04/19/2010 11:00PM

Injury threatens Migliore's career


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jockey Richard Migliore's riding career could be in jeopardy after it was discovered last week that he refractured the vertebrae in his neck. Migliore will undergo surgery at a Manhattan hospital next week.

It is believed Migliore suffered the fracture when he was thrown from a horse Jan. 23 at Aqueduct, but the injury was not diagnosed until Migliore met with a neurologist in Manhattan last Monday. Migliore first suffered a broken neck in a spill at Belmont Park in 1988.

"Basically, I've been riding the last two months with a broken neck," Migliore said.

Migliore said four vertebrae in his neck - the C-3 C-4, C-5, and C-6 - will need to be fused together. It is unclear how long Migliore will be out of action or whether he will be able to ride again. Dr. Andrew Hecht will perform the surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

On Friday, Migliore said he wanted to get healthy first before confronting the issue of whether he would ride again.

"The possibility does exist," Migliore said when asked whether he may have ridden his last race. "But I don't want to be too premature one way or the other. I want to know I can go forward with my life in a productive manner before making any hard and fast decisions.

"I'm confronting too many things right now, that the possibility I've ridden my last race is a little too emotional for me to think about," he said. "I get choked up."

Migliore, who turned 46 last month, has won 4,450 races, and his horses have earned more than $160 million. He was the leading rider on the New York Racing Association circuit as an apprentice in 1981 and as a journeyman in 1985. He has won 10 riding titles at Aqueduct.

"I want to ride without a shadow of a doubt, if the doctors allow me to go forward," Migliore said.

Migliore was diagnosed with a concussion when he was thrown from Honest Wildcat during the stretch run of a race over the inner track Jan. 23. He returned two weeks later and had ridden regularly since then. But in the last few weeks, Migliore had been riding in pain, even March 27, when he won four races from five mounts.

Migliore said he has ridden in pain throughout his career, but "honestly, I've never been in this much pain all my life. The day I won four I couldn't drive to and from the track."

Grand Couturier nearing return

Grand Couturier is nearing a return to the races. A 7-year-old gelding who has won three Grade 1's, he worked a half-mile in 52.12 seconds Friday over the Belmont training track, his seventh breeze of the year.

Trainer Robert Ribaudo said the work actually turned into a six-furlong move with the way Grand Couturier galloped out after the wire. Ribaudo said he is targeting the Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day as Grand Couturier's first major objective, but that Grand Couturier will probably get a prep race before then. One possibility is the Ft. Marcy at Belmont on May 1.

Grand Couturier, who won the 2008 and 2009 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, has not run since finishing second in the Red Smith Handicap in November. He wintered at Gulfstream but did not race. Ribaudo had hoped to get in a race at the end of the meet, but one did not fill.

While Grand Couturier did not win a Grade 1 in 2009 as he had in 2008, Ribaudo said he thought he had a productive campaign winning the Bowling Green and finishing second in the Red Smith. He sees Grand Couturier being able to compete at that level in 2010.

"Is he's going to be at the level he was at 4 and 5?" Ribaudo said. "I don't think so, but you don't have to be for some of those races."

Bribon aimed at Westchester

One of Ribaudo's former charges, Bribon, was also on the worktab Friday at Belmont, drilling five furlongs in 1:00.27, the fastest of 11 works at the distance.

Now in the barn of Todd Pletcher, Bribon is being pointed to the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes on April 30, opening day of the Belmont Park meet. Bribon won the Westchester and the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap for Ribaudo and owner Marc Keller last year.

Bribon was purchased last year by Derrick Smith and turned over to Pletcher. Bribon finished second, beaten a neck in the Barbados Gold Cup on March 6.

Bribon's work Friday was his first since shipping to New York from south Florida earlier in the week.

"I was impressed with how effortless he did it," said Jonathan Thomas, Pletcher's New York-based assistant. "You don't see too many go a minute in hand."

Dominguez suspended three days

Ramon Dominguez will serve a three-day suspension for careless riding next week after an incident in Wednesday's ninth race. Dominguez was initially suspended seven days, but it was reduced to three after he waived his right of appeal.

Dominguez will serve the suspension Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Under the designated race rule, he will be allowed to ride Eightyfiveinafifty in Saturday's $200,000 Derby Trial at Churchill.

Apprentice Antonio Lopez was hit with a seven-day suspension for careless riding in Wednesday's sixth race. Lopez had recently returned from a suspension, which is why his wasn't reduced. He will serve the time beginning Sunday.

Maylan Studart dropped an appeal from a March 19 careless riding suspension and was to begin serving a 10-day suspension Saturday. Upon conclusion of her suspension, Studart will be moving her tack to Finger Lakes in upstate New York.

* D' Funnybone, winner of the Hutcheson and Swale Stakes, worked six furlongs in 1:13.70 Friday morning at Aqueduct. He is expected to make his next start in the Grade 3, $150,000 Withers Stakes here next Saturday.

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said D' Funnybone would be kept in one-turn races for the foreseeable future. Dutrow said objectives for D' Funnybone include the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 5, Belmont Stakes day, and the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga on Aug. 28, Travers day.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the purchase history of Bribon. He was bought in December 2009 by Derrick Smith, not earlier this year by Eugene Melnyk.