Neil Howard said Tuesday he will run Risen Star (gr. III) winner Gradepoint in Sunday's $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II), as well as runaway allowance winner Breakaway, both owned by William S. Farish.
Gradepoint and Breakaway worked in company Tuesday, breezing six furlongs in 1:14 3/5, galloping out in 1:27 and change.
"We broke Gradepoint off a tad behind Breakaway, and Breakaway finished just ahead of him at the wire," Howard said on a national teleconference. "After the work I called Mr. Farish, and it was decided to run both horses Sunday as a result of the work. Gradepoint is a very slow work horse and needs company. Breakaway can go out there by himself and does what he has to. I thought they both looked good and Gradepoint exceeded my expectations."
Other factors in the decision to run Breakaway are the safeness of the Fair Grounds surface, the mile and a sixteenth distance, and the luxury of not having to ship the colt out of state.
"Gradepoint is the type of horse who's going to get better when he gets up to a mile and an eighth and a mile a quarter, while with Breakaway, we have some concerns how far he wants to go," Howard said. "They have the same style of running, but both have run two very good races over this track. Mr. Farish would like to keep both horses on this surface, and I concur.
"Fair Grounds is a very kind, safe track, and we've had some of our best years coming out of here. Plus, Breakaway is a little immature, and the less we ship him the less stress he'll have. This race should give him more of a foundation. The weather is good here, and horses build up a good immune system. It's a great track for building up immature horses."
Howard said Gradepoint should only keep getting better. "Pedigree-wise, he has a good chance to develop into a top horse," he said. "He's not hard on himself, and he has a great attitude and a strong constitution."
As for their come-from-behind running styles, Howard said. "Sure, I'd rather have a horse with tactical speed, but no matter what we've tried with Gradepoint, he comes away from the gate well and let the field outrun him. The only assistance we can look for is how the races set up. Even if we get a fast pace, he still has to pass horses and get racing luck."
With Robby Albarado staying with Gradepoint, Calvin Borel will get the mount on Breakaway.
Howard feels the horse to beat may be Fire Slam, winner of the LeComte Stakes. The son of Grand Slam also worked Tuesday morning, breezing a half in :47 2/5, out in 1:00.
"He was very enthusiastic and galloped out strong, which he usually doesn't do" trainer David Carroll said.
Fire Slam won the LeComte despite suffering from a quarter crack and wearing a bar shoe. "The quarter crack was as bad as they come," Carroll said. "We didn't decide to run until the day of the race. He developed the quarter crack after kicking the wall of his stall. We soaked it and tubbed it, then put a bar shoe on. He ran a very courageous race. The foot was sore after the race and we patched it. About 20% of the foot has grown back, so he still has a ways to go. I haven't decided yet whether to put the bar shoe on again for the Louisiana Derby. I'll probably won't decide until race day. Right now, he seems comfortable on the foot, and we'll watch it the next few days."
Also pointing for the Louisiana Derby are California invaders Borrego and Wimbledon, as well as Shadowland and Nightlifeatbigblues, and any combination of Shaniko, Limehouse, and Pollard's Vision, all trained by Todd Pletcher.