05/01/2003 11:00PM

Derby runner profile: Eye of the Tiger

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STRENGTHS: Ran well despite encountering trouble several times in his first distance try in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, and figures to only improve from there. Often horses who run evenly in that first route try haven't set forth their best effort, but they do in subsequent tries. There doesn't seem to be an overabundance of speed in this year's Derby, and Eye of the Tiger can certainly be on or near the lead, giving him a bit of a tactical edge on many of his rivals.

His trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, masterfully prepared Event of the Year several years back for a Derby run, but the horse seriously injured himself prior to getting his shot at the roses.

WEAKNESSES: He has only had one two-turn try and it was a 1 1/16-mile race, not the 1 1/8 miles that most contenders have under their belt. His pedigree screams out sprint, and it's hard to imagine anyone in the Phone Trick family beating anyone of quality at 10 furlongs, much less the best of his generation in a Grade 1 stakes. He also is short on experience, having run only five times. Eye of the Tiger didn't make his seasonal debut until the end of February, so the Derby will be his fourth race in roughly nine weeks.

STRATEGY: With the lack of pace in here, he should be positioned close to the lead and force horses to pass him running wide. Most runnings of the Derby have seen the winner on the lead by the eighth pole, so maybe that 10th furlong won't matter if Eye of the Tiger does move forward in his second route try and can secure a good spot turning for home.

VALUE: The Lexington came up with a poor figure and Eye of the Tiger was a well-beaten second, so he won't be anywhere near one of the top wagering choices. Obviously, demand value on a horse who has yet to win a stakes race and is trying two turns for only the second time. He won't be anything less than 25-1, and in a year where few have done much to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, that represents great value on a horse with such a promising upside.

PEDIGREE PROFILE

SIRE LINE: American Chance won the Jersey Derby at 3, but was ultimately a better sprinter-miler. He won the Forego Handicap and finished second in the Vosburgh, Commonwealth Breeders' Cup, and Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship stakes. American Chance is by Cure the Blues (Stop the Music), a speed influence on dirt whose runners were able to stretch out on turf. This Hail to Reason sire line has been very successful in the Triple Crown.

FEMALE FAMILY: Dial a Trick was unraced but second dam Ice Fantasy won the Debutante Stakes and finished third in the Priscilla Stakes. Ice Fantasy also produced multiple stakes winner Fighting Fantasy and stakes-placed Snow Forest, the dam of stakes-winning sprinter Snow Ridge.

PEDIGREE PATTERN: With a pedigree full of brilliant influences (American Chance, Phone Trick, It's Freezing) with little stamina, Eye of the Tiger is better suited to distances up to 1 1/16 miles.

- Pedigree profile by Lauren Stich