09/13/2007 11:00PM

Muckleshoot wide open now

EmailAUBURN, Wash. - The last-minute defection of Longacres Mile winner The Great Face diminishes the luster but increases the competitiveness of Sunday's $50,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic, the centerpiece of the fifth annual Washington Cup Day.

The Great Face was poised to become the first horse to sweep the Mt. Rainier, the Mile, and the Muckleshoot until late this week, when a slight filling in a front leg ended his campaign.

"He apparently tore some of the faschia around his carpal tendon sheath in his final workout on Tuesday," trainer Tom Wenzel said. "It's nothing serious, and he'll probably be fine in a few days, but we didn't want to lead him over there unless he was perfect. This was going to be his last race of the year, so we'll kick him out now and bring him back in the spring."

In the absence of The Great Face, Wasserman and Schoolin You, who finished a nose apart when third and fourth in the Mile, will head a field of six in the 1 1/16-mile Muckleshoot Tribal Classic.

Wasserman, a 5-year-old son of Cahill Road trained by Howard Belvoir, won the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap from far off the pace before closing from last to get third in the Mile. Belvoir said his horse will not be disadvantaged by the defection of The Great Face, who was expected to set a fast pace Sunday.

"People forget that Wasserman won his first two starts on the lead," Belvoir said. "He has speed if we want to use it, and we might want to use at least some of it in this race."

Schoolin You, a 4-year-old trained by Jim Penney, was the track's top 2-year-old in 2005, when he won both the WTBA Lads and the Gottstein Futurity. He missed all of last year with a hoof injury, but he has run progressively better through four starts this season, culminating in his sharp fourth of 12 in the $400,000 Mile.

Norm's Nephew, who ran seventh in the Mile, is the defending champion in the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic. Trained by Jimmy Orr, Norm's Nephew won last year's edition by 2 1/4 lengths over Wasserman in a very fast 1:41.20 for the 1 1/16 miles. He is winless in six starts this year, but he finished third to Westsideclyde and The Great Face in the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap, and was second to Wasserman in the Governor's Handicap.