05/15/2003 11:00PM

Two more jockeys set to leave

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MIAMI - The Calder jockey colony, already stung by the loss of reigning champion Cornelio Velasquez, will suffer a couple of more blows when Jose Ferrer and Jose Rivera II head to New Jersey for next week's opening of Monmouth Park.

Ferrer, who has been a regular at Monmouth the past three summers, has ridden a dozen winners during the opening 16 days of the meet and is second in the jockey standings behind only Manoel Cruz.

"Obviously it was a tough decision to leave," Ferrer said Friday between races, "not only because I have gotten off to a pretty good start but because it means leaving home and my wife, Rosie, for the next three months."

Ferrer is married to jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr.

"But Rosie and I talked it over, and we just decided it was the right thing to do," said Ferrer. "I have an opportunity to ride better horses and make better money in New Jersey, where the purses are quite a bit higher than the purses at Calder. When you're doing well, you've got to take advantage of the situation. Besides, I've always had success at Monmouth - I was fourth-leading rider last summer. And Eibar [Coa] won't be there this year."

Ferrer, 39, posted 123 victories to win the 1998 Calder title, becoming the only jockey other than Coa to capture a title at the track between 1996 and 2000. He will accept his final mounts of the meet on Sunday.

Rivera has been a top-10 rider here for nearly a dozen years.

"I've just been here too long now and need a change," said Rivera, who has ridden four winners during this year's Calder meet. "I know I can do better than I'm doing now if given the opportunity. I've had several trainers in New Jersey asking me to come up there for the past several years but never went. This time, my wife and I agreed it was time to make the move."

Rivera said he hopes to ride for trainers Teresa Pompay, Tim Hills and Mary Hartman at Monmouth. He ships out at the conclusion of Monday's program.

Delgado hurt; Natural High dies

Jockey Jose Delgado was lucky to escape serious injury after his mount, Natural High, broke down suddenly while on the lead in Friday's third race.

Natural High had drawn off to a seemingly insurmountable advantage when he fractured his right cannon bone and sesamoid near the sixteenth pole. Delgado was tossed heavily to the ground in the direct path of several of his rivals, but he was not struck by any of the trailing horses. He sustained a cut inside his right leg but otherwise was reported to be doing well back in the jockeys' room after the race.

Natural High had to be euthanized on the track due to his injuries.

Petrina Above tough on turf

Petrina Above, the reigning queen of the local turf sprint division, will be odds-on to win Sunday's $40,000 Cool Air Stakes at five furlongs on the grass.

Petrina Above will carry high weight of 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Cool Air while facing six rivals, led by Abuela Esther and Tchula Miss.