01/13/2004 1:00AM

'Tiger' preps on turf for Strub


ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer admits the move is a bit unorthodox, but on Thursday he is prepping graded stakes winner Eye of the Tiger on the turf for a dirt stakes.

Eye of the Tiger makes his turf debut in an $80,000 optional claimer at Golden Gate Fields. Eye of the Tiger drew the outside post 8 in the one-mile race.

Hollendorfer expects Eye of the Tiger to run well in this race, his prep for the Grade 2 Strub Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile dirt race on Feb. 7 at Santa Anita.

"We want to run in the Strub Stakes," Hollendorfer said. "We wanted to get a prep, but we didn't want to come back quite so quick in the San Fernando last Saturday. This gives us five extra days. It's perfect, 23 days until the Strub."

Eye of the Tiger won his debut here as a 2-year-old and opened his 3-year-old campaign last year with another victory here.

He ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby and returned to California to win the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park last spring. Eye of the Tiger was an even fourth in the Grade 1 Malibu on opening day at Santa Anita, Dec. 26, off a four-month layoff.

"We'll use this as a prep and a chance to discover if he can run on the turf," said Hollendorfer, who trains Eye of the Tiger for owner-breeder John Gunther. "It's unorthodox, but Mr. Gunther is allowing me to do it.

"Another consideration is the race is a mile. We went seven-eighths last time and now a mile before 1 1/8 miles in the Strub. I didn't want to jump him from seven to 1 1/16 miles in the San Fernando on two weeks' rest."

Eye of the Tiger will also be meeting older horses for the first time. All his rivals except longshot Condotierri have multiple stakes wins.

Hannibal Lad, stakes placed in his native Britain and the winner of eight races and $244,319 on the grass, could be the one to beat. He won a similar race in his last start, but that came nearly a year ago, on Jan. 16, 2003. He has worked nicely for trainer Darrell Vienna, who has had decent success with horses coming off layoffs.

Also entered is Savage, a graded stakes winner on the turf in his native Brazil, and Aly Bubba, who has two wins and a second over Golden Gate's turf course.

There will be little pace in the race, which should allow Eye of the Tiger and jockey Ron Warren Jr. to sit wherever they want early.