02/28/2007 1:00AM

Dominguez back with eye on title


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Ramon Dominguez returned Wednesday at Aqueduct with four mounts, his first action since going down in a horrific spill here on Feb. 1.

He finished second aboard Semichi in the first race, his best result of the afternoon.

Dominguez considers himself fortunate to have escaped with only a bone bruise in the right knee.

"I was very, very lucky," Dominguez said. "Jose Santos was also in the same spill and he got hurt a lot worse."

Santos, still sidelined with back injuries, and Dominguez went down in a three-horse pileup.

For a Prayer, ridden by Santos, took a bad step and fell hard to the ground turning into the stretch. Are We Dreamin, with Dominguez aboard, fell over For a Prayer, and Street Sass, ridden by Eddie Martin Jr., fell over Are We Dreamin.

Martin was the only one to escape injury.

Initial reports had Dominguez sidelined about two weeks. Ultimately, the healing took twice that time.

The knee was so swollen that two weeks passed before an MRI could be taken to fully assess the damage. The initial examination revealed no fracture or ligament damage, a source of initial relief for Dominguez.

"It was a little more severe than first anticipated," Dominguez said. "I was in quite a bit of pain and it was determined that I had a badly bruised bone. That was as good a report as you can expect in that situation."

Dominguez returned home to Maryland after the spill and used the time to regain strength in the knee.

"It was very painful," he said. "I wasn't ready to come back because of the pain and the lack of motion for the first two weeks. I am 100 percent now."

Dominguez galloped horses last week at the Fair Hill training center and was surprised at how well the knee responded.

"There were no problems whatsoever," Dominguez said. "I was expecting some discomfort but I felt absolutely great."

Dominguez had 67 wins at the time of spill and was the leading rider at the Big A. In his absence, Eibar Coa took over the top spot with 74 wins through last week.

Dominguez is not conceding the title for the inner-track meet, which will conclude, weather permitting, on March 31.

"It is possible," Dominguez said. "It's a matter of when I can start rolling and how well my business picks up in the next few days."

Hushion wins 1,000th

Trainer Mike Hushion, 58, earned his 1,000th career win Wednesday when River City Rebel ($12) rallied up the fence to win the eighth race Wednesday.

His first win came with Tugboat Ryan at the Big A in 1975. Like the initial victory, the bulk of the wins for Hushion, a former groom for Hall of Famer Allen Jerkins, have come in New York.

"I've thought about it a couple of times and it just means longevity, I guess," Hushion said. "What also comes to mind is that it is 4,000 losers. That makes 5,000 times watching these horses run with my heart pounding through my chest. Tugboat Ryan was a long time ago."

Western Deed steps up

Hall of Fame trainer Frank Martin's improving 3-year-old gelding Western Deed moves up to the next level Friday in the Big A's featured $30,000 optional claiming race for New York-breds, which is open to second-level allowance horses.

He drew the rail in the six-horse field and will be looking to extend his winning streak to three. Both wins were front-running scores against statebreds. He won his maiden for a $50,000 tag before capturing a first-level allowance last time out.

Log Jam will be one of the closers trying to reel in Western Deed. The 4-year-old Log Jam has a win and two thirds against New York-breds since joining leading trainer Gary Contessa's barn late last year.

Most recently, Log Jam was the beaten 5-2 favorite when he could not sustain an inside bid. He reunites with Dominguez, who was aboard for his two best efforts - a pair of outside rallies - since the barn change.

Pay Attention, one of three runners in the field running for the $30,000 tag, was also a beaten favorite last time, finishing second.