02/07/2007 12:00AM

Two sides resolve hospital dispute


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Though there is no official change in policy, there at least appears to be a meeting of the minds between New York Racing Association management and the jockeys regarding hospital care following ontrack spills.

Following the cancellation of most of last weekend's racing at Aqueduct due to this issue, officials from NYRA met with several jockeys on Tuesday. The result was a reinforcement of a policy that apparently was set in 1992: Riders would be taken to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset - about 25 minutes from Aqueduct - unless the injury was deemed to be life-threatening. In that case, riders would be taken to nearby Jamaica Hospital. The on-site emergency medical technicians would be responsible for determining what would be considered a life-threatening injury.

"It's the same deal they made in 1992; we'd go to North Shore if it wasn't life-threatening and if we had to go to Jamaica somebody would go with us, and if they found it not to be life-threatening at Jamaica we'd be transferred to North Shore," said Mike Luzzi, one of five riders who discussed the situation with management. "That's where we stood and that's okay with us.

"We want the best care," Luzzi added. "Most of us, when we're hurt, the first thing we want to do is get back as quickly as we can, so we all feel the first few days of treatment could help you get back quicker."

That 1992 agreement wasn't in writing. Luzzi said he expects NYRA management to put something in writing soon.

Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president and chief operating officer, met with Jamaica officials on Monday to go over the riders' concerns. Nader also accompanied jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. to Jamaica last Saturday and plans to be the NYRA official to go with the riders to Jamaica for at least the balance of this meet.

"Jamaica Hospital was able to come up with a list of deliverables where they can make the experience a little more pleasant for the jockey and the jockey's family, and we're going to make sure we follow through on those points," Nader said.

Riders expressed concern over having to be taken to Jamaica Hospital after jockey Jose Santos relayed a bad experience he had there on Feb. 1, when he was taken there following a spill. Santos later transferred to North Shore, where his injuries were diagnosed as being more serious than previously thought. Santos has some spinal cord damage and does not have broken ribs and two compressed vertebrae, as was apparently diagnosed at Jamaica.

On Saturday, there was another spill in which Arroyo was injured. Despite Arroyo's pleas to be taken to North Shore, he was taken by ambulance to Jamaica because his injuries involved the head. The other jockeys refused to ride the remainder of Saturday's card, and management canceled Sunday's card for fear of the jockeys refusing to ride. Racing resumed Wednesday.

Luzzi admitted that the jockeys are used to getting excellent care at North Shore in part because many of the riders' personal doctors are affiliated with that hospital.

"Maybe we're at fault a little bit - maybe the red carpet ain't rolled out for an injured jockey when they go to Jamaica," Luzzi said.

Coincidentally, Luzzi was unseated by his mount, Marlin Bay, at the quarter pole of Wednesday's fifth race. He was uninjured and did not need to go to the hospital.

Arroyo expects to miss one week

Arroyo is still feeling the effects of the spill he was involved in on Saturday and will take this week off to heal.

"I'm very sore," he said Wednesday. "When I take a deep breath, I can't take a deep breath, it hurts my ribs. I'm just in pain. I'm going to take some time to heal up. Right now, I'm not 100 percent. I want to make sure when I come back I want to perform 100 percent. I'll probably take about a week off."

Arroyo fell when his mount, Cadillac Cruiser, broke down while leading the field around the clubhouse turn in Saturday's fifth race. Arroyo believes he may have been stepped on by a trailing horse.

After being examined and released at Jamaica Hospital on Saturday, Arroyo went to North Shore Hospital on Sunday, where X-rays on several parts of his body were negative.

Achilles of Troy is scratched

Achilles of Troy, scheduled to make his return from an 11-month layoff in Wednesday's third race, was scratched due to a cough, according to Ernie Paragallo, the authorized agent for his family-run Paraneck Stable. Achilles of Troy, winner of last year's Count Fleet and Whirlaway stakes, has not started since he finished fifth in the Gotham Stakes last March 18. He was sidelined since then due to a suspensory problem in a foreleg.

Wednesday's mile-and-70-yard race also lost Songofthesailor and was scratched down to three horses. The race was won by Take the Bluff, who wore down the pacesetter Thundering Success by one-half length. Take the Bluff, trained by Rick Violette, covered the distance in 1:42.02 under Eibar Coa and returned $4 to win.