07/10/2006 12:00AM

Commentator's back

Adam Coglianese / NYRA
Commentator, winning last year's Whitney, takes on New York-breds in Wednesday's Mugatea.

The brilliant but fragile Commentator launches his highly anticipated comeback Wednesday against New York-breds in the $65,000 Mugatea Stakes at Belmont Park.

A 5-year-old trained by Nick Zito for owner Tracy Farmer, Commentator makes only his 10th career start in the Mugatea. He has won 7 of 9 starts, including a third-level allowance at Belmont by 16 1/2 lengths and the Grade 1 Whitney by a neck over eventual Horse of the Year Saint Liam, a race many considered the best of the year.

posted Beyer Speed Figures of 121 and 123 in those two races, lifting him to a level far above his five Mugatea rivals.

Commentator has always been fast. He won his first five starts, cracking the triple-digit Beyer barrier with a 106 in only his third race.

Keeping Commentator sound has been a challenge for Zito. Commentator suffered shin injuries in his only two losses: the Hal's Hope Handicap at Gulfstream Park in January 2005 and the Grade 1 Woodward last September at Belmont.

He has not run since the Woodward. Commentator has trained brilliantly at Saratoga for the comeback with bullet workouts in his final two drills.

"He's doing fabulous," said Zito. "The owner is getting excited, the help is getting excited, and the trainer is getting excited. He is ready to run now. It took a long time to get him back."

The enthusiasm in the Commentator camp is understandable following last year's brief but impressive four-race campaign. Zito has been cautious with Commentator, a gelding who could have many productive seasons.

"I want this horse to be around a long time," Zito said. "My owners, my help, and myself have to exercise a lot of patience. We have to find the right distances that won't aggravate his injury, and keep him around."

Commentator has won stakes at seven furlongs and 1 1/8 miles. The Whitney victory earned him a pair of New York-bred titles for 2005: horse of the year and champion older male.

has the misfortune of hooking a Grade 1 winner for a second straight race. He most recently ran fourth to Flower Alley, last year's Travers winner, in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth. Gold and Roses set the pace in the slop before weakening late.

Completing the field are Bold Decision, .