04/02/2002 12:00AM

Hollendorfer's dream horse?

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ALBANY, Calif. - Jerry Hollendorfer is no different than any other trainer. He has Derby dreams.

U S S Tinosa, who runs in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby, could be the colt to turn those dreams into reality for Hollendorfer at last. Although he has had unrivaled success in northern California, Hollendorfer has never had a runner in the Kentucky Derby.

Fate has not been kind to him leading up to the first Saturday in May. In 1998, he was training the potential Derby favorite, Event of the Year, only to see the colt break a knee eight days before the race. In 2000, Globalize was kicked by a pony the day before the race and was scratched.

Hollendorfer first saw U S S Tinosa last fall when he was running a string of horses at Arlington Park in Chicago. Bloodstock agent James Ough, a long-time Hollendorfer admirer, convinced James Tilton, who at the time owned U S S Tinosa, to send the colt to Hollendorfer to run in the Manila Stakes on the turf on Oct. 20. He ran second after making an early move and taking the lead in the lane.

"They sent him to Chicago to run in a turf race at Arlington with the thought if I liked him, he could stay with me," Hollendorfer said. "I did like the horse."

So did Peter Abruzzo, who happened to be in Chicago that day and liked what he saw in the race. Abruzzo bought in on the horse after the race. Barry Thiriot, who lives in Oregon and was in the midst of a six-week hunt in Utah when U S S Tinosa ran second in the Manila, purchased a share in early December upon his return home.

"I liked the style he had," said Thiriot, who watched tapes of races supplied by Ough. Thiriot said he also liked that U S S Tinosa had won stakes races in Ohio despite running wide.

U S S Tinosa never beat maidens. He earned his first victory in the Thistledown Juvenile in his fourth start on Sept. 8 and followed that with a victory in the Best of Ohio Juvenile at Beulah Park. Both races were for Ohio-breds.

In California with Hollendorfer, U S S Tinosa won the 1 1/8-mile Sham Stakes as Santa Anita by 4 1/2 lengths, impressing Hollendorfer with his ability to get the distance. In three other starts under Hollendorfer, all stakes, U S S Tinosa had two seconds and a third.

Hollendorfer says he doesn't consider himself unlucky when it comes to the Derby.

"I'm a student of the game," Hollendorfer said. "Everything I do, I try to learn from. I try not to make the same mistake twice.

"I don't think about good luck and bad luck. I wouldn't dwell on any experience either way."

Although Hollendorfer's Kentucky Derby luck has been bad, he has saddled two Kentucky Oaks winners, Lite Light (1991) and Pike Place Dancer (1996).

Both Event of the Year and Globalize won important prep races at Turfway. Event of the Year won what was then the Jim Beam Stakes; Globalize won it after it had been renamed the Spiral Stakes.

Hollendorfer has opted to stay in California with U S S Tinosa, who will run in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby.

"The Santa Anita Derby is very prestigious," he said. "I'd be thrilled to win. It would be a special feeling, but you could say that about other races in Kentucky and New York, too."

Hollendorfer wants U S S Tinosa to win Saturday, but he also wants to see him take a step forward and finish well.

"Rather than think you have to win every race, you want to improve," he said. "Some horses who have finished second [in the Santa Anita Derby] have gone on to win [the Kentucky Derby]. You like to win when it really counts."