01/31/2002 12:00AM

Pino in turnaround since circuit switch


NEW ORLEANS - You could say Mike Pino's training career was at a crossroads two years ago, but that would not be completely accurate. It was more like a dead end.

Pino was just plugging along at the Bowie Training Center in Maryland, training eight mediocre horses at the rather dilapidated Bowie. Pino, who had been a Maryland regular since taking out his training license in 1983, decided to move to Delaware Park in April 2000. Since then, his career has not been the same.

Pino, 39, now has 32 horses in training, many of them for super-owner Richard Englander. Even counting Ten Keys, a horse that brought Pino his proverbial 15 minutes of fame in the late 1980's by winning major turf stakes and over $1.2 million, the decision to leave Maryland has been the best thing ever to happen to his career.

Last year, Pino's horses won 81 races and $1,648,769 in purses, easily career highs. Although he mostly deals in claimers and allowance horses, he has the occasional horse for stakes races. Unreal Party and Stars in His Eyes rank among his current runners with stakes potential, said Pino, whose older brother Mario has ridden nearly 4,500 winners in a sensational career in Maryland.

Pino said he will continue to make a year-round circuit of Delaware and Fair Grounds. "Making the move was a big, big move for me," said Pino. "The first year at Delaware, picking up Richard obviously was a big help, and everything kind of snowballed from there. It's really picked me up."

O'Callaghan thinking repeat

Don't bother asking what Niall O'Callaghan has in mind for Tijiyr for the rest of the year. In relative terms, it's secondary to what has been an obvious goal for some time for the horse: a repeat victory in the $700,000 Explosive Bid Handicap on March 24.

"I just want to get him to the Explosive Bid in the best shape possible," said O'Callaghan. A race like the Woodford Reserve Classic on Kentucky Derby Day, he said, "might have more prestige as a Grade 1, but the money's twice as much as here, and obviously he likes this track." Tijiyr has won both starts here. "So the Explosive Bid is all we're thinking about right now."

Tijiyr, owned by Gary Tanaka, is winless in five races since capturing the Grade 2 Explosive Bid last March at 9-1. He has been bothered by a string of minor ailments, including what O'Callaghan called "jamming up" when he finished 10th of 12 starters in the Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder on Dec. 8.

Tijiyr then finished fourth in the Jan. 5 Appleton Handicap at Gulfstream in his next start, a race that O'Callaghan hopes will set him up for a winning race Saturday as the probable favorite in the $150,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"In the Appleton, he was last after a half-mile in 49 and change," said O'Callaghan. "I don't care what kind of horse you have, that kind of setup is not going to be in your favor."

O'Callaghan said he strongly believes Tijiyr is ready to run very well Saturday. "I believe I've got him pretty good right now," he said.

Cadman coming back - in the mornings

Zoe Cadman, who last year was the top apprentice here with 13 wins, will be back at Fair Grounds soon, but probably not to ride races. Cadman, who since has lost her apprenticeship, has been vacationing in Hawaii and visiting family in England since the Hawthorne meet ended Jan. 1, said her former agent, Bobby Kelly.

"Zoe said she's going to come in and get on some horses in the morning before going back to Sportsman's Park" in Chicago, said Kelly. Sportsman's starts March 1.

Stewart stars gearing up

The best horses in the Dallas Stewart barn are just now gearing back up for their 2002 campaigns.

Stewart reported that Dollar Bill has had one five-furlong breeze, Unbridled Elaine has had two half-mile workouts, Sweet Nanette has had two five-furlong breezes, and Nasty Storm is back galloping after getting a rest.

Crafty Shaw likely to stay at Oaklawn

Crafty Shaw, winner of the Diplomat Way Handicap here Jan. 20, probably is going to stay at Oaklawn Park to run in preps for the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap.

Mike Mackin, whose family owns Crafty Shaw, said Thursday the colt could return here for the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap on March 3, but "it'd have to come up pretty light for us to do that. We're probably looking more at the Essex and Razorback, although we could roll the dice and come back there."

Crafty Shaw, trained by Pete Vestal, beat a solid field that included Drewman, E Z Glory, and Parade Leader in the Diplomat Way.

Melancon rues loss of Guided Tour

Veteran jockey Larry Melancon was just standing there on the backstretch, minding his own business one morning in late December when Frank Brothers rode past on horseback and gave him the bad news.

Melancon had been unaware that Guided Tour had died Dec. 21 because of a fatal injury suffered in a race in Saudi Arabia.

"What a hand he was," said Melancon, who rode Guided Tour almost exclusively the last two years, when the gelding earned the bulk of a career total of nearly $2 million. "Boy, do I miss him."