11/07/2001 1:00AM

French Assault coming home


French Assault, the Louisiana Downs-based colt who finished sixth in last month's Grade 1, $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park, is scheduled to be flown from New York to Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Sunday.

Trainer Keith Desormeaux said the colt's next start has not been decided, but one race under consideration is the $150,000 Texan Juvenile Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston on Dec. 1.

"We're going to watch him for a couple weeks and see what he tells us," said Desormeaux. "He came out of the race great, and as far as his future, it looks very good. He was only beaten five lengths in a Grade 1 race against the world's best horses . . . he was beaten a nose for fifth behind Officer."

One start before his Breeders' Cup appearance, French Assault finished second to eventual Juvenile runner-up Repent in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup at Turfway Park.

Earlier this season, he romped by 11 3/4 lengths in the $100,000 El Joven Stakes at Retama Park near San Antonio.

Next year, French Assault will campaign as a 3-year-old at Fair Grounds.

Lovato big part of Norman team

Jockey Anthony Lovato did his part to help trainer Cole Norman set a new standard for wins in a season this meet at Louisiana Downs.

Lovato, who had ridden 78 of Norman's 107 winners this meet entering the races Friday, was aboard the trainer's record-breaking 100th winner on Oct. 27. (Frank Brothers set the record for single-season wins by a trainer at Louisiana Downs when he won 99 races in 1987.)

"The biggest thing this meet was to break the record for Cole," said Lovato, who won 40 percent of the time when riding for Norman. "It was really important, and when it was finally accomplished, it was great for the whole team."

The team Lovato refers to is Norman, his owners and staff, as well as Lovato's agent, Jerry Reites.

Lovato, who overall this meet won 26 percent of his races to rank second in the standings to Kirk LeBlanc, 116 wins to 99, will move his tack to Fair Grounds after Louisiana Downs closes Sunday. Early next year, he plans to ride at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., which opens Jan. 25.

Prelude winner cuts way back Friday

Rare Cure, who won the $50,000 Prelude Stakes over 1 1/8 miles at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 1, cuts back to six furlongs Friday night in the $20,000 Scissortail Overnight Handicap at Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

In his most recent start, Rare Cure pressed E Dubai early before finishing seventh in the Grade 1, $500,000 Super Derby, run over 1 1/4 miles Sept. 23.

Trainer Joe Petalino has worked Rare Cure a brisk three furlongs to sharpen him for the turnback, and has given the mount to Luis Quinonez.

* Nuclear Assembly, who won 4 of 6 starts this year, including the $168,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity and the $40,000 Pioneer Stakes, has been turned out on a farm in Louisiana and will not return to the races until next spring at Lone Star Park near Dallas. "He just needed time, mentally," said Colleen Davidson, assistant to trainer Brent Davidson.

* Trainer Duane Knipe, who won three turf stakes with eventual horse of the meet Chausson Poire - as well as the track's richest turf stakes with Champs Elysees - this season at Louisiana Downs will winter at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla. He plans to return to Louisiana Downs in 2002.

* Kenneth Murphy, a direct mail entrepreneur from Dallas who won the Lone Star owner's title in a tight race in July, is now battling 17-time champ John Franks for the Louisiana Downs title. Entering the races Friday, Murphy led Franks in the standings 18 wins to 15.