03/30/2004 12:00AM

Gradepoint hurt, done for year

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Gradepoint, who won the Risen Star Stakes but then finished eighth in the Louisiana Derby, has suffered a serious knee injury that will keep him from racing for at least the rest of the year and might necessitate his retirement, trainer Neil Howard said Tuesday.

Gradepoint, a 3-year-old A.P. Indy colt, has a slab fracture of his right knee, which was discovered after he worked out at Churchill Downs on Monday morning. Howard said a decision on whether Gradepoint will be retired to stud or brought back in an attempt to race next year would not be made until he confers with both Will Farish, who co-owns the colt, and Dr. Larry Bramlage, the noted equine surgeon based in Lexington, Ky.

"His racing career is on hold," Howard said. "Whether he has surgery and we look at him racing as a 4-year-old, or he becomes a stallion, is something that has not been finalized yet. He's done for the year, we know that."

Gradepoint has won 3 of 5 starts. After finishing third in his debut last September at Belmont Park, he won a maiden race at Keeneland, then won a first-level allowance race and the Risen Star at Fair Grounds. His next scheduled start was the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 10.

In the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Gradepoint was 24-1 in Pool 1 and 46-1 in Pool 2.

Gradepoint's stablemate Breakaway, who finished fourth in the Louisiana Derby, will now represent Howard and Farish in the Blue Grass, Howard said.