05/17/2004 11:00PM

Breakaway refitted for blue collar

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Neil Howard took a couple of shots along the Triple Crown trail with Breakaway and found out what he needed to know. Duly regrouped following those non-contending efforts, Breakaway is back with racing's rank-and-file as part of the Thursday co-feature at Churchill Downs.

, a Silver Deputy colt bred and owned by Will Farish, is one of seven horses entered in the eighth of 10 Thursday races, a $52,900 second-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Facing older horses as one of just two 3-year-olds in the race (along with Texas Deputy), Breakaway will be trying to recapture the form that took him to back-to-back wins last winter at Fair Grounds.

After those sharp triumphs, Breakaway ran fourth in the Louisiana Derby and fifth in the Blue Grass Stakes and was never a real factor in either. Howard has since shifted his focus, and, following a series of solid workouts at Churchill, Breakaway could be tough to fend off Thursday.

, winner of the 2003 Sir Barton at Pimlico for trainer Ken McPeek, is the most obvious threat to keep Breakaway winless since mid-February. After being sidelined for nearly nine months following defeats in the Dwyer and Round Table last summer, Best Minister recently returned with a distant second-place finish behind Roses in May in an allowance route at Keeneland.

Pat Day has the mount on Best Minister, while Robby Albarado gets the call on Breakaway.

One race later, a $63,000 fourth-level allowance matches seven older sprinters, led by Mountain General, winner of the Aristides Handicap here last spring for trainer Steve Asmussen; Strength and Honor, a speedy gelding who already has three wins this year for trainer Chuck Simon; and Clock Stopper, winner of the Perryville Stakes last fall in his most recent appearance.

will have to rebound off a lackluster performance in the recent Texas Mile. That could happen, given the 105 Beyer Speed Figure he recorded when he finished second in his prior start, in the Pelleteri Handicap at Fair Grounds.

Strength and Honor has been spectacular at times since winning a maiden race here at the 2002 spring meet. A 5-year-old son of Carson City, Strength and Honor has won six of 13 starts, including a sensational win last month at Keeneland.

Clock Stopper was under consideration for the Breeders' Cup Sprint after his sharp Perryville score last fall, but a minor injury sidelined the Overbrook Farm gelding.

First post is 1:15 p.m.