10/03/2003 12:00AM

Bravo fractures vertebra

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The injury hex has struck jockey Joe Bravo for a third straight year.

Bravo suffered a fractured vertebra in the ninth race Thursday night at The Meadowlands when his mount, Tactical de Naskra, apparently clipped heels and stumbled to the turf.

The impact of the fall knocked Bravo unconscious.

"He woke up in the hospital and had no idea what happened," said Bravo's agent, Danny Mellul.

Initial diagnosis revealed a slight fracture of the T6 vertebra. Prognosis for recovery hinged on additional examination and the results of an MRI scheduled for Friday evening at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Bravo suffered a broken leg midway through the 2001 Monmouth meet and fractured a wrist eight days into the 2002 Monmouth season.

Bravo captured his ninth Monmouth title this summer with 110 wins and more than $3.3 million in earnings.