12/01/2005 1:00AM

Lumbre looks intriguing


Lumbre has a number of things going for him heading into Saturday's $100,000 Zia Park Derby, a race in which he will take on stakes winners Real Dandy and Military Major, as well as the Southern California-based Stormin Away.

The 1 1/16-mile race is part of a stakes-filled weekend at Zia, the Hobbs, N.M., track that will close out its inaugural meet Sunday.

Lumbre is one of eight 3-year-olds in the field. A private purchase by owner Robert Bone following his third-place finish in the $40,000, six-furlong Taliaferro at Remington on Sept. 10, he made his two-turn debut last out and finished a sharp fourth in the $150,000 Oklahoma Derby at 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 21.

"He went to the lead and set very realistic fractions and held on very gamely at the end," said Bret Calhoun, who trains Lumbre. "I thought for the short time we had to prepare him for that, it was a very impressive race. He showed me a lot of ability and heart."

Lumbre's appeal extends beyond his two-turn debut in the Oklahoma Derby. He has hot connections, with Bone ranking as the fourth winningest owner in North America; Calhoun the nation's eighth leading trainer by wins; and jockey Quincy Hamilton the ninth winningest rider in North America.

Lumbre has excelled in his training since his last start, and in his final prep for Saturday worked five furlongs in 1:03.20, the fifth fastest time of 28 works at the distance at Sam Houston on Nov. 26.

"He seems like he has learned to relax better," said Calhoun. "He seems to have turned into a push-button type of horse, where I think he can go on or off the pace without any problem. So, I think he's a little more versatile now.

"In his work the other day, he was just absolutely push-button. He sat and waited for the jock to ask him. And when he asked him for a little bit, he exploded, and galloped out big. It's exactly what we wanted coming into the race."

Lumbre's versatility could yield him a nice stalking trip behind Stormin Away, who wired optional claimers over seven furlongs at Santa Anita in his last start Nov. 2. The race was his first since March, and he ran the opening half-mile in 44 seconds before finishing up in a sharp 1:21.80. Trainer Jeff Mullins has given the mount to Paul Atkinson.

Military Major and Real Dandy finished one-two last out in the Oklahoma Derby.