MIAMI (AP) _ Warren Mehrtens, one of only 10 jockeys to ride to a Triple Crown, has died. He was 77.

Mehrtens, who died Monday at his Sarasota home, rode Assault to wins in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont in 1946.

Assault stumbled out of the gate in the Belmont and nearly threw Mehrtens. In a 1986 interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Mehrtens recalled the start.

``I lost about 10 years off my life at the start of the race,'' he said. ``The first jump out of the gate, he stumbled,'' he said. ``If the stirrups had been short, I think I would have come off.''

The Brooklyn native learned to ride at Belmont. He never won the Kentucky Derby or Preakness again after 1946, but finished second aboard Better Self in the Belmont in 1948, just behind Eddie Arcaro on Triple Crown winner Citation.

Retired from racing in 1952, during the next 30 years Mehrtens served as a steward at several tracks. He retired to Sarasota in 1982.

Survivors include his wife, Noreen; two daughters, Barbara Merz of Oakdale, N.Y., and Noreen Wingert of Babylon, N.Y.; three sons, James of Elmont, N.Y., Warren of Hamilton, Mass., and Thomas of Elmont, N.Y.; a brother, George W. of Copaigue, N.Y.; and eight grandchildren.