04/02/2005 1:00AM

Eurosilver scores a timely victory

Eurosilver, with Javier Castellano riding, wins the Skip Away Handicap. A late run by Twilight Road fell a half-length short, and Zakocity, the 8-5 favorite, was three-quarters of a length farther behind in third.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - It had been just more than a year since Buckram Oak Farm endured the bitter disappointment of having their star homebred, Eurosilver, declared out of contention for the Kentucky Derby.

Following three defeats since Eurosilver had recovered from the mysterious infection that sidelined him, the disappointment had deepened. Saturday, however, all was well again in the Eurosilver camp, as the 4-year-old colt raced to victory in the Grade 3, $100,000 at Gulfstream Park.

"That was a good time for him to do that, a real good time," Carl Nafzger, who trains Eurosilver for Mahmoud Fustok's Buckram Oak, said afterward. "I'd told the owners I thought the horse had been doing great, but if he didn't run any good again, maybe I just wasn't the right guy to train him."

Eurosilver, ridden by Javier Castellano, was in contention from the start of the 1 1/8-mile Skip Away. He led down the backstretch, then turned back favored Zakocity at the top of the stretch. A sustained run from Twilight Road fell a half-length short. Zakocity, the 8-5 favorite in a field of 10 older horses, was another three-quarters of a length back in third.

"They weren't going to get to him today," said Nafzger.

Eurosilver returned $10 as second choice after finishing in 1:49.29 over a fast track.

Mohammed Moubarak, racing manager for Buckram Oak Farm, said the Skip Away breakthrough means the Pimlico Special, on May 20, "or one of the bigger races" could be the colt's next start.

Eurosilver, by Unbridled's Song, was racing while equipped with blinkers for the first time. "They were just cheaters, with those small cups," said Nafzger. "It was just for something different to change his mental outlook."

"I give a lot of credit to Carl Nafzger," said Castellano. Eurosilver "shot right out of the gate."

Eurosilver was one of the most highly regarded Derby contenders early last year after winning the Breeders' Futurity as a 2-year-old for his trainer at the time, Nick Zito.

Sweep of grass marathons

In earlier races Saturday, trainer Todd Pletcher swept both Grade 2 grass marathons, the handicaps.

In the $150,000 Pan American, Navesink River laid just a couple lengths behind Quest Star, the pace-setter and two-time defending champion, before surging past in the final yards to win by a half-length.

Navesink River, owned by the Char-Mari Stable, returned $6 as second choice after finishing 1 1/2 miles in a course-record 2:25.95. He was ridden by John Velazquez.

"He's always shown us he had the ability to get a distance of ground, although not necessarily on the turf," said Pletcher.

"I just wanted to sit close and let him go soon after the first turn and keep him out of trouble," said Velazquez, who did just that.

Quest Star, an 8-1 shot under Edgar Prado, nursed a narrow lead the entire trip before giving way grudgingly. He held off Deputy Lad for second by a head. Scooter Roach finished fourth, another length back, while Gigli, the 3-2 favorite, ran sixth.

The victory was the third in 11 career starts, and first in a stakes, for Navesink, a 4-year-old colt by Unbridled.

In the $150,000 Orchid, Honey Ryder got a terrific ride from Velazquez for the second straight race, posting a hard-fought victory.

Coming off a neck triumph in the The Very One Handicap, Honey Ryder saved ground throughout the Orchid before easing out for the drive. She overtook front-running Pretty Jane leaving the eighth pole, then dug in to hold off Ellieonthemarch by a half-length.

Honey Ryder, a 4-year-old filly owned by Glencrest Farm, returned $6.60 as the second choice in a field of seven fillies and mares. She finished 1 1/2 miles in 2:27.16.

"She'll run as far as they write races," said John Greathouse, whose family owns Glencrest Farm. "There are only so many horses who can run in races like this. The key for us will be to keep her sound and keep getting her back in this kind of spot. If we can, we'll run her next year, too."

Ellieonthemarch, a 12-1 shot, finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Pretty Jane, while Briviesca, the 3-2 favorite, ran fourth. Snowdrops, the 5-2 third choice, was fifth.