02/07/2007 12:00AM

Hyte Regency in deep

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NEW ORLEANS - Hyte Regency was on the Triple Crown trail last year when he finished third behind Lawyer Ron as one of the favorites in the Risen Star Stakes, the final prep for the Louisiana Derby. On the eve of this year's Risen Star, Hyte Regency is on the comeback trail after being sidelined by injury for a year, running in Friday's feature race at Fair Grounds, a second-level optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.

Jeff Trosclair has trained Hyte Regency throughout his career and was in no hurry to rush the gray son of Diligence back to the races. After a series of four- and five-furlong works, Trosclair entered Hyte Regency in a 7 1/2-furlong grass race at Fair Grounds last month. Though the winner, Idle Rumor, benefited from a slow 26.28-second first quarter, Hyte Regency finished well as the favorite, losing by only a head.

"I thought he showed a good turn of foot closing into that slow pace," said Trosclair. "After a year off I thought it was very encouraging. He didn't quite get it done that day, but he ran very well."

Hyte Regency should improve off that race, but he is in deep against five quality rivals on Friday.

"He's going to have to step it up against this bunch," said Trosclair. "There's nobody you can really throw out in there."

Three horses in the race are coming in off powerful victories over the track. Dixie Swinger, trained by Michael Stidham, wired an entry-level allowance field in an off-the-turf route Jan. 20, rolling through the 1o1/16 miles with ease, earning a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. Old Colony, trained by Albert Stall, pressed the pace and won going away against $25,000 conditioned claimers at the same distance Jan. 15.

After spending the year on the West Coast with trainer Robert Frankel, Piety was dull in his first start over the Fair Grounds strip in December. Piety turned things around dramatically on Jan. 13, destroying an entry-level allowance field and posting the best last-race Beyer Figure (97) of these in the process. Apprentice jockey Joe Talamo, the meet's leading rider, will ride Piety, making him even tougher to beat on Friday.

They are all going to have to deal with Music School, who appears to be sitting on a big race for trainer Neil Howard. An A.P. Indy colt, Music School returned off a long layoff to finish fourth in a sprint tune-up in December, then ran second in another sprint on Jan. 6.

Hongkong is the only horse in the field being offered for the $35,000 tag, but he is returning at the level at which he was claimed, by the astute trainer Cody Autrey, and therefore cannot be dismissed.