02/26/2005 12:00AM

Eurosilver uses allowance for debut at 4

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - For all the hype he has received since his 2-year-old campaign, it's hard to believe Eurosilver is still eligible for a third-level allowance race. So imagine the shock the connections of Eurosilver's nine rivals experienced when they picked up the overnight to learn the Grade 2 winner would be launching his 2005 campaign in Monday's $37,000 feature at Gulfstream Park.

, now 4, became an instant celebrity and a potential Kentucky Derby candidate after winning his maiden by 5 3/4 lengths at Saratoga and closing out his 2-year-old season in 2003 with a similarly easy 4 3/4-length victory in Keeneland's Grade 2 Breeders' Futurity. His stock rose even further after he captured a second-level allowance sprint by five lengths and finished second, beaten a head, in the Swale here last winter.

But a mysterious infection put an abrupt halt to Eurosilver's Derby prospects and kept him sidelined for seven months until he resurfaced for trainer Carl Nafzger in Keeneland's Perryville Stakes in October. A second-place finish behind the then-unbeaten Commentator in the Perryville and a fifth behind Saint Liam in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap closed out Eurosviler's abbreviated 3-year-old campaign.

"He's doing well. It's a good time to start and the one-mile distance came up right," said Nafzger. "I thought his race in the Clark was tremendous. It was just his second start after his sickness, he had only been two turns once before in the Breeders' Futurity, he had never run against older horses, and the field was extremely tough. And he still got beat only three lengths. Hopefully, he'll come back and run big on Monday and we can go on from there."

Eurosilver is owned by Mahmoud Fustok's Buckram Oak Farm and will again have the services of regular rider Javier Castellano.

Eurosilver's chief competition could come from Nightmare Affair, Willy o'the Valley, or Royal Assault.

Nightmare Affair returns to allowance company after being overmatched in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap. A stretch runner, Nightmare Affair had finished second in each of his two previous starts and is perfect at a mile.

Willy o'the Valley comes off a much-needed outing on the turf and would benefit from an off track. He posted back-to-back 100 Beyer Speed Figures over wet strips last summer at Saratoga.

Royal Assault, a stakes winner at 3, finished third as the favorite when he returned to allowance company and faced older horses for the first time earlier this month.