04/29/2003 12:00AM

Lone Star Sky, Eye of the Tiger are in


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The defection of Kafwain, a bruised foot suffered by Kentucky Derby favorite Empire Maker, and a solid workout turned in by their own horse Tuesday morning prompted the connections of Lone Star Sky to announce they would run their horse in Saturday's Derby.

Trainer Tom Amoss also announced that Shane Sellers would ride Lone Star Sky. Sellers is 0 for 11 in the Derby.

"All along we said we would look at the complexion of the race, and this morning it looked like it was status quo," said Amoss, who trains Lone Star Sky for Walter "Buddy" New. "But an hour and a half later there were two major developments. Certainly, we saw Kafwain defect from the race and Empire Maker not have one of his best days today. Buddy was aware of both those things and we decided to throw our name in there."

Earlier in the morning, Lone Star Sky worked five furlongs in 1:00.58 with jockey Calvin Borel up. Daily Racing Form clocked Lone Star Sky in fractions of 12.43 seconds, 25.07, 37.28, 48.78, and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.

"I would say his work was excellent," said Amoss, who has been very pleased with how well Lone Star Sky has trained since his fourth-place finish in the Illinois Derby. "The question is, is his best race competitive with the Derby field? We felt in the last race he was going to step up. That did not occur."

Amoss believes Lone Star Sky did not handle the Hawthorne track in Illinois. He is 1 for 1 at Churchill, setting a stakes record of 1:09.68 winning the six-furlong Bashford Manor Stakes last summer.

Tagg pleased with Funny Cide

Funny Cide, the Wood Memorial runner-up, completed his preparations for the Derby on Tuesday by working five furlongs in 58.43 seconds over a fast Belmont Park main track. Robin Smullen, assistant trainer for Barclay Tagg was up for the move, the fastest of 24 at the distance.

"Everything's gone perfectly," Tagg said. "I can't complain about anything since the Wood. "The Wood was a good race, he came out of the Wood great, he's had a couple of splendid works since. . . . I'm very, very pleased."

Funny Cide was scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs Wednesday afternoon on a 1 p.m. flight. Tagg, who has never started a horse in the Derby, believes he did the right thing having Funny Cide do all his training in New York.

"I didn't see any sense sending him there with a thousand horses on the track all day," Tagg said. "His training up here was a lot easier on us logistically. I don't have a big stable like [Todd] Pletcher and [Bob] Baffert. I got to bring one of my other assistants up here because Robin has to be out there with the horse."

Hollendorfer: Eye of the Tiger is in

After "sleeping on it," Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer of Eye of the Tiger, awoke Tuesday morning with the Derby on his mind.

"We're running," Hollendorfer said Tuesday from northern California after conferring with owner John Gunther. "I liked the way he worked [Monday at Churchill], and I particularly liked the way he finished under no urging and how he galloped out. I've worked a lot of horses over that track, and usually when they've worked good, they've run good. We think is a good opportunity for us, so we're going to take it."

In his latest start, Eye of the Tiger finished second behind Scrimshaw in the Lexington Stakes, a race that was his first beyond 6 1/2 furlongs.

Thompson finally lands a Derby mount

Sir Cherokee, the Arkansas Derby winner who figures as one of the middle wagering choices in the Derby, zipped through his final pre-Derby workout Tuesday morning by going five furlongs in 1:00.60. Terry Thompson, his Derby rider, was up.

"We've done our job," said trainer Mike Tomlinson. "Now it's up to Terry and the horse."

For Thompson, just having a mount in the Derby symbolizes a triumphant return to a place where he formerly struggled to get decent mounts. Thompson, a 31-year-old native of Omaha, began his career in 1993 at Turfway Park. He continued riding, primarily in Kentucky until about 2000, when he began riding elsewhere, such as at Prairie Meadows, Hoosier Park, and Oaklawn Park. He has developed into a top jockey at all three of those tracks. He is a three-time leading rider at Prairie Meadows and twice has led the standings at Hoosier. He finished second in the standings at the recently concluded Oaklawn meet.

Although he enjoyed moderate success in Kentucky, he often was left searching for scraps behind bigger-name riders such as Pat Day, Shane Sellers, and Robby Albarado.

"I'm just enjoying being back here and being part of this," said Thompson. "I've been doing this 10 years, and some riders don't get to ride in the Derby nearly as fast as that. So I'm thrilled."

Sir Cherokee is owned by Domino Stud, whose owners, Ken and Elaine Jones, live in Guam. Tomlinson, whose 48th birthday is Tuesday, moved his stable from Oklahoma to Kentucky several years ago.

Don't look for Offlee Wild on the fence

Offlee Wild had a large contingent of fans cheering him on in his final Derby prep on Tuesday.

"I think all 14 owners were on hand along with their kin and all their friends," trainer T.V. Smith. "I might have to start charging admission."

Offlee Wild worked five furlongs in 59.16 under Albarado, but once again showed his disdain for the rail, drifting off the fence shortly after breaking away from the five-furlong pole and then getting out even farther entering the stretch. But Smith did not seemed concerned.

"You'll never see this horse on the rail in the morning," said Smith. "For whatever reason he likes to stay off it. He doesn't do it in a race, and if that's the worst thing we have to deal with, then we're in pretty good shape. He worked well within himself and didn't blow out a match when he returned to the barn. Robby said he was happy with him and if he's happy I'm happy. "

Supah Blitz: Tortora's Derby starter No. 3

Supah Blitz, who worked a half-mile in 47.12 on Tuesday, will be the third Derby starter for his trainer, Manny Tortora. The Florida-based Tortora sent out Sir Pinder to a 15th-place finish in 1992 and Supah Blitz's sire, Mecke, to a troubled fifth-place finish behind Thunder Gulch in 1995.

"I was a little nervous before the first one," said Tortora. "I was also pretty nervous when Mecke was making his run and then got stopped the last time I was here. I still believe he would have won the race if he didn't get into trouble."

Tortora compares Supah Blitz to his daddy. "He's just like Mecke," he said, "laid back and so relaxed. When we put him back in his stall after he cools out he'll just go and lie down. Nothing seems to bother him."

Outta Here: A frequent flyer

The itinerary that has led Outta Here to Saturday's Kentucky Derby is the most unconventional in recent history, and a reflection of modern opportunities available to owners and trainers.

Since mid-December, Outta Here has traveled from trainer Bill Currin's base at Hollywood Park in California to Delta Downs in Louisiana, where he won the $500,000 Delta Jackpot, back to Hollywood Park, then to Dubai for the $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby, then back to Hollywood, and finally to Churchill Downs last Sunday.

Earlier this year, Currin announced he would try the Dubai race and then wait for the Belmont Stakes on June 7. After Outta Here finished fourth in the UAE Derby, Currin reevaluated his position.

"My intention was to get all the money in Dubai and then wait and go for the third leg," Currin said. "In Dubai, he was slammed not once, but twice, hard enough to get the breath knocked out of him. He ran into a wall of horses and the race was over."

In the past few years, the Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing has run horses in the UAE Derby and Kentucky Derby but had no success in Kentucky. And the last horse to run in the Kentucky Derby who started at Delta Downs was Music Leader who finished 15th in 1982.

"He travels well and is the most adaptable horse I've ever had," said Currin, who trains 20 horses at Hollywood Park. "Nothing distresses the horse."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen, Marty McGee and Mike Welsch