06/08/2001 11:00PM

Mr Notebook drops the blinkers for Nick Shuk


Adding blinkers often works wonders for a horse. Not for Mr Notebook, however.

Trainer Randy Nunley, taking the suggestion of a jockey, outfitted Mr Notebook with blinkers for his last start in the Woodlawn Stakes at Pimlico a month ago.

Mr Notebook, a 3-year-old colt who was competitive in several graded turf stakes in Florida, responded with the dullest performance of his career, finishing eighth of 11 without even a flash of his usual early speed.

Willing to admit the experiment was a flop, Nunley has dropped the blinkers and expects a much better effort from Mr Notebook in Monday's $75,000 Nick Shuk Memorial Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park.

Nunley explained that he only had Mr Notebook in his care for a short time before the Woodlawn, so he was willing to listen to the advice of the horse's most recent rider, J.A. Rivera II, who thought blinkers would be a good move.

"I consulted with the owner and we thought we would give it a try," Nunley said. "Well, he broke inwardly really bad. Mark Johnston had to really reach in and get him. He got him back on his feet, but the pack was pretty gone. He had to tuck him behind horses and he really hated the trip due to the circumstances at the break."

Nunley said Mr Notebook prefers to be on the lead or just off the pace.

"He normally lays close and likes to run on the front end, but since he broke bad and got shuffled in behind horses, he just did not like the trip," Nunley said. "Hopefully, he will rebound and run his race this time, but we are not putting the blinkers back on him."

Mr Notebook's turf races in Florida indicate he has some talent. He ran second in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby at Calder on New Year's Day and finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, after leading until the final furlong of the 1 1/8-mile Bal Harbour at Hialeah in early April.

The prime threat in the Shuk is Potaro, a Jonathan Sheppard-trained colt who finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Mr Notebook when they met in the Bal Harbour.

Potaro has not raced since winning a second-level allowance race at Keeneland in late April, but shows a recent bullet five-furlong work at Delaware.

Unaccountedlea, who rallied from 15 lengths behind to win the Woodlawn, and Punkin Head, winner of a grass stakes at Gulfstream Park, are other prime contenders.