01/07/2002 1:00AM

Puglisi out of hospital


ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Iggy Puglisi was released from Arcadia Methodist Hospital on Sunday, eight days after he sustained three fractured vertebrae and a broken right knee in a two-horse spill at Los Alamitos.

The 27-year-old journeyman faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Puglisi estimates he will be away from racing until late spring, citing the knee as the biggest obstacle in his comeback. He could miss the rest of the Santa Anita meeting, which runs through late April.

"The knee hurts more than the back," he said from home in Duarte, Calif., on Sunday evening. "It swells up when I'm up and around."

Puglisi, who said he is temporarily using a walker, did not need surgery.

The accident, which happened shortly after the start of a 4 1/2-furlong sprint for Thoroughbreds, remains vivid in Puglisi's mind. Puglisi and 4-5 favorite Corwyn Belle were behind leader Fresh Currency when Fresh Currency broke down. Puglisi thought he was thrown clear of his mount and the trailing horses, but was struck by Corwyn Belle.

"My horse hadn't finished tumbling," he said. "It was like he fell out of the sky and landed on top of me."

Puglisi said he will begin rehabilitation when the swelling subsides in the knee, saying "I don't want to come back until I'm 100 percent."