08/14/2002 12:00AM

Sellers gives up return bid citing weight and pain


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Shane Sellers, who until recently had intended to return to being a jockey after a lengthy rehabilitation from a knee injury, said Wednesday that he has officially retired from a career in which he won more than 3,700 races.

Sellers said from Louisville, Ky., that he feels "tired of fighting my weight" and fighting within the industry on the issue of reduced weights for jockeys.

"The reality also was that I was going to have to ride in pain."

Sellers, 35, long had been one of the most successful jockeys in North America, having won riding titles at such tracks as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park, and Arlington. But on Dec. 9, 2000, in a post-parade accident at Fair Grounds, his career was derailed when he suffered a major injury to an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He returned to action for several weeks last summer at Arlington but was in such pain that he decided to quit until the knee was fully rehabilitated.

"My doctor recommended two months ago that I retire," said Sellers. Before then, Sellers, a Louisiana native who began riding at age 16, had been working diligently to get back into riding shape. He lives in Louisville with his wife, Kelli, and three children, but for several weeks this spring he was in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he exercised horses in the relative quiet of Saratoga's off-season during the mornings and worked with a physical trainer and nutritionist during the afternoons and evenings.

During his down time, Sellers put considerable energy into becoming a country music artist. He gained temporary fame with the song "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Earnhardt," which happened to be released just after the death of auto racing legend Dale Earnhardt in Feb. 2001.

Besides his riding titles, Sellers also has won two Breeders' Cup races and other major races such as the Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Suburban Handicap, Florida Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, and Oaklawn Handicap.

From 21,806 mounts, Sellers won 3,715 races, with purse earnings of $107,740,274.