The owners of Nihilator, the highly touted 3-year-old pacer who was scheduled to make his first four starts of the season at Freestate Raceway, unexpectedly have changed their plans.

Frank DeFrancis, Freestate's president, said yesterday that Lou Guida, who heads the syndicate that owns Nihilator, decided he didn't want the colt to race four weeks in a row this early in the season. So Nihilator, who set a world record for 2-year-old pacers last season, will skip Saturday night's Smullin Memorial eliminations. He won easily in 1:56 2/5 in his season debut Saturday at Freestate for his 13th victory in 14 career starts.

But DeFrancis said that he expects Nihilator to return for a special invitational race June 1 and to compete in the track's $300,000 Terrapin Stakes the following week.

Nihilator was shipped out of Freestate Sunday, raising speculation that the horse would not return. But DeFrancis said yesterday that Nihilator also was shipped in from the Meadowlands in New Jersey and shipped back there after each race last year, when he competed regularly at Freestate.

Primus and Pershing Square, also owned by syndicates controlled by Guida, may start in the Smullin.

DeFrancis said, "The man doesn't want to race his horses against each other. He's using them as chess pieces. They're the man's horses, and he can do with them what he wants."