11/06/2008 1:00AM

High hopes for Star of Navarone


New Mexico has a serious new player in the handicap ranks in Song of Navarone, the winner of last year's $600,000 WinStar Derby who will lead a field of seven older horses on Saturday in the $55,000 Veterans at Zia Park.

The 1 1/16-mile race will be Star of Navarone's second start since his WinStar score in March 2007. His 3-year-old season was cut short by a stomach virus, which led to his scratch from the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby. It appears the illness is now behind him, as Star of Navarone proved much the best when he won his comeback in a one-mile optional claiming race at Zia on Oct. 6.

"He's rebounded well, and we're expecting a good fall and winter campaign from him," said trainer Henry Dominguez.

Dominguez said with the right kind of performance in the Veterans, he would like to see Star of Navarone advance to the $200,000 Zia Park Championship at 1 1/8 miles on Dec. 7.

"That's what we got him pointed for, hopefully," he said.

But Dominguez said the first order of business is the Veterans, where Song of Navarone will break from post 3 under A.J. Martinez. The horse could get a nice trip off of front-runners and leading contenders Mr. Pursuit and One Lucky Buck.

"His running style is to just stalk off the leaders," said Dominguez. "That's what he likes to do best."

One Lucky Buck and Mr. Pursuit, who are stakes winners, finished first and second last out in a $35,000 optional claimer at Zia on Oct. 20.