03/21/2002 1:00AM

Screen Idol should find softer touch on turf


NEW ORLEANS - When Screen Idol looks around during Saturday's Gentilly Handicap, there will be no Repents, no Easyfromthegitgos. There might not even be a filly named You'llbeinmyheart.

Screen Idol takes a major-league class drop from the Grade 3 Risen Star, where he finished a creditable seventh, into the Gentilly, a $100,000 turf race at Fair Grounds restricted to Louisiana-breds. Screen Idol is the horse to beat in any case, and You'llbeinmyheart, the horse to fear, is not certain to start in the Gentilly, though she was entered for the race Thursday.

Owned by the Foxwood Plantation and trained by Bret Thomas - the connections who brought Arkansas Derby winner Zarb's Magic onto the scene several years ago - Screen Idol debuted with a half-length win in a Louisiana-bred maiden sprint race Dec. 29, then stretched out three weeks later to win the Crescent City Derby, another statebred race, by more than seven lengths.

That performance was strong enough to induce Screen Idol's connections to take a shot in the Risen Star, where Screen Idol made a bid for the lead midway through the race before fading in the stretch. Repent, Bob's Image, and Easyfromthegitgo finished one-two-three in the Risen Star, and rest assured there are no such animals opposing Screen Idol this time.

Screen Idol has never tried turf, but he's by Zarbyev, a son of the strong turf influence Nureyev, and is bred on both sides of his pedigree to handle grass. E.J. Perrodin rides.

You'llbeinmyheart would be facing males while running on grass and around two turns for the first time - if she runs in the Gentilly at all. Trainer Gary Palmisano said earlier this week he might pass the Gentilly and await a dirt allowance race here Monday. If she does run, You'llbeinmyheart will have to call on all her class to overcome entirely new circumstances and a tougher field than she has yet encountered. But given the three easy victories she has scored in her first three starts, that might be possible. You'llbeinmyheart has a lot of speed, but as a daughter of Broad Brush is bred for both grass and routes.

There are plenty of other options in the Gentilly, which attracted full field of 12. Toi Fund had serious trouble in the stretch when he lost a turf allowance race by a nose here Feb. 24, and the horse who finished a neck behind him that day, Cat Ante, also runs back in the Gentilly.

If rain should move the Gentilly from turf to dirt, You'llbeinmyheart could prove very difficult to run down on a clear early lead.

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