09/21/2005 11:00PM

Weight-case jocks allowed to ride


ELMONT, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association announced Thursday that it would not take any action against five jockeys named - but not charged - in indictments handed down Wednesday by the state attorney general regarding jockeys carrying improper weights in 67 races over a six-month period in 2004.

Jockeys Jose Santos, 44, Cornelio Velasquez, 36, Heberto Castillo Jr., 36, Robby Albarado, 32, and Ariel Smith, 23, will be allowed to ride at NYRA tracks pending an investigation by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. Only Santos and Velasquez are currently riding regularly on the NYRA circuit.

Santos, who won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Funny Cide, went 0 for 3 on Thursday's Belmont card after not riding Wednesday. Velasquez went 1 for 7 on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Mario Sclafani, NYRA's clerk of scales, and Braulio Baeza, the assistant clerk of scales, were indicted on charges of 291 counts of conspiracy, tampering with a sports contest, falsifying business records, and grand larceny for allegedly allowing jockeys to carry more than their assigned weights in certain races. Sclafani, 48, and Baeza, 65, had been suspended by NYRA with pay since Jan. 12 and were fired on Wednesday.

NYRA's president and CEO, Charles Hayward, said that the indictment does not offer enough specific information for NYRA to bar the jockeys from riding.

"We're not in a position to take any action until we know more of the facts,'' Hayward said Thursday at Belmont. "The indictment is not really forthcoming in terms of any substantial allegations or information of what they were doing other than asserting that on these days they were riding overweight.''

Hayward said he found it "peculiar'' that the jockeys were not indicted.

"These guys allegedly perpetuated the fraud, yet they're the guys that are not indicted, and now they're coming out and saying they didn't do anything,'' Hayward said. "My understanding is if you cut a deal with the [attorney general], part of the deal is that you're not going to deny you did something.''

A press release that accompanied Wednesday's indictment indicated that in several instances, jockeys were allowed to ride 7 to 15 pounds over their assigned weight. Santos said he has never been 7 to 15 pounds overweight. One of the races mentioned in the indictment was last year's Grade 1 Cigar Mile, which Santos won aboard Lion Tamer. Lion Tamer was assigned 115 pounds, and the official chart of the race shows Santos carried 115.

"I do 114,'' said Santos, who is often seen jogging around the turf course before a race card in an effort to maintain his weight.

Hayward said the New York State Racing and Wagering Board has already requested information from the attorney general so it can conduct its own investigation.

"Once they get that, they'll conduct their own hearing and investigation and make their own determination about whether they can pull their licenses,'' Hayward said.

The board currently has no information on which to base any suspensions, a board spokesman, Dan Toomey, said. "Until we get an opportunity to see the information, we don't even know if we can go forward with an investigation,'' Toomey said.

NYRA seeks to sell land

NYRA is hoping to sell 80 parcels of land near Aqueduct that it does not use for racing, according to Hayward, who said that NYRA needs the revenue from such a sale to continue to operate until its slot machines are up and running in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Hayward said NYRA hopes to generate "north of $15 million'' in revenue from the sale of the land, which is on the other side of subway tracks adjacent to the property and is not connected to the racetrack property. The majority of the money from the sale would go to the state in the form of a franchise fee, Hayward said. Approximately $2 million would go to purses.

"To ensure that we can continue to operate as a going concern - paying the purse levels we want to pay, because we're not cutting back on those - we think this is a prudent thing to do,'' Hayward said.