03/15/2007 12:00AM

Total to return to what she does best

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NEW ORLEANS - Trainer Al Stall Jr. wanted to give his talented 3-year-old filly Total every chance to earn a spot in the best races for her division this spring, but her seventh-place finish in Fair Grounds Oaks has convinced him to return her to sprinting. Accordingly, Stall has mapped out a new plan for Total.

"We know what not to do with her now," he said Thursday morning. "We're just going to keep her around one turn. She'll run next in the La Troienne on [Kentucky] Derby Day. We always had a sneaking suspicion that she was only a one-turn horse, but we gave it a try, hoping against hope."

Fortunately for the barn, Total's Oaks washout under jockey Jesse Campbell didn't cause her problems.

"She's fine," Stall said. "She went right back to the track. Jesse said he had so much horse she was fresh as she could be. He took care of her properly in that last race.

"She won't work again until she gets to Kentucky. We're going to give her a little bit of a freshening."

By contrast, Stall's 3-year-old colt Ketchikan jumped into Kentucky derby picture with his second place-finish in the Louisiana Derby.

"Unless I missed something, he showed me talent that suggests he belongs in the upper echelon of the 3-year-old colts," Stall said. "I was disappointed but happy at the same time. I'm a hometown guy, and to have the Louisiana Derby at your fingertips, that's what I mean by disappointed."

Ketchikan will have one more assignment at Fair Grounds before he heads to Kentucky.

"The colt's going to work a week from next Saturday," said Stall, "and ship out on the following Tuesday to Churchill Downs."

Ketchikan's next race is undecided, but he will go in either the Blue Grass or Arkansas Derby, both run on April 14.

Patriot Act will fight on

Trainer Neil Howard had Patriot Act primed for the Fair Grounds meet, but the 5-year-old A.P. Indy horse has come away with three second-place stakes finishes, the last two to Master Command. Patriot Act still has something left after his second in the New Orleans Handicap, though.

"He came out of the race well," said Howard. "He's been back to the racetrack and he's doing fine. We're proud of him, we think he's made a good showing. Of course, before it's all over we'd like him to win a stake or two but we're very pleased. His races have been good and he's run into a couple of very tough horses."

Patriot Act, a one-run closer, was victimized by a slow pace in his first two starts of the meet, and the late scratch of Liquor Cabinet may have hurt his chances in the New Orleans Handicap.

"That horse scratching didn't help matters any," said Howard. "But I'm not so sure that this Master Command, might not be - and I'm not just saying this because he beat me twice - he might emerge as one of the top handicap horses this year. To come back over here and run like that, he's a good horse."

Patriot Act will return to Kentucky after this meet.

"We'd like to run him a time or two this spring," he said, "then maybe ease up a little over the summer and have him ready for the fall.

"I don't know if he would run again next year because he is a horse with stallion capability with his pedigree, but of course it would be a feather in his cap if he could win a stake or two after all is said and done."

As Howard knows, horses exiting the Fair Grounds meet historically carry their form.

"I think this track is very forgiving on horses," he said. "Down here in the wintertime the horses do well because they're not in the freezing cold weather but they're not in the hot, muggy weather either, so they winter well. And even after a little bit of a campaign down here they seem to come back pretty fresh."