08/13/2008 11:00PM

Rider gets 180-day ban for cocaine


Jockey Omar Berrio, a journeyman based in Southern California for the last 19 years, was suspended for six months on Wednesday for testing positive for cocaine twice in recent months, the Del Mar stewards announced in a ruling.

According to steward Tom Ward, Berrio, 39, tested positive for cocaine in New York on May 21, while riding briefly there. New York officials recently informed California Horse Racing Board investigators of the positive, which led to Berrio being retested, Ward said. Berrio tested positive for cocaine in California on Aug. 10, leading to the suspension.

In recent weeks, Berrio has worked primarily as an exercise rider. This year, he has 6 wins in 80 starts and earnings of $442,573. He has not ridden in a race since June 15 at Golden Gate Fields.

Berrio is suspended until Feb. 8, 2009. Stewards Ward, Scott Chaney, and Randy Winick ordered that Berrio, in order to be reinstated, complete a rehabilitation program and appear at a hearing to determine whether he is fit to be relicensed.

A native of Panama, Berrio has more than 500 wins in his career, including the Grade 3 Hawthorne Handicap aboard River Savage at Hollywood Park in 2007. He has been closely allied with trainer A.C. Avila in recent years.

Berrio is barred from the racetrack while suspended.