03/04/2003 1:00AM

Defrere's Vixen, Lone Star Sky aim high


NEW ORLEANS - There is nuts, and then there is nuts. Remember, Tuesday was Mardi Gras. So while it might seem folly to take on both Badge of Silver and Kafwain in Sunday's $750,000 Louisiana Derby, it is probably not as crazy as walking down Bourbon Street wearing nothing but carefully placed strips of yellow "Do Not Cross" police tape, which one couple used for clothing on a damp, rainy Fat Tuesday.

Similarly emboldened are the trainers of Defrere's Vixen and Lone Star Sky, 3-year-olds who futilely chased Badge of Silver in last month's Risen Star Stakes. The addition of Kafwain means the two leading candidates for this year's Kentucky Derby are in the Louisiana Derby, but both Defrere's Vixen and Lone Star Sky are going to give it a go, as are between two and four others. That's the Derby Krew.

Defrere's Vixen and Lone Star Sky both worked a half-mile on Tuesday morning on a sloppy main track. Defrere's Vixen was timed in 49 seconds flat, while Lone Star Sky skipped across the slop in 47.80 seconds, the fastest of 25 works at the distance.

Defrere's Vixen was fourth, beating Lone Star Sky, in the Lecomte Handicap in January. But in the Risen Star, Lone Star Sky finished second, three-quarters of a length in front Defrere's Vixen. Neither got close to Badge of Silver, who won the Risen Star by 10 lengths.

Steve Asmussen, who trains Defrere's Vixen, is realistic about his colt's chances against the big two. But Asmussen won this race two years ago with Private Emblem, and just missed with Easyfromthegitgo last year. For $750,000, he's willing to take a shot.

"This horse is similar to Easyfromthegitgo, but without the credentials yet," Asmussen said. "He's a nicely built, athletic horse who has responded well to racing. We've had a lot of luck in the derby, so it would be hard to sit it out with a similar horse."

Tom Amoss, who trains Lone Star Sky, conceded his colt is facing "the two best 3-year-olds in the country."

The other expected starters are Commander's Affair and Funny Cide. Possible are Prince Alfie and Winning Fans.

Peace Rules, who had been considered for this race, is almost certain to run in Saturday's El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Victor Espinoza will ride Peace Rules in that race, then fly here to ride Kafwain. Bobby Frankel, who trains Peace Rules, was not desirous of hooking both Badge of Silver and Kafwain.

"Those two horses are tough horses. The other race is worth $120,000 to the winner," Frankel said Tuesday from his barn at Hollywood Park. "I'll probably go up north. I can wait until Wednesday to decide for sure, because the plane doesn't leave until late Wednesday night."

Funny Cide was scheduled to fly here Wednesday from Florida, and Kafwain from California on Thursday.

Even the Score wins Mardi Gras

Even the Score hadn't raced on dirt in well over a year, and even jockey Shane Sellers wasn't lauding the trip Even the Score got Tuesday in the Mardi Gras Handicap. But neither trip nor surface could stop Even the Score, who posted a head victory over the heavily favored Discreet Hero in the $65,000 Mardi Gras for his first stakes win.

Even the Score finished third here last season in the Explosive Bid Handicap, and Tuesday's race was his best effort since then. In a field reduced from 12 to seven by the weather-related move from turf to dirt, Even the Score and Sellers raced well behind the slow pace of Whata Brainstorm and Discreet Hero. Sellers loves to save ground, and tried to squeeze Even the Score into a hole on the far turn. The move failed, and without another option, Sellers swung Even the Score wide for the abbreviated stretch run. Even the Score kicked in gamely on the outside and edged Discreet Hero in 1:37.99 for a mile on a fast track. He paid $8.80.

"It was an ugly trip, but that's the way it goes sometimes," Sellers said. "He made a nice move on the turn and then we hit some traffic. I was thinking about that short stretch, and he dug in gamely and got it done."

Trainer Dallas Stewart said Even the Score would tentatively be pointed to the Explosive Bid on March 23.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh