06/02/2005 11:00PM

Familiar scenario for Pino in Shuk


Mike Pino doesn't need to do any head-scratching to jog his memory when asked to recall the first stakes winner he trained 18 years ago.

That's because Pino's experiment with Ten Keys turned out so well. Ten Keys, claimed for $14,500, tried the turf for the first time in the 1987 Nick Shuk Memorial at Delaware Park. Ten Keys not only won that $15,000 stakes, but went on to win 17 more added-money events and earned more than $1.1 million on grass.

Sunday, Pino said he hopes he can get similar results from the 3-year-old Seize, who will make his turf debut in the Nick Shuk, a 1 1/16-mile turf race now worth $75,000.

"Years ago I had a good grass horse, and his first stakes win was the Nick Shuk when it was worth $15,000. I'm hoping for the same scenario," said Pino, who is off to a sizzling start at Delaware's meet with 15 winners from his first 41 starters. "It was Ten Keys' first stakes win on the grass, and he went on to be a real good grass horse, so I'm hoping lightning strikes twice."

In his most recent race, Seize rallied to get up by a neck in a second-level allowance at a mile and 70 yards on dirt. That was his third win in six lifetime starts. Pino said he believes Seize might be an even better horse on turf, based on bloodlines.

"His pedigree suggests to me that he should like the turf," Pino said. "He is by Runaway Groom, who is a solid turf sire, and the mother's side is Caveat, who is an excellent turf sire. I am just hoping that grass will move him up from being just a decent horse to a really good horse."

Digging deeper into Seize's pedigree, Runaway Groom is a son of Blushing Groom, a four-time Group 1 winner on turf in France in 1976. Quadratic, the sire of Seize's second dam, won the Grade 3 Everglades on turf in 1978.

The most accomplished turf runner in the Nick Shuk field is Becrux, who was 4 for 5 on grass racing in Italy as a 2-year-old. Becrux, who was scratched out of the Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park on Memorial Day, will be making his North American debut.

The other intriguing entrant with limited turf experience is Killenaule, trained by Todd Pletcher.

In his only start on grass, Killenaule, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, was up close at the stretch call of the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes before being passed by four horses in the final furlong.