01/15/2002 12:00AM

Bonapaw's options include Dubai trip, Mardi Gras on turf

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NEW ORLEANS - Bonapaw solidified his position as the leading sprinter at Fair Grounds when he won last Saturday's Colonel Power Handicap by more than five lengths. But now fluidity, not solidity, defines Bonapaw's future.

* has been nominated to the Dubai Golden Shaheen, a rich sprint race on the Dubai World Cup undercard on March 23. His connections, owners Jim and Dennis Richards and trainer Tucker Alonzo, are ready to go, but they have yet to be extended an invitation to the race. Until that happens, Alonzo is not sure exactly how to plot Bonapaw's late winter campaign.

"We're kind of hanging in space as far as that goes right now," Alonzo said. "If they did invite us to come, then we'd have to see about getting over there."

But for now, Alonzo and the Richards brothers - who own tire stores in the New Orleans area - are plotting a new adventure with Bonapaw - turf. Bonapaw won the only grass race of his career, a second-level allowance three seasons ago at Fair Grounds, and Alonzo said he's seriously considering the Feb. 12 Mardi Gras Handicap at about 7 1/2 furlongs rather than another sprint stakes for Bonapaw's next start.

"If they [Dubai] don't let us know by Feb. 12, I expect we'll run in the Mardi Gras," Alonzo said.

Bonapaw's participation in the Mardi Gras would further boost what might turn out to be a strong race, since top local turf horses Northcote Road and Where's Taylor also could run.

Just how good is Miss N Texas?

The gulf between a maiden win and a stakes race can be wide, but Miss N Texas definitely resembled a stakes horse when she won a maiden race last Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Miss N Texas, a 3-year-old filly by Dehere, ran well enough to win her debut race, but started her run too late and just missed catching an odds-on winner. In her second career start, Miss N Texas rated comfortably behind a moderate pace, ranged into contention on the far turn and in a matter of strides accelerated into the lead at the top of the stretch, drawing off to win by almost five lengths. Her sharp burst of mid-race speed was what set her performance apart from the everyday.

"That's sometimes a mark of a good horse," said Mike Stidham, who trains Miss N Texas for Greg Goodman's Mt. Brilliant Farm.

Stidham is under no illusions about the development Miss N Texas must show to earn her way into stakes company, but he plans on giving her a chance. Miss N Texas is likely to stretch out in her next start so her connections can see just how far she will run. Her sire, Dehere, is not known for imparting stamina to his offspring, and Miss N Texas is not put together like a pure route horse, but her relaxed manner of racing and her impressive acceleration gives Stidham hope.

"We'll wait and see what kind of race there is for her in the next [condition] book," he said. "I think the quality's there, but we'll wait and let her do the talking."

Risen Star next for French Assault

French Assault, one of the leading 3-year-olds training here, returned to Fair Grounds on Sunday and galloped here Monday after getting a five-week break from racetrack life.

French Assault spent the last several weeks at a training center and farm across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, where he was kept in light training. Trainer Keith Desormeaux sent French Assault to the farm following his second-place finish Dec. 1 in the Houston Texan Juvenile in hopes of keeping his colt fresh for stakes race this spring. With the break, French Assault won't be ready to run in the Jan. 26 Lecomte Stakes, the first 3-year-old route stakes here, but is being pointed to the Risen Star Stakes here Feb. 17.

A French Deputy colt owned by Adam Richey and James Strode, French Assault finished second to the highly regarded Repent in the Kentucky Cup Classic, and was sixth, beaten only five lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He was favored to win the Houston Juvenile but was beaten five lengths by Jeremiah Jack.

Desormeaux is very pleased with French Assault's physical condition following his freshening, and thinks the colt might have gained a bit of weight. "We'll work him three or four times and then run," Desormeaux said.

Jeremiah Jack preps for Lecomte

Jeremiah Jack, who is penciled in for a start in the Lecomte, worked here Sunday for trainer Tom Amoss, going six furlongs in 1:15.20, breezing, a solid move for this racetrack.

Jeremiah Jack, a former maiden claimer, came to hand strongly this fall and will be among the favorites in the Lecomte.

Also working Sunday was Sugar Bowl winner Mapp Hill, another likely Lecomte starter. He drilled a half-mile in 52 seconds for trainer Josie Carroll.

* Woodchopper Handicap winner Fan Club's Mister worked an easy five furlongs in 1:05 here Sunday. Trainer Rickey Harris is pointing him to the Feb. 2 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Stakes.

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