02/05/2004 12:00AM

Castellano has live one


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Javier Castellano probably won't repeat as leading rider at Aqueduct's inner-track meet, but the 26-year-old Venezuelan native is enjoying a successful winter nonetheless.

Castellano has himself a promising 3-year-old in Eurosilver, who made a triumphant return to the races Wednesday at Gulfstream Park. And he also has himself a big fan in Nick Zito, the trainer of Eurosilver and several other promising 3-year-olds.

Castellano arrived back in New York on Thursday morning from Florida, where he rode Eurosilver to a five-length victory in a second-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Eurosilver, whom Castellano rode to victory in last October's Grade 2 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, is now 3 for 4 with three consecutive victories. After racing three wide as part of the early pace Wednesday, Eurosilver took charge inside the eighth pole and won going away. He covered seven furlongs in a decent 1:24.45 and earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure.

Castellano said he was pleased with the effort considering Eurosilver had not run in 123 days.

"He looked big and strong and he broke sharp out of the gate and settled down nicely," Castellano said. "I thought he got a little tired past the wire because he hadn't run in a while, but he came back like a fresh horse."

While many people have Eurosilver, a son of Unbridled's Song, high on their list of Kentucky Derby contenders, Castellano has not contracted a case of Derby fever just yet.

"Right now it's really hard to say that [he's a Derby horse] because there are so many good horses out there," said Castellano, who has never ridden in the Derby. "But he showed me he's got a lot of ability last year when he ran at Keeneland, and he could compete with the good horses."

Zito, who also trains promising 3-year-olds Birdstone, El Prado Rob, and The Cliff's Edge, is a big fan of Castellano. While Zito has has received calls from jockey agents all over the country wanting to ride Eurosilver, Zito said Castellano will continue to ride the colt, whose next start will most likely be in the Swale Stakes on March 13.

"He's a quality rider, and a quality person, which I think means a lot in this day in sports," Zito said. "I think he's got his priorities straight and he reminds me of a kid that's very appreciative of things that are given to him.

"I always thought he's had a lot of ability, and I think he's a first-tier rider," Zito added. "Right now he's considered a second-tier rider, but horses like Eurosilver and clients and owners like Buckram Oak will make him a first-tier rider."

Castellano is already booked to ride three horses for Zito next Saturday at Gulfstream Park, though he won't ride El Prado Rob in the Fountain of Youth. Edgar Prado keeps that mount.

Castellano will remain the regular rider of Quest, a Zito-trained older horse who won the Clark Handicap last fall at Churchill Downs. Zito had entered him for an allowance race this week at Gulfstream, but that race didn't fill.

Though Castellano rode two winners from three mounts Thursday at Aqueduct, his 28 wins put him only fifth in the inner-track standings. Last year, Castellano won an inner-track-best 76 races. Castellano said he's not worried about his position in the standings and said next winter he hopes to ride at Gulfstream where most of New York's elite riders winter.

"I think I'm ready for the next level," Castellano said.

Fortunately for Castellano, Zito thinks so too.

Pedersen colt sharp in debut

While Risky Trick pinch-hits for Redskin Warrior in Saturday's Whirlaway Stakes, trainer Jennifer Pedersen's best 3-year-old prospect may have run here on Wednesday. Song of the Sword, a son of Unbridled's Song, made a smart-looking debut, winning a six-furlong race by 3 3/4 lengths. He ran six furlongs in a respectable 1:11.67 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 71.

"He's a nice colt who's still learning. He hasn't figured it out yet," Pedersen said of Song of the Sword, who was purchased for $220,000 as a 2-year-old.

Pedersen said Song of the Sword didn't run at 2 because he "was just very immature. He's going to get better."

Meanwhile, Pedersen will run Risky Trick in the Whirlaway. Risky Trick is a substitute for Redskin Warrior, who missed a work after spiking a fever. Risky Trick finished second in both the Count Fleet Stakes at a mile and 70 yards, and the Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes at six furlongs.

"We still think he wants to go long," Pedersen said. "Cutting him back to three-quarters, I think we dulled him. But I loved his finish and his gallop-out in the Capossela.''

Dutrow eyes Distaff for two fillies

She's Zealous and Fit Performer, who finished one-two in last weekend's Correction Handicap, will be pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap on March 27, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. The Distaff is run at seven furlongs over Aqueduct's main track.

Dutrow said he would not point either filly to the Grade 2, $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park on Feb. 14 because both need more time between races.

"There's always a money allowance race in between if we need it, but as long as both owners let me, I'm going to point both to the Distaff and see how things go," Dutrow said.

* Boston Park, last year's Whirlaway winner, worked five furlongs in 1:02.99 Thursday at Belmont Park. After finishing fifth in the Aqueduct Handicap, Boston Park will likely make his next start in an allowance race next week.

* Horsemen should be aware of an error in the new condition book. Entries for Thursday, Feb. 19, will be taken on Monday, Feb. 16, not Tuesday, Feb. 17.