07/21/2004 12:00AM

Sibille hangs up tack


The veteran jockey Ray Sibille announced his retirement following Wednesday's fifth race at Arlington Park. Sibille, 51, goes out unwillingly, but he must have hip-replacement surgery next month, and he will not be able to return from this setback.

"I just found out about the hip Monday morning," Sibille said. "I said to the doctor, 'All right. How long I'm going to be out?' He said, 'Wait a minute . . . you're out forever.' "

Sibille, from Sunset, La., officially began his career in 1969, but he was competing in informal races long before that. Sibille was no more than 12 years old when he began riding match races alongside Hall of Fame rider Eddie Delahoussaye at Louisiana bush tracks.

Sibille rode all over the country, establishing himself at various Midwest outposts, in Southern California, and at Woodbine. He retires with a record of 4,264 victories from 36,858 mounts, with nearly $69 million in purses.

Sibille, fourth in career wins at Arlington Park, rode in just one Breeders' Cup race, and he won it, with Great Communicator in the 1988 Turf.

Sibille badly injured his back last year, and he has been fighting through the injury ever since. He has just three winners this year. Sibille's business has been slow, and he had mulled retirement even before this latest physical problem. Now, it is upon him.

"In 1969, if you'd have told me when I rode my first horse that I'd still be riding in 2004, I'd have said you were dreaming," Sibille said.- Marcus Hersh