01/16/2009 12:00AM

Howard stable re-emerges from quarantine

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NEW ORLEANS - Corrupt's condition mirrors that of his trainer: rusty, but ready to run. Neil Howard comes out of the quarantine that has kept his horses sidelined since Dec. 23 by sending Corrupt into Sunday's ninth race at Fair Grounds, a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance with a $50,000 claiming option and a purse of $48,000.

Howard's horses fell under the quarantine because they were stabled in a barn connected to Dallas Stewart's barn. A filly trained by Stewart tested positive for equine herpes, and all horses in both barns had to show two negative tests before the quarantine could be lifted.

Able to send out only nine horses at Fair Grounds before his barn was quarantined, Howard has endured the restrictions philosophically, if not quite stoically.

"In hindsight, I think everybody was great, the racing officials at the Fair Grounds, the guys in the barn," said Howard. "Everybody except for me. I give myself a tick below a B for how I handled it."

Corrupt has been off for longer than just the time of the quarantine. After running third behind Stream Cat and Cosmonaut in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap on July 12, he got sick.

"He ran okay in his last race, in Chicago, but a nice horse beat him," said Howard. "Then he came down with a real bad respiratory infection, and it knocked him out and he lost a little weight."

Corrupt has been training steadily for his comeback, though Howard had to back off a little during the quarantine. His horses could train only after the horses who were in other barns finished for the morning.

"I wasn't able to train him exactly the way I wanted to, so his latest works have been in hand," said Howard. "In a horse that has been off, you need to get some race simulation under his belt, but we've had to be extra careful because we were working on a track that had been trained on all morning."

If he has enough conditioning, Corrupt could prove formidable in his return. His biggest victory came last year over the Fair Grounds turf, in the Mardi Gras Stakes, when he finished strongly and won by two lengths.

Corrupt will meet six others, including Sidcup, who finished a game third in an allowance race over the Fair Grounds turf on Dec. 19. He was four wide on both turns, and finished a head behind French Beret, who came back last weekend to win the Colonel Bradley.

The class of the race is Gun Salute, with a bankroll of more than $800,000. He failed to win in 2008, however, and it remains to be seen if, at age 7, he can muster his best effort.