11/29/2001 12:00AM

French Assault exits key Juvenile

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French Assault will try to become the fourth Breeders' Cup Juvenile starter to come back and win a stakes Saturday night in the $150,000 Texan Juvenile at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

The Texan Juvenile is the lone open-company race on a card of nine stakes that annually makes for the richest night of racing at Sam Houston. Billed as Texas Champions Day, the stakes are worth a cumulative $625,000. Special post for the first race is 5 p.m. Central.

French Assault finished sixth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after challenging for the lead on the turn. Four other horses who started in the BC Juvenile have since raced, with three of them winning stakes - Repent, runner-up in the Juvenile, came back to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs; eighth-place finisher Saarland returned to win the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct; and 10th-place finisher It'sallinthechase came back to win the $75,000 MEC Mile at Remington Park. Officer, who returned a week after the BC Juvenile to finish second in the Cal Cup Juvenile, is the only Juvenile starter not to have won since the Oct. 27 race.

"The pressure is really on," said Keith Desormeaux, who trains French Assault. "Not only because we really want to win, that's obvious, but because of how well the horses coming out of the Breeders' Cup [Juvenile] are running. If that's any indication of the quality of this year's race, that's good for us. But it also means the pressure is on."

French Assault is the most accomplished colt in the 1 1/16-mile Texan Juvenile, which drew 11 horses, including California shipper Dial a Hero, fourth in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue last out at 70-1; and recent Keeneland allowance winner Jeremiah Jack.

The lone stakes winner in the field, French Assault's biggest triumph came Sept. 1 when he romped by 11 3/4 lengths in the $100,000 El Joven at Retama Park. Following that race, he stepped up in class and finished second to Repent in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup at Turfway Park after stumbling at the start, an effort that earned him a trip to the Breeders' Cup.

E.J. Perrodin will ride French Assault, whose long-term goal is the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at his Fair Grounds base.

Last year's Texan Juvenile winner, Fifty Stars, went on to win that race for trainer Steve Asmussen, who has two bullets to fire in this year's Texan Juvenile: the stakes-placed Private Emblem, who gets first Lasix; and the undefeated Richest Half.