02/26/2008 1:00AM

Romero undergoes surgery to remove kidney

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Randy Romero, the retired jockey who is a 2008 Hall of Fame nominee, recently had a kidney removed and continues to battle chronic liver disease while hospitalized in Baptist East Hospital in Louisville.

Romero, 50, had a kidney removed Feb. 18, according to his wife, Cricket. The kidney had "a small cancerous spot," which was one reason it was removed, she said. "His other kidney does not work very well at all."

Romero has undergone dialysis treatments three times a week for the last several years.

"With just the one kidney, Randy will have to have dialysis the rest of his life," she said.

Romero, who has been a Hall nominee four previous times (2003-05 and 2007), retired from riding in 1999 with nearly 4,300 wins and earnings of more than $75 million. Since then, he has worked frequently as a jockey agent, and last fall he felt well enough to exercise horses at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans for trainer Dallas Stewart.

But Cricket Romero said her husband began to feel ill in January, and after doctors in New Orleans were unable to provide adequate treatment, he returned recently to Louisville, where the couple resides and his renal doctors are located. He was admitted to the hospital Feb. 15. Romero said doctors have said he could be released "soon, depending on his liver. There are still some tests to run."

Romero is not a candidate for a liver transplant because he is infected with the hepatitis C virus. Romero said her husband has undergone treatments to attempt to rid him of hepatitis but they have been unsuccessful. Randy Romero was diagnosed with hepatitis in 2002, although it is believed he may have gotten the virus through one of many blood transfusions he undertook after being seriously burned in a 1983 hotbox accident at Oaklawn Park.

Romero, whose introduction to horses as a boy in Louisiana was the basis for the movie "Casey's Shadow," long has been a poster boy of sorts for the serious problems that jockeys can incur in their fights to lose weight. Numerous media reports have documented his long and tortuous battles with health issues that stem from his reducing as a rider, including the 2004 HBO documentary "Jockey."

Romero is one of three jockey Hall of Fame nominees this year, along with Edgar Prado and Alex Solis. Hall of Fame voting takes place in early March, with results announced in late April and induction set for Aug. 4 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Among Romero's most memorable races were his victory aboard undefeated Personal Ensign in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff and his fall in deep stretch aboard Go for Wand in the 1990 BC Distaff.