednesday. Pincay was not booked to ride on Thursday, but was scheduled to have six mounts on Friday.

On Wednesday, he underwent further tests on his neck after complaining of lingering pain and discomfort.

"When he went to have it X-rayed, he was still stiff and not moving well," Meldahl said.

The neck injury is the first serious injury for Pincay since the summer of 1998 when he suffered a fractured collarbone and four fractured ribs in a spill at Del Mar. He returned to riding that fall, and has since been a force in the jockey standings.

In December 1999, Pincay broke Bill Shoemaker's record for most wins by a jockey, 8,833. His most recent riding title came last fall at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.