03/12/2003 1:00AM

Sunland Park: Lucero going strong

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SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Lorence Lucero, a 43-year-old former assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, has won with 11 of 28 starts at the current meet, good for eighth in the standings. He has done particularly well with Red Threat, a horse once trained by his former boss.

Lucero was with Asmussen at Lone Star Park during the summer of 2001 when Red Threat was a promising 3-year-old. Red Threat suffered a broken sesamoid that summer and was sent to the Lobo Farm of his owners, Leslie and Pierre Amestoy Jr., near Paris, Ky. By the fall, Lucero was at Keeneland with Asmussen when the Amestoys, whom Lucero had known while growing up in New Mexico, approached him about relocating to New Mexico and becoming their trainer on this circuit. An agreement was reached, and by spring of 2002 Lucero was on the job.

At the same time, Red Threat, a Red Ransom gelding, was starting to come around in Kentucky. Farm manager Dave Pervis called the Amestoys late last summer and said Red Threat was spending the whole day running around his paddock and seemed like a racehorse again.

"Pierre called me and asked what I thought about putting him in training." Lucero said. "All I could say was, 'What do we have to lose?' "

Last fall, Red Threat made the trip from Kentucky to the desert Southwest to resume his career.

"I brought him along slow and didn't run him until I was sure he was ready," Lucero said.

And ready he was. On Feb. 11, he won his comeback race against nonwinners-of-two-lifetime $6,250 claimers with Lucero's wife, C. J. McMahon, in the irons.

Last Sunday, he made it two wins in a row, this time for a $7,500 claiming tag in nonwinners-of-three company.

What does the future hold for Red Threat?

"Well, with him you can't make any long-range plans," Lucero said. "All I can do is baby him along, space his races, and run him where he belongs. He is sort of a pet around the barn and we won't push him for more than he can do."