05/09/2004 11:00PM

Eurosilver arrives in Nafzger's barn


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Eurosilver, who was one of the top-rated 3-year-olds this spring before missing the Triple Crown because of an untimely illness, was moved Sunday into trainer Carl Nafzger's barn at the Highpoint Training Center outside Louisville.

Eurosilver had been trained by Nick Zito until Mahmoud Fustok, owner of Buckram Oak Farm, decided to end his business relationship with Zito. The Buckram Oak horses were turned over to other trainers, most notably Eurosilver to Nafzger.

"The colt looks real good," Nafzger said Monday at Churchill Downs.

Eurosilver, by Unbridled's Song, became a divisional leader last fall when he posted an easy victory in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. After opening his 3-year-old campaign at Gulfstream Park with an allowance win and a narrow defeat in the Swale Stakes, Eurosilver was shipped to Kentucky, where he came down with a mysterious internal infection atop his head in late March. He has been resting in recent weeks at Buckram Oak's 475-acre farm in Lexington, Ky.

Nafzger, who won an Eclipse Award as top trainer in 1990, last year began splitting his stable between Churchill and Highpoint, a private facility about 30 miles east of Louisville. He said he has no definite agenda mapped out for Eurosilver, other than to eventually get him back into top-class races. "We've got to get to know him first," he said.

Lukas breaking out of slump

Somebody must have kicked the sleeping dog.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas likes to tell the story about how he was in a slump early in his career in California, and when someone was trying to make fun of Lukas to the late Charlie Whittingham, the person only got this response from Whittingham: "Don't kick that sleeping dog."

That old tale once again has become relevant, as the Lukas stable suddenly has come alive and broken out of a woeful slump. Lukas won three races Sunday at Churchill to take command atop the trainer standings with eight wins, helping to ease the memories of a winless winter at Santa Anita and an uncharacteristically weak spring meet at Keeneland.

"It's all coming together now," Lukas said.

The resurgence could continue here Wednesday, when racing resumes after the customary two-day break. Lukas will run Scrimshaw in the third of 10 races, a $63,000 allowance at seven furlongs. Scrimshaw, who, with Funny Cide, was one of just two horses to compete in all three Triple Crown races last year, will face five older horses when making his third start since returning from knee surgery.

"He should be fit now," said Lukas.

Meanwhile, Azeri, the latest star in the Lukas barn, worked a half-mile early Monday in 47.20 seconds at Churchill. Lukas said the May 31 Met Mile continues to be a serious consideration for Azeri's next start, although he might wait to run her in the Fleur de Lis or Ogden Phipps handicaps.

Midway Road heads to Pimlico

Midway Road, who figures as one of the major contenders Friday in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special, was among the horses flown Monday morning from Louisville to Baltimore. The morning before departure, Midway Road worked a half-mile in a swift 46.20 seconds.

Midway Road, a distant second behind Funny Cide in the Preakness last year, was an 11 1/4-length winner of his last start, the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland. A victory in the Pimlico Special would be the second in a row for Howard, owner Will Farish, and jockey Robby Albarado. Last year, Mineshaft posted a powerful victory in the Pimlico Special on the way to being named Horse of the Year.

Funny Cide, Dynever, and Southern Image are the other big names for the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special.

J Town targets Ohio Derby

J Town, an impressive winner of an entry-level allowance race here Saturday for trainer Ken McPeek, could make his next start in the June 12 Ohio Derby, a race that McPeek won last year with Wild and Wicked.

"That's one of the options," said McPeek assistant Helen Pitts, adding that the Northern Dancer here on the same day is possible.

J Town, by Jules, led most of the way in the one-mile race under Pat Day, finishing in 1:35.20. Owned by David Schwartz, J Town is named for a Louisville suburb officially known as Jeffersontown.

Close, but no roses

Trainer Elliott Walden and longtime client Tom VanMeter had a good laugh after Mr. Mabee narrowly won the first race here Saturday, a maiden special weight race contested at the rarely used distance of 1 1/4 miles. Mr. Mabee, a 3-year-old Storm Cat colt named for John Mabee, the late California breeder and owner, was making his fourth career start for owner WinStar Farm.

"Tom told me I'd get this colt to win at a mile and a quarter on a Saturday in May," Walden said. "Wrong Saturday, though."

Acorn possible for Victory U. S. A.

Victory U. S. A., fourth in the Kentucky Oaks in her last start, may run next in the June 4 Acorn Stakes at Belmont, "although that's not for sure," her owner, VanMeter, said.

Victory U. S. A., winner of the Beaumont Stakes last month, has remained with trainer Bob Baffert's string at Churchill. VanMeter said the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga in late July is a logical long-range goal for the filly.

Baffert, meanwhile, is no longer the trainer of Class Above, the last-place Oaks finisher whom he trained to win the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies and Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway Park. Owner Satish Sanan recently asked Baffert to send Class Above and two other California-based horses to Padua Stables' main facility in Ocala, Fla.

Yankee Victor's first starter scores

When Miracle Man rallied to win his career debut here Saturday, it wasn't just the first winner for the colt's sire, Yankee Victor.

"That was the sire's first starter," noted trainer John Hennig, who saddled Miracle Man for the 1 3/4-length victory.

Yankee Victor, who was trained by Carlos Morales, now is in his fourth season at Airdrie Stud. His first crop are 2-year-olds.

Borel and mount unhurt in spill

Veteran jockey Calvin Borel escaped injury Sunday when his mount in the sixth race, Ten Sharp, fell in deep stretch after appearing to clip heels behind Tito's Beau. Ten Sharp, trained by Mike Tammaro, also was not seriously hurt.

A stewards' inquiry into the race uncovered no reason for disqualification.

Two new stakes to debut

The stakes races scheduled at Churchill the next two Saturdays will be unfamiliar to horsemen and fans, and for good reason: They are the inaugural runnings of the Open Mind Stakes and the Winning Colors Handicap.

The $100,000 Open Mind, for 3-year-old fillies at five furlongs on turf, drew 28 nominations. The $100,000 Winning Colors, for older fillies and mares at six furlongs on dirt, will be run May 22.

Fast Cookie romps on turf

Fast Cookie, making her second start in nine days following a seven-month layoff, made a smashing turf debut here Sunday when she drew off to win the $64,300 feature by nine lengths under Cornelio Velasquez.

Fast Cookie, a 4-year-old Deputy Minister filly trained by Bill Mott, won the Grade 2 Cotillion Stakes before being sidelined. The Sunday race was the 17th of her career.

* Trainer Steve Asmussen said Cuvee will join his Matt Winn Stakes conqueror, Fire Slam, in the lineup for the June 5 Riva Ridge Stakes at Belmont. Asmussen won the Riva Ridge last year with Posse.