09/03/2003 11:00PM

Outta Here staying here, for now

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DEL MAR, Calif. - If ever a horse had a right to be confused, Outta Here qualifies in spades. His steamer trunk is covered with exotic stickers. His passport is stamped to the gills. When he wakes up and steps outside his stall, the view could be anything from an Los Angeles freeway to an Arabian desert.

Lately, Outta Here has been in residence at Del Mar, where he will try to break through with a major stakes win in the $300,000 Del Mar Derby on Saturday. After that, who knows? Japan? England? Or maybe even the far side of the moon.

Outta Here's record defies convention. He finished fifth as a maiden in the 2002 Del Mar Futurity. He snagged his biggest paycheck winning a slot-machine jackpot deep in Louisiana bayou country. He has run in two derbies, one in the Great Commonwealth of Kentucky and the other in the United Arab Emirate of Dubai. Through it all, he has amassed $559,172 on an original investment of $37,000, which is what he cost as a Keeneland yearling in September of 2001.

Bill Currin is Outta Here's owner, trainer, travel agent, and head cheerleader. He has been hip deep in horses all his life, from the five-gaited show ponies of his youth to blue-blooded Thoroughbreds of all class and description. He's owned farms in northern California and raced in top company abroad. But, nothing in his eventful lifetime had taken him as far and wide as Outta Here.

Currin can afford to play the part of the gentleman trainer because he was smart enough to figure out that land - not movies or aerospace or oil - was the richest resource of the great California boom of the mid-1950's. Not long after coming west from his native North Carolina, at the age of 18, Currin began buying ground with a speculative insight that has paid off in style.

"I came to California like so many did, with the intention of becoming a movie star," Currin said this week at his Del Mar barn. "I ended up a carpenter."

Technically, he never stopped. Now in his mid-60's, Currin has been developing land and housing projects ever since, building homes in places like Blythe, near the Colorado River, and Rancho Mirage, a rich suburb of Palm Springs. His pride and joy remains his Oak Tree Ranch property near Pleasanton, just north of San Francisco, but lately his Outta Here adventures have kept him in planes, vans, and automobiles.

Asked to cite his favorite among the places his colt has raced, Currin was quick to name Delta Downs in Vinton, La., for the 300,000 obvious reasons they rang up by winning the $500,000 Delta Downs Jackpot last Dec. 21.

"The greatest experience by far, though, was the Kentucky Derby," Currin said. "The paparazzi alone were amazing. You'd show up at the barn, and the first thing to happen was someone putting a microphone in your face, expecting something smart to come out first thing in the morning."

In between Outta Here's victory at Delta Downs and his troubled sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, he made a trip to the Middle East for the $2 million UAE Derby. He finished fourth, earning $100,000 for his trouble, along with the distinction as the only Kentucky Derby starter to have run 1 1/4 miles.

Since the Kentucky Derby, Outta Here has been campaigned in a more traditional manner. Sort of. After a fourth in the Affirmed Handicap and a dead-heat for third in the Swaps Stakes, in which he was beaten three-quarters by runner-up Ten Most Wanted, Outta Here headed to Mountaineer Park for the $600,000 West Virginia Derby on Aug. 9. There, he had his first bad road trip when he came up lame as he went postward with Kent Desormeaux and had to be scratched.

"Now, I'm not going to ship a lame horse 3,000 miles, and Kent is not going to take off a good card at Del Mar to ride one," Currin said. The culprit, he discovered, was a bottle cap that had become imbedded in the tender sole of Outta Here's hoof. Once it was removed, the colt was fine.

"Imagine that," Currin said. "All the things that could have happened in all the places he's been, and something like that stops him. He's been such a sound horse - never as much as a shin - and put together so well. Look at his stride. He just floats along."

Currin was perched on a backstretch viewing stand, watching Outta Here gallop past on the grass course under rider Pat Seeley in easy preparation for the Del Mar Derby. In his last race, Outta Here finished a close second to fellow Derby starter Bis Repetitas in a turf allowance race, but it remains to be seen if he can compete with such grass stakes winners as Senor Swinger, Singletary, Sweet Return, and Devious Boy.

"If you can believe it, he gets fanmail," Currin said. "Me, I get regret mail, like the letter I got from the fellow who told me I would regret the decision not to run him in the Belmont Stakes.

"I suppose he could have run," Currin added. "As far as his condition was concerned, there was no reason not to. But sometimes, you just have to say no. And at that point, after all he had done, I just think his trainer got tired."