11/28/2003 1:00AM

Derby offers a sneak peek


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The Hollywood Derby ends the West Coast turf season for the 3-year-olds, but in recent years, it has served more as a preview of coming attractions. The last two winners of the derby, a Grade 1 race, were Denon and Johar, both of whom went on to have brilliant careers as older horses.

There are several budding superstars in this year's $600,000 race, ranging from East Coast standouts Kicken Kris and Silver Tree, to West Coast stalwarts Fairly Ransom and Senor Swinger. Toss in 10 others, including French Group 1 winner Alberto Giacometti, and Sunday's running at Hollywood Park percolates with potential.

The derby this year was lengthened one furlong to 1 1/4 miles, giving the full field of 14 a longer run to the first turn. That should help Fairly Ransom, who otherwise got the absolute worst of the draw. Fairly Ransom, the Del Mar Derby winner, landed the extreme outside post position.

"I just have to look at it like I do the Kentucky Derby," said Ron McAnally, who trains Fairly Ransom. "Everybody always wants a post in the middle of the field, but a horse with an outside post invariably wins. He has time to get over. And he laid close early in the Del Mar Derby."

Fairly Ransom had an aggressive campaign at Del Mar. After arriving from France, he made three starts in seven weeks, capped by a victory in the Del Mar Derby. He has been off since then, which was by design, McAnally said.

"We could have run him in the Oak Tree Derby, but we had rushed him along a little at Del Mar," McAnally said. "He's full of himself now. He's like a young kid."

McAnally also saddles Sweet Return, who was third in the Del Mar Derby and was a narrow loser in the Oak Tree Derby.

Senor Swinger skipped the Oak Tree Derby to instead face older rivals in the Carleton F. Burke Handicap, in which he finished third after briefly leading at midstretch. He has picked up minor awards against several of his Hollywood Derby rivals. He was fourth in the Del Mar Derby and fourth behind Silver Tree and Kicken Kris as a heavy favorite in the Virginia Derby.

"He's still a young horse," said Bob Baffert, who trains Senor Swinger. "He's maturing as he goes along. The older he gets, the better he'll do. He's been training great. He's sitting on a big one."

Senor Swinger, who will be ridden by Jerry Bailey, drew post 13, just inside Fairly Ransom.

"I didn't want to be there, but now that I've got it, what can you do?" Baffert said. "It's up to Bailey now."

Kicken Kris might be the slight favorite. He has finished first or second in seven of his eight grass races, and won the Secretariat Stakes and Lawrence Realization Stakes in recent months.

Silver Tree has not raced since defeating Kicken Kris and Senor Swinger in the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs on June 12. Asked why Silver Tree had been off for five months, his trainer, Bill Mott, said that Silver Tree had some minor problems, but "no catastrophic injuries."

"Hopefully the time off helped him, and he's ready to go," Mott said. "Hopefully he's fit enough."

Alberto Giacometti was winless in four starts this year in Europe before being bought privately by Sid Port and transferred to trainer Laura de Seroux, for whom Alberto Giacometti makes his first start Sunday. He was a Group 1 winner in France last year at age 2.