02/08/2002 1:00AM

Repent? wondereth local trainers


NEW ORLEANS - Local horsemen with 3-year-olds for the Feb. 17 Risen Star Stakes are watching south Florida. Is Repent coming or not?

Second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the winner of two other graded stakes, Repent is the clear favorite in the newly graded Grade 3 Risen Star - if he ships in for the race.

Friday, trainer Ken McPeek still couldn't say with absolute certainty that Repent was bound for Fair Grounds. "We're still working out the details, but we're planning on coming," McPeek said.

The unsettled details, McPeek said, involve travel arrangements for Repent, who has not yet been booked on a specific flight. McPeek said there were two travel dates under consideration, Feb. 12 and Feb. 13.

Regardless of where he runs, Repent, who blazed through a five-furlong work at Gulfstream Wednesday in 58 seconds, is scheduled to work again on Feb. 12 according to McPeek.

Awaiting him at Fair Grounds is a strong local contingent headed by the first four finishers in the Lecomte Stakes - Easyfromthegitgo, Sky Terrace, It'sallinthechase, and Jeremiah Jack - as well as French Assault, who finished second to Repent in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile and second in his last race, the Houston Texan Juvenile.

French Assault was freshened after his last start, but trainer Keith Desormeaux still feels the colt is fit for a strong effort next weekend. "If he doesn't run well, it's not because he's not fit enough," Desormeaux said.

Working in company, French Assault put in a major seven-furlong breeze here earlier in the week, and Desormeaux said he will go an easier half-mile Tuesday or Wednesday.

Desormeaux helped select French Assault for purchase as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale two years ago. Another colt he picked out of the sale was It'sallinthechase, whom his clients later sold at a Texas 2-year-old in training sale.

Trainer Wilson Brown unearthed It'sallinthechase for owner Darwin Olson at that Texas sale, and the colt had a useful 2-year-old season, winning 2 of 9 starts and just missing in the Grade 2 Arlington-Washington Futurity. Brown, who's based at a training center near Oklahoma City right now, left It'sallinthechase at Fair Grounds after his third-place finish in the Lecomte, where he was closing fastest at the wire and missed winning by less than a length.

It'sallinthechase will race next weekend in blinkers for the first time and wore blinkers in a five-furlong workout Monday that pleased jockey Gerard Melancon. "Gerard said he punched in real good when he set him down in the stretch," Brown said.

Connected works easy half-mile

The handicap horse Connected was back on the work tab Friday for the first time since a good fourth-place finish Nov. 23 in the Clark Handicap. Connected worked an easy half-mile in 51 seconds, a work that pleased trainer David Carroll, who was simply happy Connected was in a position to begin seriously prepping for his 2002 debut.

The 5-year-old Connected hit peak form in Kentucky last fall, winning the restricted Warfield Stakes at Keeneland before defeating Broken Vow in the Grade 3 Fayette. Connected made up several lengths in the stretch of the Clark but fell 1 1/4 lengths shy of victory.

Carroll spoke wistfully of the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap in early March, a race for which Connected is unlikely to be ready. Carroll said Connected may make a start in allowance company here before moving back to stakes racing this spring.

State of Dickinson's Fair Grounds art

Trainer Michael Dickinson's Fair Grounds six-horse satellite operation is faring just fine, thank you, and besides winning half of his six starts here, Dickinson may have unearthed a pair of young turf stakes horses. The 3-year-old filly Ntombi has impressively won maiden and allowance turf races since shipping here, and on Monday the first-time starter Mr. O'brien destroyed a field of 3-year-old maiden turf horses.

Assistant trainer Lisa Tenney, who gallops and oversees Dickinson's Fair Grounds horses, said tentative plans called for Mr. O'brien to run back in an allowance race and come back in a stakes race at Keeneland.

"He's really done well since he came down here, even working on dirt," Tenney said.

* Griffinite, bound for a start Tuesday in the Mardi Gras Handicap, worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 on Friday.