10/13/2005 12:00AM

Perfect Moon enters Southwest picture

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New Mexico's handicap division just got deeper. Perfect Moon has been imported to the state from Southern California after being claimed out of his last start, and on Saturday he will take on Mr. Trieste, who has won his last five races, in the $60,000 Kachina Handicap at Zia Park in Hobbs.

The one-mile race drew a field of 10.

Perfect Moon last raced at Del Mar on Sept. 2, finishing fourth in a six-furlong race that went in a quick 1:09.40. He was claimed for $50,000 out of the race by Henderson Stables and is now in training at Zia with Chris Hartman.

"We thought he'd fit in the stakes program out here," said Hartman. "He's only 4 and made $500,000, so he should fit in well."

In the coming months, races like the $75,000 Veterans at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 12, and the $100,000 Zia Park Distance Championship at 1 1/8 miles on Dec. 4, should suit Perfect Moon, said Hartman.

Perfect Moon won the Grade 2 Best Pal and Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship at 2. His most recent win came at Saturday's one-mile distance, over Borrego in the $80,000 El Cajon at Del Mar in September 2004.

Perfect Moon will be making his third start back from a layoff in the Kachina. He has speed, and figures to race on or close to the lead from post 2. Perfect Moon, who is weighted at 118, will be ridden by Anthony Lovato.

Hartman said Perfect Moon has settled in well at Zia, and that his biggest question mark for Saturday is how the horse will handle a wet track if the thunderstorms forecast materialize. Perfect Moon has never raced on a wet track, and it was rainy in Hobbs on Thursday.

Mr. Trieste, who is highweighted at 125, has won on wet tracks twice during his current streak, which began in the Albuquerque Derby in September 2004. He can get a stalking trip behind Perfect Moon on Saturday. Trainer Gary Cross has given the mount to Ken Tohill.