12/21/2007 12:00AM

Riders Krigger, Diego injured in spills

EmailAn ugly race marred by two spills that could have been worse has left two Turfway Park jockeys out of action for a while. Kevin Krigger suffered two fractured vertebrae and Inocencio Diego broke his collarbone in separate incidents that involved four horses in the ninth race Wednesday night at the Florence, Ky., track.

Krigger, who has ridden on numerous circuits in North America and only recently returned to Kentucky for the winter, fractured the sixth and seventh vertebrae in his neck when he was thrown from his mount, Polar Vixen, in the 6 1/2-furlong race for $5,000 claimers. He was fitted with a neck brace and was ambulatory when released early Thursday from St. Luke's Memorial Hospital, located just outside the Turfway property. He was scheduled to see a specialist Friday and will recuperate in the northern Kentucky area, according to his agent, Brinda Robbins.

Diego is expected to be out about six to eight weeks with the collarbone fracture, according to his agent, Jamie Fowler. Diego also suffered a hairline fracture in his lower leg, but that is expected to heal before the collarbone, said Fowler.

Jockeys Justin Vitek and Weldon Cloninger also were thrown during the race but did not suffer major injuries. Vitek rode several horses Thursday night before taking off because of body soreness, while Cloninger strained muscles in his neck but also was expected back in action this weekend.

Krigger was thrown early in the race when his mount clipped heels in heavy traffic. Then, with about a half-mile to run, Nip It, with Diego aboard, suddenly broke down and fell while racing closest to the eventual first-place finisher, Oklahoma Heat. Her fall caused Cloninger and Vitek to come off their mounts and also impeded the progress of several other horses.

A lengthy stewards' inquiry into the two separate incidents found Oklahoma Heat, ridden by Mathieu Adam, guilty of causing the early crowding during which Krigger was spilled. Oklahoma Heat was disqualified and placed last, with Tawny Two Swan declared the winner. Chief steward John Veitch said Adam will not be suspended because of the incident.

Nip It, owned by Rodney Maiden and trained by Larry Holt, had to be euthanized. All other horses survived without major injuries.

Daytime racing Wednesdays and Thursdays

Turfway is finished racing Wednesday and Thursday nights until next fall. The track was granted its request Monday at a Kentucky Horse Racing Authority meeting to switch Wednesdays and Thursdays to daytime. The track will continue its Friday night programs.

Turfway president Bob Elliston said in a press release this week that the switch to daytime racing "will not only enhance our opportunities in the national simulcast markets, but also allow us to conduct racing during hours likely to provide the most favorable weather conditions on any given winter day in northern Kentucky."

Although the Wednesday-Thursday switch to daytime does not go into effect until Jan. 3, Turfway has a tradition of daytime racing the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Indivia one to beat in Sunday feature

The Sunday feature at Turfway is basically a do-over from last Sunday, when racing was canceled after two races because of high winds and severe wind chill. Indivia, with apprentice Dylan Williams to ride, looks like the horse to beat in a field of 10 fillies and mares in the $24,000 first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles.

First post for a nine-race Sunday card is 1:10op.m. Eastern. Turfway goes dark Monday and Tuesday before seven straight days of racing begin Wednesday.