09/12/2007 11:00PM

The Green Monkey ready for debut

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - About 2 1/2 hours before he saddles Rags to Riches in Saturday's Grade 1 Gazelle, trainer Todd Pletcher will tighten the girth around another horse that many have been waiting a long time to see.

Saturday's fourth race, a maiden event at six furlongs, marks the debut of The Green Monkey, who sold for a world record $16 million at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old-in-training sales at Calder. Minor physical issues prevented The Green Monkey from making it to the races at 2. He was stopped on twice for what his connections called a gluteal muscle tear.

The Green Monkey, a son of Forestry, returned to the worktab in June and has worked 11 times this year, including a half-mile move in 47.15 seconds out of the gate last Saturday.

"I think the most important change this year is that the horse is physically very healthy," Pletcher said Thursday by phone from the Keeneland yearling sales. "Any time you have a horse that's had minor aches and pains like he had as 2-year-old - it never allowed him to show his true ability. We've been able to train him accordingly this year because he's been healthy. Because of that, he's gotten better and performed better in the morning."

Pletcher said he understands it will be hard for The Green Monkey to live up to expectations.

"The Green Monkey has been a horse that's highly visible and followed closely," Pletcher said. "It would be difficult for any horse to meet expectations that have been laid on him. At the end of the day, he's ready to run, so we'll get started and hope he runs well."

The Green Monkey, who will break from post 4 under John Velazquez, will face five maidens, all of whom have run before. Sixthirteen, trained by Mike Hushion, has finished third in both of his starts and appears to have the most early speed. Secret Design finished right behind Sixthirteen in his last start and has finished second in three of his six starts.

Tiz Wonderful ruptures suspensory

Tiz Wonderful, who finished second in Wednesday's More Than Ready Stakes, suffered a ruptured suspensory ligament in his hind right ankle, trainer Steve Asmussen said. He said the horse's racing career is over and the injury could be life threatening. On Thursday, Tiz Wonderful was sent by van to the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania for further evaluation.

"I don't think he's out of the woods," said Asmussen, who said there is a fear that laminitis could set in on the opposite, weight-bearing foot.

Asmussen said the injury occurred after the race, while Velazquez was galloping him back to be unsaddled after he ran second, 2 1/2 lengths behind Stunt Man in the More Than Ready.

Tiz Wonderful, a son of Tiznow won all three of his starts at 2 and entered the 3-year-old season as a top Kentucky Derby candidate. He suffered a tendon injury while training at Fair Grounds and did not return to the races until the Jim Dandy, where he finished last behind Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.

"It's unbelievable," Asmussen said. "You put in all the time to come back from a tendon and something like that happens galloping back."

Tiz Wonderful, owned by Stonestreet Stables, had a record of three wins and a second from five starts and earned $286,192.

Velazquez, Castellano involved in spill

Jockeys John Velazquez and Javier Castellano were fortunate to escape serious injury Thursday after both were involved in a gruesome-looking spill during the running of the fifth race.

Both jockeys were taken to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., where X-rays were negative for any fractures. Both jockeys were released prior to 6 p.m.

Velazquez was scheduled to take off his mounts at Belmont on Friday due to soreness in his right knee, according to his agent, Angel Cordero Jr., meaning Velazquez's next mount will be aboard The Green Monkey in Saturday's fourth race.

According to Cordero, Velazquez had just a scrape on his right knee and a scrape on his nose. Cordero said Velazquez had X-rays taken of his neck, back, pelvis, and knee.

Castellano, meanwhile, was to have had X-rays taken of his ribs, though Castellano said he felt no pain in that area when he breathed.

"I have a little pain in my chest, but I can move everything," Castellano said before heading to the hospital. "I'm breathing good, just when I hit the ground I lost my breath."

Castellano was hurled to the ground after his mount Unrestricted, the 8-5 favorite in the one-mile maiden race, suffered a fractured right cannon bone and went down entering the far turn. Velazquez, meanwhile, was unseated when his mount, Gruffles, fell over Unrestricted. Gruffles suffered a fractured radius, the long bone between the knee and elbow, according to Dr. Anthony Verderosa, who went on to say that that injury is very rare.

Both horses were euthanized on track.

Midnight Lute training up to BC Sprint

Midnight Lute, the impressive winner of the Grade 1 Forego, shipped from New York to Southern California on Sunday and will train up to the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Baffert said one reason he shipped Midnight Lute out of New York is that he didn't want to be tempted to run in the Vosburgh here on Sept. 30.

"I ran him a couple of times at Santa Anita when I shouldn't have," Baffert said. "I could tell he was starting to tail on me."

Midnight Lute won the Forego off nearly a five-month layoff and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 124, the highest figure earned by any horse this year.

"He runs well fresh," Baffert said. "His breathing issue seems to be behind him. Now we just got to keep him happy and fresh."

Sargent Seattle skips Futurity

Trainer Stanley Hough did not enter the impressive debut winner Sargent Seattle in Saturday's Grade 2 Futurity, saying he was not pleased with how the colt has been training.

Hough went on to say that Sargent Seattle would not be pointed to races such as the Champagne or Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Instead, he would likely aim to something like the Nashua on Oct. 28 at Aqueduct.

After winning a maiden race by 6 1/2 lengths at Saratoga on July 25, Sargent Seattle was entered in the Saratoga Special on Aug. 16. He was scratched out of that race, however, after developing a temperature. Hough said the horse hasn't quite rebounded from that, putting in a few subpar workouts.

"He just hasn't come back to himself yet," Hough said. "I don't think he's right at his best. I have no set plans."

Sightseeing breezes on turf

Sightseeing, winner of the Grade 2 Peter Pan on dirt, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.91 on Thursday morning over the Belmont Park turf course. Javier Castellano was aboard for the work, the colt's first ever on the grass.

Trainer Shug McGaughey said he was pleased with the breeze, but had not made a decision whether to keep him on dirt or move to the turf.

"I thought he breezed good, that doesn't mean I know what I'm going to do with him," McGaughey said. "I'm between a rock and a hard place where I'm going to run him."

McGaughey said that if he runs Sightseeing on the turf, it would be in the Grade 2, $300,000 Jamaica Breeders' Cup Handicap here. That race is also expected to be the next start for Nobiz Like Shobiz, who beat Sightseeing in the Wood Memorial in April and who is now 2 for 2 on turf.

Rebellion wins Steinlen Stakes

Rebellion emerged from behind horses in upper stretch and unleashed a strong closing kick to roll past Giant Basil in deep stretch to win Thursday's $76,500 Steinlen Stakes by one length. Giant Basil was second by 1 3/4 lengths over River City Rebel.

It was the third straight victory for Rebellion, a Great Britain-bred son of Mozart owned by Marylea and James Treptow and trained by Graham Motion. Under Ramon Dominguez, Rebellion covered seven furlongs in 1:22.51 over a firm Widener turf course and returned $14.40 to win.