05/02/2005 12:00AM

Riding a career high at 71


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Trainer Amos Laborde was easy to track down the morning after he won the biggest race of his career with High Strike Zone in the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park. You just needed to follow the rose petals.

From the front of his barn to his office, Laborde scattered some of the flower petals off High Strike Zone's floral victory blanket, making a path. And on Sunday, he was savoring his first graded win and leaning toward running High Strike Zone back in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 30.

"This is nice," said Laborde, 71. "I've won a lot of other stakes races, but never a graded race."

Laborde, who has 40 horses at Lone Star, is a Louisiana native who began training in the late 1960's after a career in construction. He has won multiple titles at Sam Houston, Retama Park, and the now shuttered Trinity Meadows. High Strike Zone races for longtime client Donald Erickson.

Purchased for $20,000 as a yearling at Keeneland, High Strike Zone had bone chips removed from both of his knees at 2, before he raced. He went on to win two stakes and placed in several others leading up to the toughest test of his career, the Texas Mile.

"He'd been doing good for us, so I figured we had a good chance to win, especially after we ran at a mile and a sixteenth at Delta, then came back and dropped him back to a mile over here," said Laborde. "I knew he'd be a good fit for the race. We'd thought about it since the last weekend at Delta."

High Strike Zone, who is a half-brother to $1.5 million yearling Historic, finished second in the $125,000 Gulf Coast Breeders' Cup Classic on April 2 at Delta, one start before the Texas Mile. Ricky Faul, who is based at Lone Star for the first time, rode the horse in both races. The Texas Mile was also the first graded win for Faul.

"When I saw where Ricky was at the half-mile pole, I knew then we were going to win it," said Laborde. "I just wanted to stay about a length and a half off the lead and told Ricky when you get to the three-eighths pole ask this horse to run and he'll run for you, and everything went perfect. Anything you want this horse to do, he'll do it. He's like a push-button Cadillac."

Toughest test of meet for 2-year-olds

Erickson, Laborde, and Faul will be represented by Western Runaway on Wednesday night in what Laborde believes is the toughest race so far in this meet for 2-year-olds. A 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight, the race has a purse of $26,000.

The field also includes Allthathecanbe, a half-brother to 2-year-old stakes winner I'm Allthat trained by Steve Asmussen; Lord Vicar, who is working sharply for trainer Bubba Cascio; and Premier Dancer, who has also shown excellent speed in the mornings for trainer Bret Calhoun.

Western Runaway shows a nice series of works for his debut. He is a son of Western Fame.

First winner for Chief Three Sox

The stallion Chief Three Sox registered his first winner from his first starter Sunday at Lone Star when Single Sox won the first race. The 4 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-olds had a claiming price of $25,000, and Single Sox overcame a slow start to get the win for trainer Allen Milligan.

Chief Three Sox won his maiden at Lone Star in April 1998, and a year later he captured the track's Crescent Stakes. Overall, he won 8 of 44 starts and $353,620.

* Trainer Doug O'Neill said Supah Blitz, who is based in California, came out of his second-place finish in the Texas Mile in great shape and will remain at Lone Star for the Lone Star Park Handicap on May 30.

* Lone Star registered its 10,000,000th visitor at 12:45 p.m. Central on Saturday, when Dan Schaap, a 50-year-old attorney from Canyon, Texas, passed through the turnstiles. Lone Star's attendance records date back to May 3, 1996, when it opened a simulcast facility. The track began live racing in April 1997.