02/02/2004 12:00AM

Eurosilver starts off easy

Eurosilver, one of three Kentucky Derby hopefuls in Nick Zito's barn, makes his 2004 debut in a seven-furlong allowance Wednesday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - January was a nice, relaxing month for trainer Nick Zito. He won a few races, put his top 3-year-olds back into serious training, and even picked up an Eclipse Award along the way with 3-year-old filly champion Bird Town.

But all that changes Wednesday when , one of Zito's three main Kentucky Derby hopefuls - along with Birdstone and The Cliff's Edge - swings back into action going seven furlongs under second-level allowance conditions at Gulfstream Park.

"It's time to get serious," said Zito, already a two time Kentucky Derby winner. "Now it's crunch time."

Eurosilver has not started since his impressive 4 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 4. A son of Unbridled's Song, Eurosilver won two of his three starts at 2, his lone setback coming at the hands of Grade 1 winner Silver Wagon in his career debut. Both Eurosilver and Silver Wagon, who is trained by Ralph Ziadie, are owned by the Buckram Oak Farm.

Following the Breeders' Futurity, Eurosilver developed bucked shins, which were fired. He went back into serious training at Palm Meadows training center around the first of the year and has four recorded works leading up to his 3-year-old debut.

"The plan is not to do something too difficult with him the first time," said Zito. "He's the kind of horse who will run to the competition and you don't want them doing too much the first time. Seven furlongs is a good distance to start.

"Obviously the competition will have an edge on him because they've been racing. The hope is that he'll get a good race into him and that his class will carry him. But you don't have to win them all this time of year."

Javier Castellano, who was aboard Eurosilver for each of his two victories, retains the mount.

"The ride Javier put up on this horse in the Lane's End was one of the best I've seen, and he's our rider for this horse," said Zito.

For those inclined to give Eurosilver a race, especially at what figures to be a short price, the logical alternative is Seneca Summer, who returns to allowance company following three straight stakes outings.

Purchased privately and turned over to trainer Steve Klesaris following his 2-year-old finale, Seneca Summer launched his 3-year-old campaign in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes, prompting the pace along a deep rail before tiring to finish ninth. Aside from Eurosilver, Seneca Summer is the only other stakes winner in the field.