12/30/2008 12:00AM

Lord of the Game finally back


NEW ORLEANS - When last seen racing, Lord of the Game was having monster year, 12 starts, 7 victories, triple-digit Beyers, and graded stakes victories. The trouble is, that monster year was 2005.

On the first day of 2009, Lord of the Game will race again, in Thursday's ninth race at Fair Grounds, a first-level optional $30,000 claiming race, going a mile on the main track.

The $44,000 race is a far cry from the graded races he had been running in, but it is a start.

"He's been working really well, and he needs to run," said his new trainer, Keith Bourgeois. "I'd like to find out if he can be even three-quarters of the horse he once was."

Three-quarters of the horse he once was would make Lord of the Game formidable on Thursday, and would be another chapter in a rags-to-riches odyssey.

Claimed for $10,000 in December 2004 as he won a maiden claiming race by 22 1/4 lengths, Lord of the Game was a dream come true for owner William Slevin and trainer Tom Tomillo.

He won two graded stakes in 2005, the Grade 3 Hanshin at Arlington and the Grade 2 Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Prairie Meadows, while running his bankroll to more than $500,000.

And then, in October 2005, he ran sixth in the Grade 3 Fayette at Keeneland. It was his last start before he went to the sidelines with a torn tendon in his left front leg.

Lord of the Game got his tendon treated, but it was still ailing him last winter when he arrived in the Bourgeois barn.

"We did stem cell on the tendon, and so far, so good," said Bourgeois. "He checks out good when he comes off the track after working out."

He has been training at Evangeline training center, and has put together a solid work tab, including two bullet works.

And so, on the day he turns 8, Lord of the Game is on the comeback trail, looking to become a semblance of the horse he once was.

"Horses are like people, they slow down as they age," said Bourgeois. "But he hasn't run that much, and he hasn't been run into the ground."

He's joined in this race by fellow old-timer and probable favorite King of Speed, who turns 10 and is still running well and winning races. He has won 19 of 91 starts, with eight of those wins coming in 2008 from 13 starts.