03/11/2008 11:00PM

Autism Awareness faces knee surgery

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El Camino Real Derby winner Autism Awareness will undergo surgery Friday at Golden Gate Fields to remove a small chip from his left knee, according to trainer Genaro Vallejo.

Vallejo said he noticed warmth in the knee Tuesday morning and immediately took the colt to Golden Gate Fields's equine hospital for X-rays, which revealed the chip.

The colt scored a $126 upset with his 1 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 El Camino Real Derby over Nikki'sgoldensteed on Saturday.

"He's been very special to me," Vallejo said. "He's just a nice colt, and we don't want to take a chance because we think he'll be an even better horse. I talked with the vet, and he said it was a very small chip. We don't know when it happened, but I've watched videos of the [El Camino Real]. He usually switches leads right away, but it took a while in that race, although when he switched, he took off."

Vallejo said it would be at least two months before he would consider bringing the colt, owned by Johnny Taboada, back to the track.