03/07/2008 12:00AM

Corrupt primed for his return


NEW ORLEANS - Trainer Neil Howard has seen just about enough of the rain this winter at Fair Grounds. Not that the track has been deluged, but when it has rained, the timing has been particularly cruel for some of Howard's grass horses.

Howard has been desperately seeking a race for the maiden Gun Room, but was forced once again to scratch Gun Room on Friday when rain moved the seventh race to the main track. The forecast was for the rain to clear out by Friday afternoon, leaving Howard hopeful that on Sunday he would be able to get stakes winner Corrupt back to the races.

"I had him in a couple of weeks ago, but that race came off the grass," Howard said Friday morning. "He's ready to go."

Corrupt, winner of the Mardi Gras Stakes last year, is scheduled to make his first start in nearly 11 months in Sunday's featured ninth race at Fair Grounds, a $42,000 race for third-level allowance runners, or $62,500 claimers. Corrupt has not raced since the Forerunner Stakes last April at Keeneland, when he was trained by Jeff Trosclair.

"I got him in early December," Howard said. "My understanding is he had a slight hairline fracture, nothing serious. No surgery was required. They gave him the summer off, and when they sent him to me, he was a baked cake."

Howard just had to add frosting. Corrupt has been in steady training, with a series of sharp, encouraging works, including a half-mile breeze Monday that was the second-best of 57 at the distance.

Corrupt will be facing several horses with good recent form, including Firerock Base, who beat a second-level allowance field on turf in his last start for his second straight victory.

Wildrally was a close third - with Desert Wheat only a neck farther back - in the Dixie Poker Ace Stakes for Louisiana-breds earlier this meet. He has finished in the money in all nine of his grass races.

Middleweight, one of two entered to be claimed, is a battle-tested veteran who won his race before last here.

Regardless of what surface this race is run over, Quench should be a factor. He was second in an off-the-turf race here when he last raced in December, and he won the last time he raced on turf.

El Cumbres was a two-time Group 1 winner in his native Chile. He is making his second start following a lengthy layoff and is getting back on turf after having his comeback race moved to the main track.

Avanti Avanti is making his first start since finishing third in a third-level allowance on Sept. 25 at the Meadowlands.