11/09/2006 1:00AM

Mr. Trieste nears end of his race career

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Mr. Trieste will start for new owners on Saturday when he defends his title in the $60,000 Veterans at Zia Park. R.D. Hubbard and Jim Helzer purchased Mr. Trieste for an undisclosed sum following his most recent start, and have made plans to stand him at their JEH Stallion Station in Hondo, N.M.

"We're going to run him through the remainder of the year, and then he's going to go to the breeding shed," said Helzer.

Mr. Trieste, a 5-year-old by Old Trieste who has earned $544,060, will be looking for his fourth straight win when he starts in the Veterans, a 1 1/16-mile race that drew a field of six. The probable favorite, he has been one of the most outstanding handicap horses to ever race in New Mexico, winning 13 of 14 starts in the state since being claimed in Kentucky and brought here by owner Richard Lueck in September 2004.

"He's got a phenomenal race record in New Mexico," said Helzer, who also has stallion farms in Texas and Oklahoma. "He ought to be attractive there, because everybody knows him real well. We think we'll get a lot of activity on this horse."

Helzer said the stud fee has been set at $3,000. But before then, there is work to be done on the track. Helzer said Mr. Trieste will finish out his racing career in the care of his longtime trainer, Gary Cross. He could race two more times following the Veterans.

"There's the Zia Park Championship on Dec. 10, and then there's another race in early January, so we might go as late as mid-January, but no further than that," said Helzer.

Mr. Trieste returns to two turns on Saturday, and the move should suit him, as 8 of his 9 stakes wins have come in route races. His most recent start was the exception, when he closed for a one-length win in the $68,000 Zia Express over 6 1/2 furlongs Oct. 14. With the win, he pushed his Zia record to a perfect 4 for 4.

Ken Tohill, the leading rider at Zia, has the mount on Mr. Trieste. The chief threats appear to be Absent Friend, a Grade 3 winner who invades from Remington Park, and Go Kitty Go, who gets back to two turns, his best trip, in the Veterans.