04/18/2002 12:00AM

Derby circuit hits Texas


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Three horses who raced in the Arkansas Derby last Saturday could start next in the Grade 3, $500,000 Lone Star Derby on May 11. They are Bay Monster, who finished in a dead heat for third with Windward Passage; Holdthehelm, who finished fifth; and Dusty Spike, who finished seventh.

Bay Monster, who had missed the Grade 3 Rebel at Oaklawn because of a cold, came back from a six-week layoff in the Arkansas Derby.

"I thought it was a tremendous race for him," said trainer Steve Wren. "The horse had been off as long as he had, he had been sick, and we missed some training.

"For him to stalk the pace and make a move like he did and stay - he fought that horse on the outside, Windward Passage, all the way down the lane and would not let him get by - I thought he showed a lot of courage and determination. He just ran his eyeballs out."

Wren said that after the Lone Star Derby Bay Monster could start in the Iowa Derby July 5 at Prairie Meadows.

"Hopefully there's a derby with his name on it," said Wren.

Holdthehelm encountered traffic trouble in the Arkansas Derby.

"I thought my horse never really got a chance to run in the race," said trainer Paul Assinesi.

The timing of the Lone Star Derby, which for the first time this year will be run after the Kentucky Derby, makes it an attractive spot for Holdthehelm.

"It would give us almost a month between races, which is ideally suited for him," said Assinesi.

Dusty Spike, who was beaten three-quarters of a length by Private Emblem in a division of the $75,000 Southwest at Oaklawn on March 2, had a wide trip in the Arkansas Derby.

"I don't know what happened at the gates," said trainer Mark Lee. "He got out extremely bad."

French Assault still ailing

French Assault, who missed last month's Grade 2 Louisiana Derby with an intestinal disorder, was placed in an Irving, Texas, clinic last week, said trainer Keith Desormeaux.

French Assault has been diagnosed with malabsorption in his small intestine, which means he is not absorbing the nutrients from his food.

"It's a rare thing," said Desormeaux. "As far as his prognosis, we don't really know yet."

Desormeaux had hoped to see French Assault race at Lone Star Park, but last week thought the colt was not progressing as he should be, and after tests had him admitted to the clinic. In his one start this year, French Assault finished fourth in the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 17.

Last year at 2, he won his maiden by 8 1/2 lengths at Lone Star in July; romped by 11 3/4 lengths in the $100,000 El Joven at Retama Park; finished second to Repent in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile; sixth to Johannesburg in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; and second in the $150,000 Sam Houston Texan Juvenile, defeating eventual Arkansas Derby winner Private Emblem.

* Valhol, winner of the $125,000 Whirlaway Handicap at Fair Grounds, will skip the Grade 3 Texas Mile at Lone Star on April 27 and instead be pointed to the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 27. Trainer Dallas Keen said Valhol's blood count "isn't right."

* La Recherche, winner of the second division of the $75,000 Irving Distaff last Saturday, will run next in the Grade 3, $100,000 Citgo Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs May 4, while Pleasant State, winner of the race's first division, is aiming for the $200,000 WinStar Distaff at Lone Star on May 27.

* Wren said he might race Miss Seffens in the $100,000 Valid Expectations Stakes at Lone Star on May 27.