04/25/2006 11:00PM

Peruvian champ all cranked up for Texas Mile


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Because he was foaled in the Southern Hemisphere, Dominguin was eligible to run in last month's UAE Derby in Dubai. Considered a 4-year-old here, he will make his North American debut Saturday against older horses in the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park.

He is one of 11 horses expected for the Texas Mile, which will share a program with the $75,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge and the $50,000 JEH Stallion Station Stakes.

Dominguin was a champion in his native Peru, and won all five of his starts there in 2005. He came to North America in September, and prior to his trip to Dubai in March, he trained in South Carolina and Florida. Dominguin finished fifth in the 1 1/8-mile UAE Derby, about 10 lengths behind winner Discreet Cat. It was his first start since June 2005, and given his birth date in late 2002, he had to carry 130 pounds, nine more than the Kentucky-bred Discreet Cat, who was foaled in 2003.

"They carry a little more weight than the Northern Hemisphere horses," said Dante Zanelli Jr., who trains Dominguin. "He ran a great race. He broke really well and he contested the lead all throughout. Heading for home, he had a head in front before Discreet Cat came by him, and then he was second past the mile marker and he got a little tired.

"Considering it was his first time at the distance, and having to carry the extra weight, and the 10-month layoff, it was an excellent race."

Dominguin won the first five races of his career by a sum of more than 50 lengths. He was trained in Peru by Zanelli's uncle Juan V. Suarez.

"He was very dominant," Zanelli said. "He took care of his races very easily. He was very well regarded. My uncle has trained horses for many years - been the leading trainer down in Peru for 23 straight years - and he felt that this horse was very special, probably the most special horse he had trained."

Zanelli said he planned to give Dominguin time off after the trip to Dubai, but the horse has been "tearing the barn down," and after a strong work his connections looked at his options and liked the distance of the Texas Mile. Dominguin won from five furlongs to 7 1/2 furlongs in Peru.

Others probable for the Texas Mile are Charming Socialite, Halos Sailing Sain, High Strike Zone, Mr. Trieste, Nakayama Kun, Play the Chime, Preachinatthebar, Stockholder, Texcess, and Yes He's a Pistol.

Jon Court, who has won multiple stakes at Lone Star, will be in to ride Preachinatthebar for trainer Bob Baffert.

Big year for Laborde, High Strike Zone

High Strike Zone's win in last year's Texas Mile gave veteran trainer Amos Laborde his first graded win, and lifted his spirits during a health crisis. About a month after the race, Laborde was found to have cancer, and underwent surgery.

Fast-forward to this year's Texas Mile, and High Strike Zone comes in in top form, as does Laborde. He said he is cancer-free.

"I've had three check-ups since [surgery], and everything's come out good," he said.

On March 1, High Strike Zone set a track record for six furlongs at Evangeline Downs, winning an allowance in 1:08.80. The runner-up, Watchem Smokey, returned one start later and won the $75,000 Gulf Coast Classic at Evangeline.

High Strike Zone earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for the allowance win, and will be stretching out to two turns following a third-place finish in another sprint allowance at Evangeline in his last start March 15.

Laborde likes how High Strike Zone is coming up to this year's Texas Mile.

"To my knowledge, he's just as good as he was that day," he said. "He's been doing real good. We had given him a little break, we turned him out for 40, 50 days, and he's come back and run well."

Laborde said High Strike Zone was scheduled to van from Opelousas, La., to Lone Star on Wednesday. He will be ridden by Ricky Faul.

* Kanata Ridge and Gondolieri, who finished a nose apart in a race at Sam Houston Race Park on April 9, get a rematch Friday in the featured ninth race, a 7 1/2-furlong optional claimer on turf. Others of interest in the field include Trial by Jury, who in his last start was third in a $40,000 turf race at Santa Anita.

* The Texas Mile will pay back to 10th place, the sixth through 10th finishers each earning $5,000.