10/09/2007 11:00PM

Ready's Image has bone chip in knee

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - At least Todd Pletcher now knows why Ready's Image ran so poorly in last Saturday's Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.

Ready's Image came out of his last-place finish in the Champagne with a chip in the upper joint of his left knee and was vanned to Ocala, Fla., this week where he will undergo surgery to have the chip removed. Ready's Image obviously will not race again this year, but the prognosis is good for a full recovery and a return to the races at 3.

"As far as places to have surgery, the upper joint is a good area to have it, and I would say the prognosis for him to come back 100 percent is very good,'' Pletcher said.

Pletcher said Ready's Image would likely be out of training for six to eight weeks following surgery and will convalesce in Florida.

Ready's Image, a son of More Than Ready purchased by Jim Scatuorchio for $410,000, was among the early leaders of the East Coast's juvenile division with victories in the Tremont and Grade 2 Sanford stakes. He was sent off the favorite in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga, but got caught in a speed duel with Maimonides and finished second to Majestic Warrior.

Ready's Image was never in serious contention in the Champagne and finished last, beaten 28 lengths by the winner, War Pass. Pletcher said he was glad to have a plausible excuse to explain the uncharacteristic effort.

"Without a doubt, anytime you have a horse that's as good as he is and as consistently good as he is you're always careful that something's not right,'' Pletcher said. "It's pretty clear after the race that that's what happened.''

Tagg works top 2-year-olds in slop

For the first time since Sept. 15, Belmont Park's main track was sloppy Wednesday morning, but that didn't stop trainer Barclay Tagg from working a pair of his top juvenile prospects.

Tale of Ekati, the Belmont Futurity winner, worked five furlongs in 1:03.26, while Big Truck covered the same distance in 1:02.04. Tale of Ekati is being pointed to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27, while Big Truck, undefeated in two starts, is likely to run in the $125,000 Sleepy Hollow for New York-breds here on Oct. 20.

Tagg was going to work the two colts in company, but with the off track decided against that plan. Still, he needed to get workouts into both colts to keep them on schedule.

Regarding Tale of Ekati, Tagg said: "He's doing great; seemed to love the mud, handled everything well. Fortunately, he seemed to come out of it good and that's where we're at.''

Tagg said at least he has an idea of how Tale of Ekati would handle an off track should those conditions arise at Monmouth on Breeders' Cup Day.

"You'd hate to go to a $2 million race and have it be pouring rain and have never worked him in mud,'' Tagg said. "But also, you want to get him to the $2 million race.''

Tagg said Big Truck "just floated over'' the mud.

Tagg's not done yet

Tagg has enjoyed a tremendous Belmont fall meet with 10 wins and 10 seconds from 32 starters, 6 of the wins coming in stakes races.

He will attempt to win two more stakes this weekend when he sends out Dance Away Capote in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Athenia Handicap and Stormy Kiss in Sunday's $100,000 Xtra Heat Stakes. Both races are scheduled for the turf.

Dance Away Capote, a 5-year-old daughter of Capote, has won 2 of 3 starts since being moved to the turf in the summer. She won the Duda, a restricted stakes at 1 1/16 miles over good Belmont ground, and was a demonstrative 4 1/2-length winner of the Grade 3 Noble Damsel here on Sept. 15.

Tagg is using the Athenia as a potential prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Matriarch at Hollywood Park on Nov. 25.

Dance Away Capote is expected to be the 117-pound highweight for the Athenia, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles. Also pointing to the race are Bayou's Lassie, Fantastic Shirl, Silver Charades, Criminologist, I'm in Love, and Mabadi. Pommes Frites and Sky High Flyer are possible.

Stormy Kiss is 0 for 5 on turf, but in three of the losses she was defeated by a neck or a head. Her two most recent losses came in turf sprints, including a neck loss to Jazzy, who came back to win the Gallant Bloom on dirt. Last out, Stormy Kiss lost by a head to Astronomia in the Valor Lady.

"She just misses being a really good horse,'' Tagg said. "I feel sorry for horses that try so hard and just don't have that raw talent to get the job done.''

Scheduled to run in the Xtra Heat are Trouble Maker, G City Gal, Lizzierna, and Genuine Devotion. Possible runners include Society Hostess, Stylish Wildcat, and True and True.

Tempted next for According to Plan

The Tagg-trained According to Plan, who missed significant training time due to a pinched nerve in her neck, is being pointed to the Grade 3, $100,000 Tempted Stakes at Aqueduct on Oct. 28.

According to Plan has not run since finishing fourth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga on July 25. Prior to that, she won her debut most impressively at Belmont.

Tagg was hoping to run According to Plan in the Frizette, but didn't feel the filly was quite ready.

"We breezed her and she got tired,'' said Robin Smullen, Tagg's assistant. "It would have been pressing it to get to that race. Everything's falling into place to go in the Tempted. All the really good 2-year-old fillies are going to go to the Breeders' Cup, so in theory the Tempted should come up a little easier.''

* Joe Bravo, sidelined since suffering a fractured collarbone in a spill here on opening day, Sept. 7, is expected to return to race-riding on Saturday, agent Drew Mollica said. Bravo will ride at Belmont during the day and at the Meadowlands that night.