08/15/2006 12:00AM

Trainer profile: W.T. 'Tom' Howard

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Louisiana Downs
Howard went out on his own briefly in the 70's, and again 30 years later.

W.T. "Tom" Howard might be a new name showing up in the entries, but he is far from new to racing. Based at Louisiana Downs, the 58-year-old Howard launched a public stable three years ago after spending the bulk of his career working for such seasoned horsemen as Bubba Cascio, Sam David Jr., Cole Norman, Gene Norman, and J.J. Pletcher, the father of Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher.

Howard is now in the midst of a breakout meet at Louisiana Downs, where he has won with about 20 percent of his starters and developed Commander Buck into a stakes winner. The success has helped push him to his best year in stable earnings, with his 12-horse barn accounting for purses of $250,000.

Howard had trained on his own for a brief while in the 1970's, but waited some 30 years before going out on his own again. He decided the time was right late in 2003, and that decision was made for a couple of reasons, he said.

"First of all, it's not an easy endeavor," said Howard. "It's a team effort, and you have to have some backing of people who will stick with you, and I'm fortunate to have run across the right people at this particular time."

Howard's training style has been influenced #not only by those he worked for, but also by his own family. His father bred and raised Moon Lark, a world champion Quarter Horse who won the prestigious All-American Futurity in 1978.

"You learn something from everybody," said Howard. "Different feed programs, and leg programs, and training methods."

One rule Howard likes to follow with his charges is to give them ample time between starts. If possible, he also likes to give horses turnout time at the end of a racing season.

"I like fresh horses," he said. "I definitely like working with fresh horses coming off a layoff. Most of them, they're physically sound and mentally willing to do what you want them to do."

The "fresh" approach is one that has worked well with Commander Buck, who got some turnout time at the farm between some of his starts this year, which included an optional claiming win at Oaklawn, stakes placings at Evangeline and Louisiana Downs, and then a win in the $75,000 Independence Handicap in July.

"He likes getting a break," said Howard, who is giving Commander Buck about 30 to 45 days off and plans to start him before the close of the meet in October. "He doesn't like to be pushed."

Commander Buck's best races have come on dirt, but he is also stakes-placed on turf.

"I like him better on the dirt, but he handles the turf well, and I'm not opposed to running him on it," said Howard.

Commander Buck is a large horse, and the wider turns on dirt tracks tend to suit him a little better than the turns on turf courses.

"In those tighter turns, if he gets in trouble, or gets stopped, it pretty much takes a while for him to get going again," said Howard.

Commander Buck is Howard's second stakes winner this year. His first was Heart Appeal, who in March won his maiden in the $50,000 Rainbow at Oaklawn. Another stakes winner in his barn is Kathy's Rocket, who last fall captured a $125,000 division of the Texas Stallion Stakes.

INSIDE THE STABLE

HorseAge/SexLast raceFinishLast 3 BeyersCareer recordEarnings
Commander Buck 5GArk-La-Tex H.577999222-5-4-3$159,960
Kathy's Rocket 3FValor Farm S.46653549-2-1-1124,800
Ain't He a Pistol 4GOClm12000460707316-4-3-236,930
Lustrosa 3FMdnClm100004384 - 2-0-0-0850

VITAL STATISTICS

CategorySts.W%ROI
1st race after claim80.121.62
2nd race after claim80.124.62
1st race with trainer130.152.77
+180 days since last race10.000.00
60-180 days since last race130.081.77
Second off layoff 45-180 days160.195.09
Second off layoff +180 days20.000.00
1st time starter90.110.76
2nd start as maiden60.000.00
Maiden special to maiden claimer10.000.00
1st time turf20.000.00
1st time blinkers30.000.00
2-year-olds120.171.47
Dirt to turf40.000.00
Turf to dirt40.251.15
Blinkers on30.000.00
Blinkers off10.000.00
Sprint to route120.171.10
Route to sprint160.121.34
Sprint-sprint-route10.000.00
31-60 days since last race230.131.10
Won last start190.000.00
Wet tracks140.211.96
Dirt1230.152.26
Turf5.000.00
Sprints1010.132.33
Routes27.191.59
Maiden claiming290.030.34
Maiden special weight70.140.97
Claiming540.192.76
Allowance170.182.88
Stakes140.214.50
Debut in a maiden claiming race60.000.00
Debut greater than/equal to 1 mile10.000.00

Trainer statistics reflect North American starts from Jan. 1, 2005 through Aug. 13, 2006