03/13/2002 12:00AM

French Assault recovering from illness


French Assault appears to be recovering from the intestinal disorder that kept him from running Sunday in the Louisiana Derby, but even with a speedy recovery it will be several weeks before the colt is ready to race again. Trainer Keith Desormeaux said that if French Assault's condition continues to improve, he will tentatively be pointed for a start next month in the Arkansas Derby.

French Assault got sick late last week, just a couple of days before he was to have run in the Louisiana Derby, which would have been the second start of his 3-year-old season. French Assault finished a close fourth in the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes, just behind Easyfromthegitgo, who lost by a nose to Repent in the Louisiana Derby.

When the illness cropped up, Desormeaux at first believed French Assault was reacting to an extreme shift in temperature, but veterinarians soon diagnosed a problem in the horse's intestine, the exact nature of which hasn't been fully determined. French Assault has been recovering on his own, without help from medication, and will continue to do so as long as he makes progress.

If all goes well, Desormeaux hopes to have French Assault back at the racetrack Saturday. "It's going to take some time before he's ready to race," Desormeaux said. "He's lost some weight."

Asmussen stars Arkansas-bound

Four barns away from Desormeaux, Easyfromthegitgo and Lake Lady, who was second in Saturday's Fair Grounds Oaks, are bouncing back from their races last weekend. Trainer Steve Asmussen said there's a chance both could run next at Oaklawn Park, Easyfromthegitgo in the Arkansas Derby, Lake Lady in the Fantasy Stakes.

Easyfromthegitgo could be redirected to a different spot if one of Asmussen's starters in the Rebel Stakes - Private Emblem, Windward Passage, or Interminable Gold - earns a berth in the Arkansas Derby.

While Bonapaw's away . . .

Asmussen, who's locked in a battle with Tom Amoss for leading trainer here, goes head to head with Amoss on Sunday in the Pelleteri Breeders' Cup Handicap. Asmussen will start Abajo in the Pelleteri, Amoss Robin de Nest. The two trainers tied in final standings here last season.

Because Bonapaw, the region's dominant sprinter, has gone to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen, the Pelleteri will have a more diverse cast than the four sprint stakes that preceded it at this meet. Early Flyer is scheduled to ship here from California on Thursday, according to Fair Grounds racing officials, and Boots on Sunday, perhaps the best sprinter in Texas, also is possible for the race.

Other possibles for the Pelleteri are Explicit, Entrepreneur, Lac Grand, and Prospector's Gift.

Hallowed Dreams in on Saturday

A field of about seven, headed by Hallowed Dreams, will start in Saturday's Victoria Lass Handicap, a sprint stakes for fillies and mares. In her last start, the Pan Zareta Handicap, Hallowed Dreams finished second, beaten by My Brent's Diamond, who since has been retired with an injury. Jockey Marlon St. Julien, aboard Hallowed Dreams for the first time in the Pan Zareta, is likely to ride her again.

The race also brings the seasonal bow of Sweet Nanette and, perhaps, the final start of Serena's Tune's career. Run for Little Bit, Dominica, Extended View, and Lettuce Loose also are probable for the race.

Jeremiah Jack eyes Rebel

A strong workout on Wednesday might have landed Jeremiah Jack a spot in the Rebel Stakes. Unraced since he underwent throat surgery to repair a breathing problem, Jeremiah Jack breezed five furlongs in company in just more than 59 seconds, galloping out six furlongs in about 1:12.

"It was a good work to the naked eye," said trainer Tom Amoss. "If he comes out of it well, [the Rebel] is the spot we'll look to."

Jeremiah Jack, a former claimer, won the Houston Texan Juvenile in early December but finished fourth in the Lecomte Stakes, his first start as a 3-year-old. Jeremiah Jack was poised for a start in the Risen Star when his physical problem was detected.

Next stop, Keeneland

His first start of 2002 still on hold, Strut the Stage has once again returned to Florida where he will train up to a race at Keeneland, most likely the Maker's Mark Mile.

Strut the Stage, second by a nose in the Grade 1 Secretariat last summer, was entered in a Fair Grounds turf allowance race Saturday, but scratched when rain forced the race onto the main track. That piece of bad luck came a couple of weeks after an allowance race in which Strut the Stage had been entered failed to make it onto a racing program because of insufficient entries.

After missing that spot, trainer Mark Frostad sent Strut the Stage back to owner Sam-Som Farms's training center outside Ocala, Fla., and shipped him back to Fair Ground last week for Saturday's race. Now, Strut the Stage is back in Florida again. "We can work him on turf down there," Frostad said. "The track here is too hard for him."