04/19/2002 12:00AM

Romero needs new liver as well as new kidney

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Retired jockey Randy Romero was informed Thursday by his doctors in Louisville he needs not only a new kidney, but also a new liver. Romero has been infected by the potentially fatal Hepatitis C virus, which causes chronic liver disease and is best remedied by a liver transplant.

Romero, 44, has known since late last year that he needs a kidney transplant. But because of the liver complications, his older brother, Edwin, will not be able to donate his kidney as planned.

"Everything's on hold because of the liver," said Romero, who has been undergoing kidney dialysis three times a week in Louisville, where he lives with his wife, Cricket, and son, Randy II. Romero's doctors told him that he will have to get a kidney and liver from someone who dies, because the organs must be from the same donor.

"It's a tough situation," he said. "The news shocked me. I'm getting shots and pills to try to stop the disease, but that's only for now."

Romero, who retired in 1999, rode nearly 4,300 winners, with his mounts earning more than $75 million.

On Sunday night, Romero's friends will try to cheer him up while raising money to offset his mounting medical bills. A benefit dinner and auction will be held in Lexington at Furlongs restaurant, owned by Romero's close friend, Tommy Walters. The event was organized by Walters and jockey Shane Sellers, who have supported Romero during this difficult period.

"I've been so fortunate to have friends like Shane and Tommy stick by me," said Romero. "So many people have been supportive. I don't know how to ever thank these people."

For information on the dinner and auction, call (859) 312-5611. The address for the Randy Romero transplant fund is National City Bank, 12009 Shelbyville Rd., Louisville, Ky., 40243.