05/06/2004 11:00PM

Buckram Oak, Zito split


Mahmoud Fustok, owner of Buckram Oak Farm, has severed his business relationship with Nick Zito and is in the process of giving the horses formerly trained by Zito, including the standout 3-year-old Eurosilver, to other trainers.

Zito said Friday that Fustok gave him a letter last week asking that the men remain "best of friends" but saying that "luck has played its role against both of us." While Zito said he trained "only a few" horses for Buckram Oak, that group includes Eurosilver, who was one of the top 2-year-olds of 2003 and was a leading candidate for the Triple Crown series until he was sidelined in early April by a lingering infection.

Mohammed Moubarak, the south Florida-based racing manager for Buckram Oak, declined to comment on any aspect of the change. Moubarak also said Fustok would have no comment.

Buckram Oak has horses with several other trainers in Kentucky and elsewhere, including Carl Nafzger, Pat Byrne, Ken McPeek, Ralph Ziadie, and George Mikhalides. Although there was strong speculation Friday that Nafzger would become the new trainer of Eurosilver once the colt is ready to return from a short rest at Buckram Oak's 475-acre farm in Lexington, Nafzger said that he was unable to confirm it.

Zito was philosophical about the switch. "I certainly intend to abide by Mr. Fustok's wishes," he said. "He said we haven't achieved the desired results and that he wanted to go in a different direction.

"This kind of thing happens all the time in this business. You can cry and scream about it or you can take the high road, and I intend to take the high road."

Besides Eurosilver, Zito also trained the retired multiple stakes-winning sprinter, Najran, for Buckram Oak since becoming one of the stable's main trainers several years ago.