01/22/2006 1:00AM

Torres escapes serious injury


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Jockey Francisco Torres escaped serious injury in the sixth race on Sunday at Oaklawn Park, when his mount, who appeared to be a clear winner, ducked in and unseated him about 30 yards from the finish line of the maiden race for 3-year-old fillies.

Ermine, who was second choice in the wagering, had led throughout during the one-mile race.

Torres was taken to St. Joseph's Mercy Health Center in Hot Springs, and will stay there overnight for precautionary reasons, said his agent, Lenny Pike.

"He told me he's okay," said Pike. "He's just really sore and stiff."

Torres had fractured a vertebrae about eight years ago, Pike said, and because of the old injury he will be examined by a specialist on Monday. That doctor was not available to do the examination on Sunday.

"They didn't want to make any hasty decisions," said Pike.

Pike expected Torres to be released on Monday.