Laurel stewards have decided to suspend jockey Rafael Arroyave for 60 days today for inadequate efforts in two recent rides aboard the horse De Douceur.

The two rides preceded De Douceur's surprising victory in the fourth race at Laurel last Thursday. The maiden had been trounced in all three of his recent starts while going off at long odds. Now, against the same class of opposition, with another rider aboard, he received heavy betting action, went off at 4 to 1, and led all the way to win. Many bettors wondered about the form reversal.

The Maryland stewards -- William J. Passmore, Jean W. Chalk, Clinton P. Pitts Jr. and John J. Heisler -- are expected to make an official announcement of the suspension today, according to sources. The stewards are responsible for conduct at the race track, and a 60-day suspension is considered a major penalty.

Arroyave was not available for comment.

De Douceur, a 3-year-old, had started his career against good maiden company in the summer, was laid off five months and returned to competition Jan. 2 in the 11th race at Laurel. He showed brief speed, but he dropped back to finish last by nearly 16 lengths.

In his next start, De Douceur trailed the field much of the way and finished eighth. Then, in the third race on Jan. 28, Arroyave's mount ran last much of the race and finally finished ninth, 14 lengths behind the winner.

Last Thursday, with Arroyave suspended for a routine infraction, trainer John Salzman named Donald A. Miller to ride the gelding. Because De Douceur had a more successful jockey, he was running in the mud for the first time, he was going a distance for the first time and he had drawn the advantageous inside post position, some handicappers might have looked for improvement in the animal. Nevertheless, his 15-to-1 morning-line odds were reasonable, and it was surprising when his price was only around 6 to 1 through most of the betting.

Then, on the final flash of the tote board, the odds plunged to 4 to 1. This proved to be "smart money" when the gelding scored a one-length victory.

Salzman, De Douceur's trainer, is widely regarded as a shrewd and capable horseman. (His owners include Frank J. DeFrancis, the president of Laurel.)

Last March another Salzman maiden, Deflation, won in a form reversal that resembled De Douceur's -- including a switch from Arroyave to another rider.

When Salzman was asked last Thursday about De Douceur's form reversal, he expressed astonishment. "Did you see the price go to 4 to 1?" he asked. "Somebody bet on that horse late."

Salzman said he thought De Douceur's improvement was due to the mud and the longer distance. "I trained his sister, Candy Era, and the only time she ever ran {well} was in the mud and in long races."

(Candy Era lost her three starts in the mud by a total of 70 lengths).

The trainer was asked about Arroyave's efforts, and he said that the jockey hadn't been exceptionally vigorous. "This horse is common," he said. "In the mornings {when Arroyave exercised him} he'd try to bolt to the outside fence." He theorized that the jockey was afraid of the horse and had thus ridden him so tentatively.