02/15/2002 12:00AM

No clear image this year


NEW ORLEANS - Last year he had the favorite for the Risen Star. This year, trainer Dallas Stewart isn't sure exactly what he has.

Stewart saddles Bob's Image in Sunday's Risen Star, and though the colt has won two straight races at the meet, both routes and both by open lengths, few are touting Bob's Image as a serious threat in the race. That's a far cry from last year, when Dollar Bill, the most intensely scrutinized 3-year-old training at Fair Grounds last winter, launched his campaign with a win in the race.

Bob's Image, a gelded son of Halo's Image owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, lost his career debut at Keeneland last October by 27 lengths, then was beaten 12 lengths when he stretched out to a route race at Churchill.

"He really just looked like an average horse when we came down here," Stewart said.

But during the first week of this meet, Bob's Image popped up and won an off-the-turf maiden route race by nine lengths, then came back Jan. 10 to beat an allowance field by two and one-half lengths. In both races, Bob's Image came out of the gate running and led all the way, and in his allowance race he set early fractions - 46.24 seconds for a half-mile - that typically lead to a stretch collapse.

"He went fast and held on," said Stewart, who left the impression that Bob's Image, who drew post 1 for the Risen Star, will be a pace factor Sunday regardless of how fast the early fractions are.

Stewart said Bob's Image has trained well, and he looks forward to gauging the colt's quality in a stakes race.

"This race will tell a lot," he said. "Other than Repent, we're all just hoping right now. Like everyone else, I want to see what I have."

Zarbyev represented again

This year's Risen Star harks back to 1996, when the Louisiana-bred colt Zarb's Magic won the race. Zarb's Magic was owned and bred by Foxwood Plantation and trained by Bret Thomas, the same connections who start another Louisiana-bred colt, Screen Idol, on Sunday.

Zarb's Magic, who like Screen Idol is by Zarbyev, still is stomping around these parts and on Jan. 19, the day he won a starter-allowance race, Screen Idol won the Crescent City Derby by almost eight lengths.

Screen Idol has made only two career starts, both in state-bred company, but has shown strong promise, closing strongly to win a sprint in his first race before his easy win in the Crescent City, his first route race.

Investment pays off, eventually

When trainer Gary Palmisano saw the yearling Bryan Krantz had asked him to look at at the Keeneland September yearling sale of 1995, he put his head in his hands. Before him was a scrawny filly with a set of the most crooked legs Palmisano had ever seen. Krantz, whose family owns Fair Grounds, wound up spending $27,000 for the horse, who would later be named Longue Vue.

What a bargain.

Palmisano managed to get Longue Vue to race despite her conformation, and she won two starts and paid for her purchase price. But the real reason Krantz wanted her was as a broodmare prospect: Longe Vue is by Miswaki out of South Sea Dancer, a full sister to the successful stallion Storm Bird. Krantz bought a season to the stallion Broad Brush from Dickie Small, who had trained a string of horses from the same Fair Grounds barn as Palmisano, and bred Longue Vue to Broad Brush.

The result of the mating is now on display at Fair Grounds. You'llbeinmyheart, a Louisiana-bred 3-year-old filly, has won her first two starts by a combined 16 1/2-lengths and should only continue to improve. She is set to make her next start March 10 in the Battler Star Handicap.

You'llbeinmyheart has been the easiest sort of winner in her sprint races and is bred to run a distance of ground and, Palmisano said, has not yet been heavily trained. You'llbeinmyheart came out of her Jan. 25 maiden win with a sinus infection and was treated with antibiotics, and Palmisano hesitated when an allowance spot came up from her on Feb. 9.

He needn't have worried. Jockey Robby Albarado tried to give You'llbeinmyheart some experience in the race, but when he let her run in the final furlong, the filly exploded and drew away late in the race. Palmisano said he's looking forward to stretching You'llbeinmyheart out in distance sometime after the Battler Star, a sprint restricted to Louisiana-breds.

Work will tell for Clergy

The unbeaten 3-year-old Clergy is scheduled to have a major seven-furlong work here Saturday morning. If all goes well in the breeze, Clergy is likely to make his next start in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on March. 2.

Brothers said he would prefer to run Clergy in a two-turn allowance race at Fair Grounds, but he believes it is highly unlikely the condition Clergy is eligible for, nonwinners-of-three, will fill.

Clergy launched his racing career in December and has won two sprints impressively at the Fair Grounds meet. Clergy is by the young sire Pulpit, whose offspring have shown a propensity for route racing, but Brothers isn't yet convinced Clergy is a two-turn horse.

Brothers said that Clergy, who was gelded earlier last year, is not made like a typical Pulpit. While obviously talented, Clergy is a short horse with a short stride and the large hindquarters of a sprinter. What he does have going for him is a high degree of professionalism and intelligence, and he rated behind horses in his allowance win.

Brothers said he wasn't tempted to run Clergy in the Risen Star. "If he is a nice horse, that wouldn't be fair to him," he said. "He'd have to be Superman to do that."