09/02/2002 12:00AM

River Downs: Lone Star Sky cruises

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CINCINNATI - Doing what he was supposed to do, Lone Star Sky won the $200,000 Cradle Stakes as a heavy favorite.

Lone Star Sky, owned by Walter "Buddy" New and trained by Tom Amoss, was always prominent in the 27th running of the 1 1/16-mile Cradle, the biggest race of the River Downs meet. Christmas Away, far back early, closed steadily to finish second, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner and another 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Payforaday, who led the field of nine 2-year-olds most of the way before being headed by Lone Star Sky turning for home.

Lone Star Sky returned $2.60 after finishing in 1:46.80 over a fast track.

"He was comfortable the whole way," said Mark Guidry, who was in from Saratoga to ride Lone Star Sky. "He's a nice colt with a future. I think you'll hear more from him down the road."

Amoss said he would discuss the next race for Lone Star Sky with New before deciding on a final prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 26. Lone Star Sky has won three of four starts. He finished second to Zavata in the Saratoga Special in his previous start.

Before a festive crowd on River's closing-day program, Payforaday and Risky Cat led through the first turn, followed closely by Lone Star Sky and longshot Luke.

Leaving the backstretch, Payforaday and Lone Star Sky had pulled away while Christmas Away was gathering himself under Jesus Castanon.

"It took him a while to get going," said trainer Pat Byrne. "This was just his second start, so we're really pleased with him." Byrne said he also would be looking for a major Breeders' Cup prep for Christmas Away.

Christmas Away, the 6-1 third choice, ended a $13.60 exacta.