04/23/2003 11:00PM

Bravo returns from injury

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Joe Bravo, an eight-time riding champion at Monmouth Park, will ride for the first time in 11 months at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Bravo, 31, is named on Duke's Crossing in the fourth race.

Bravo suffered multiple fractures in his left leg in a spill at Monmouth in July 2001 and was sidelined eight months. He returned to the saddle in March 2002 at Gulfstream Park, but was involved in another spill at Monmouth on May 30 that resulted in a broken left wrist.

After successful surgery to insert pins into the wrist, Bravo was set for a return last October. His leg, however, was causing him discomfort as a result of surgery to remove a steel rod that was inserted when he had first suffered the fracture.

Earlier this year, Bravo had yet another operation on his battered leg at the renowned Hospital of Special Surgery in New York City. Dr. David Helfet inserted a rod that will remain there permanently.

"Basically, they rebuilt my leg," Bravo said. "It was a painful procedure but it has healed better than ever."

Bravo said rehabilitation was grueling, but it paid off when he began breezing horses at Belmont about a month ago and his leg felt fine.

Bravo plans to ride one horse on Saturday and another on Sunday, gradually building up to more mounts. He will leave New York for the start of the Monmouth meet on May 24.

"This has been a hell of a vacation," Bravo said, laughing. "I can't wait to get some silks on my back. I'm real excited."

NYRA sets up Belmont Stakes barn

The New York Racing Association has designated a barn that will house all horses running in this year's Belmont Stakes on June 7.

The new policy, according to management, was set to provide greater security for horses running in the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Horses shipping in for the Belmont Stakes after 3 p.m. on June 4 must be stabled in the Belmont Stakes barn, which is Barn 5. Horses that arrive before then can reside in a different barn if their trainer has been assigned stalls for Belmont's spring meet. All horses entered in the Belmont Stakes must take up residence in the special barn no later than 3 p.m. the day before the race.

NYRA's policy is the first of its kind for a Triple Crown race. Neither Churchill Downs nor Pimlico require horses running in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness to be stabled in a special barn.

Whata Brainstorm euthanized

Whata Brainstorm, scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 3 Fort Marcy, was euthanized Thursday afternoon after shattering the sesamoid bones in his right foreleg during a workout that morning over Belmont's main track.

Whata Brainstorm's trainer, Jimmy Picou, said that there was too much damage done to the leg to save the 6-year-old. "It will be hard to replace him around this barn," a shaken Picou said.

Whata Brainstorm, who raced for John Eaton and Steve Laymon, earned $623,090 and had a record of 6-6-1 from 31 starts. In his last start, Whata Brainstorm finished fourth in the Pan American on March 22 at Gulfstream. His last win came in the 2001 Pan American.

Frenchman Samyn now U.S. citizen

Thursday was a day to remember for Jean-Luc Samyn. The 46-year-old jockey became a United States citizen at a swearing-in ceremony in Brooklyn. Samyn, who arrived here from his native France on Nov. 11, 1975, said he decided to apply for citizenship when it was time to renew his latest green card.

Part of the application process involved passing an American history test.

"This is a very special day for me," Samyn said, after leaving the courthouse with his citizenship papers in hand. "I'm very blessed to be here because America has offered me so many great things besides racing - like my family and children."

According to Daily Racing Form statistics, Samyn had 2,430 career wins and purse earnings of $83,063,387 through Thursday.

* Say Florida Sandy, the all-time leading New York-bred earner with $2,071,156, is entered in Saturday's fifth race, a money allowance at six furlongs. Say Florida Sandy won a similar race in his last start on April 3.

* Yell, preparing for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 2, worked five furlongs in 1:01.09 handily over Belmont's main track on Thursday. Yell is scheduled to leave for Kentucky on Tuesday.