02/19/2002 12:00AM

Repent scares them, just not away

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NEW ORLEANS - As well as Repent ran in winning Sunday's Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes, at least two 3-year-olds who finished behind him will take another swing in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, even if Repent returns for that race.

But Dallas Stewart, who trains Bob's Image, the Risen Star runner-up, had some words of advice for Repent's trainer, Ken McPeek, as the horses returned to be unsaddled after the Risen Star.

"I told him, 'Why don't you stay in Florida?'" Stewart said.

Stewart was having some fun in the heat of battle, but neither he nor the connections of the two horses who finished behind Bob's Image would be heartbroken if Repent winds up elsewhere for his next start. Both Repent and Take Charge Lady, who tied the 1 1/16-mile track record in Saturday's Silverbulletday Stakes, running a second faster than Repent did Sunday, were to fly back to McPeek's Gulfstream Park base later on Tuesday morning.

Stewart said Bob's Image, who set a hectic pace and still finished well in his stakes debut, appeared to have come out of the race in good shape, and would be pointed for the $750,000 Louisiana Derby. So, too, will Easyfromthegitgo, who had won the Lecomte Stakes by a head in his previous start and closed to finish third Sunday.

"I liked the separation there was between him and the horses who'd run in the Lecomte," trainer Steve Asmussen said.

Keith Desormeaux, who trains the fourth-place finisher, French Assault, suggested he might look elsewhere for a race if Repent returns for the Louisiana Derby.

"He's too damn good," Desormeaux said.

French Assault finished second behind Repent in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile last September and sixth to Repent's second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Desormeaux said he was surprised when French Assault, typically a stalker, wound up pressing a very fast pace on Sunday.

Giving futile chase

On Monday, Asmussen wasn't ready to commit Lake Lady to the Fair Grounds Oaks off her fourth-place finish Saturday in the Silverbulletday. But Asmussen attributed Lake Lady's defeat to the way the Silverbulletday unfolded.

When Take Charge Lady got loose on an uncontested lead, Lake Lady and the other three fillies in the race all had to play catch up against a horse who never slowed down.

"Initially I was extremely disappointed in her race," Asmussen said of Lake Lady, who had won four straight starts, including two stakes, going into the Silverbulletday. "But I think she wound up fourth because she was the one who took out after [Take Charge Lady]. She was trying to beat a filly she wasn't going to catch.

"I don't know [about the Oaks]. We're going to evaluate her and do what's best for her."

Take Charge Lady may or may not return for the Fair Grounds Oaks, and since she won the Silverbulletday by more than eight lengths, her Oaks status will help shape the race. Charmed Gift, who finished second Saturday, is an obvious candidate for the Oaks, but trainer Neil Howard said he would also consider the Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream and the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs.

One turn is fine

Howard also reported that he had no plans to run the 3-year-old colt World Trade two turns. World Trade won his second straight race over the weekend.

In his maiden win, World Trade shot to the lead and won by 10 lengths, but he rated behind horses and finished well in his allowance win over the weekend. Both races were at six furlongs, and Howard feels World Trade, a Storm Cat colt, is not presently a route candidate.

"We're not going to do that anytime soon, at least not down here," Howard said. "Seeing him relax the other day, we're going to look at him like he could be a horse for a race like the [seven-furlong] Lafayette at Keeneland. We're not looking at him like a Blue Grass or a Derby horse. He could be a useful horse if we're judicious about the distances."

Dollar Bill coming along

A strong six-furlong workout Sunday put Dollar Bill a step closer to a start in the New Orleans Handicap on March 3. * hasn't raced since finishing third to Point Given last summer in the Travers Stakes. Dollar Bill underwent surgery to have a bone chip removed following that start.

He began breezing at Fair Grounds in mid-December, and Sunday's was his ninth work and second straight at six furlongs. Dollar Bill's time of 1:13.40 was more than two seconds quicker than the next-fastest work Sunday, though only four horses breezed six furlongs.

"We're going to train him right up to [the New Orleans Handicap]," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "I nominated him and we'll take a look at the race."

Back to Florida

The 4-year-old Strut the Stage, who finished second in the Grade 1 Secretariat last summer, has shipped from trainer Mark Frostad's barn back to Sam-Son Farms' training center near Ocala, Fla., only a week after arriving at Fair Grounds from the training center. Trainer Mark Frostad had hoped to run Strut the Stage in an allowance race here last Monday as a prep for the Explosive Bid Handicap, but that race did not come close to filling.

Frostad said a start in the Explosive Bid now was unlikely, and that Strut the Stage probably would make his 2002 bow at Keeneland in April.

Since it's unlikely he'll race at Fair Grounds, it makes more sense for Strut the Stage to return to Florida where he can train on turf, something that's not permitted here.

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