07/19/2005 12:00AM

River Downs defends ejection


River Downs in Cincinnati barred jockey Rodney Prescott from riding at the track after Saturday's card "in the best interests of River Downs, its patrons, and its participants," a spokesman for the track said Tuesday.

Englehardt, the publicity director at River Downs, declined to be specific about why Prescott was expelled beyond the statement. Prescott, who is tied with Russell Baze for the most victories among jockeys in the United States this year, was asked not to return to River Downs on Saturday night and was not given an explanation for the ejection.

Prescott has been openly critical of the condition of River's racing surface, and said on Monday that his criticism of the track may have been behind the expulsion. Englehardt would not comment on whether Prescott's criticism was a factor, but he took issue with Prescott's contention that River Downs had not attempted to fix the track.

"That's just ridiculous," Englehardt said. "It's obvious that it's in our best interests to have a good racing surface."

Englehardt said that River Downs closed the track for training after the Thursday card last week to rework the track and did not reopen it until the next day's live card. During the Thursday card, Prescott and 15 other riders refused to ride after the second race, citing the track condition.

River Downs was able to put on the rest of the card despite the riders' refusal to ride, but several fields were reduced to six or fewer horses.

River Downs replaced its racing surface for its 2005 meet. Englehardt said that it is common for a new surface to receive criticism, and said the track was working with trainers, exercise riders, and jockeys to "work out the kinks."

"Ask anybody with a new surface," Englehardt said. "You need time to work it out."