03/16/2005 12:00AM

Sun King a go, Sis City iffy

Sun King will make his second start of the year in the Tampa Bay Derby, which trainer Nick Zito hopes will be a springboard to the Blue Grass.

Sun King will be the leading man on Saturday's Festival Day program at Tampa Bay Downs. The question remains whether the leading lady, Sis City, will be there, too.

Sun King will be the odds-on favorite, perhaps as short as 1-10, in a short field expected for the $250,000, Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. Sis City will also be odds-on if she runs in the $150,000 Tampa Oaks. The $100,000 Hillsborough Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf and the $75,000 Holiday Inn Turf Dash round out the Festival Day stakes lineup.

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. has been pointing Sis City for the Oaks since her 16-length victory in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 5. But Dutrow said Wednesday he is now uncertain whether Sis City will run in the Oaks or be held out to await the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 9.

Dutrow said he also plans to enter Sis City and stablemate K. D.'s Shady Lady in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks. Others eyeing the race are Even Again, Atlas Valley, Gotta Rush, Leona's Knight, and Little Lucifer.

"I'm also going to enter K. D.'s Shady Lady in the turf stakes [the Herecomesthebride] at Gulfstream on Saturday," said Dutrow. "I've still got plenty of time to make a decision where to run. Both fillies are at Palm Meadows, so it's just a matter of putting them on the van the morning of the race and getting them there."

K. D.'s Shady Lady has run well on both dirt and turf and was stakes placed at 2, when she finished second in the Grade 3 Tempted. K. D.'s Shady Lady also finished second in a first-level allowance race at Aqueduct on Feb. 3, in her only start this season.

If Sis City goes to the Oaks, she will be without regular jockey John Velazquez, who will be at Oaklawn on Saturday to ride Afleet Alex in the Rebel Stakes.

Dutrow said he was trying to get Edgar Prado to substitute for Velazquez, but Prado is already committed to trainer John Ward Jr. and Even Again.

With or without Sis City, Sun King remains the feature attraction on the Festival Day program. One of the top Kentucky Derby prospects in the country, Sun King comes to Tampa off a 5 3/4-length allowance victory at Gulfstream on Feb. 26, his first start as a 3-year-old. Trainer Nick Zito said he is hoping to use the Tampa Bay Derby as a springboard for Sun King to the Grade 1 Blue Grass on April 16.

Prado, Sun King's regular rider, will be aboard.

The presence of Sun King will limit the starting lineup for the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby to no more than seven starters. Among those expected to run are Coyoteshighestcall, Criminal Mind, Holy Rocket, Nicandro, and Summer Legacy.

The Hillsborough will also feature a heavy favorite in Snowdrops, whom trainer Christophe Clement said he plans to ship from his main base at Payson Park. Snowdrops is coming off a game victory over Angela's Love in the Grade 3 Suwannee River Handicap at Gulfstream on Feb. 12.