Jockey Edgard Zayas romps in Pasco Stakes on Liam's Lucky Charm, wins Gasparilla thrilla on Two Sixty, en route to 4-for-4 tour de force; Daniel Centeno triumphs on Jehozacat for rider's fourth Wayward Lass Stakes victory.
Liam’s Lucky Charm ran to the expectations of his connections in Saturday's $125,000, 7-furlong Pasco Stakes, opening the door to more lucrative assignments as the 3-year-old Thoroughbred picture in Florida and beyond begins to take shape.
After the Florida-bred colt returned to the Tampa Bay Downs backside to cool off from his exertions, his jockey, 26-year-old Gulfstream Park regular Edgard Zayas, turned hot as a Roman firecracker.
Zayas won on his three remaining mounts, including a stirring victory on Two Sixty in the ninth race, the $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, to conclude a 4-for-4 afternoon. His “grand slam” couldn’t have come in more exciting fashion, as Two Sixty prevailed by a neck from Mo City, with the top five finishers in the 11-horse field separated by less than a length.
“It feels nice,” said Zayas, whose ebullient smile said it felt much better than that. “I had a lot of live mounts today and the horses ran good – it was all them. (Two Sixty) was a little immature as a 2-year-old, but she has a lot of class and she is maturing race by race.”
Zayas returned to action at Gulfstream in late December after missing five weeks with a broken finger.
The jockey’s first victory, aboard Liam’s Lucky Charm, was a lot easier than the Gasparilla. “He’s been training well, he’s been doing good and he’s grown up some,” trainer Ralph Nicks said after Liam’s Lucky Charm sped to a 5 ½-length victory from Albert Park. “He’s still got some growing up to do, but he’s been a little sharper in the mornings and the blinkers on made him more focused.”
Stonehedge, LLC homebred Liam's Lucky Charm rolls to victory in the $125,000 Pasco Stakes under jockey Edgard Zayas (courtesy SV Photography)
Zayas won the 2017 Pasco on The Money Monster.
Nicks said Liam’s Lucky Charm’s next start could come in the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 7; the Grade II Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on Feb. 29; or the Grade II Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln at Fair Grounds on Feb. 15. The Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 8 is a bit too soon, Nicks said.
The 20th edition of the Pasco, which has produced such top-quality winners as Musket Man (2009), Catalina Red (2015), World of Trouble (2018) and Win Win Win (2019), was one of three stakes worth a combined $300,000 in purse money on a sun-kissed Skyway Festival Day card.
In the 36th running of the 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes, Two Sixty grabbed the lead at the outset, but how she would finish was questionable after swift fractions of 22.05 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 44.85 for the half.
“The key with her is trying to keep her relaxed,” said Zayas. “If you start fighting with her she doesn’t like it, so I just tried to put the hands down and let her do her own thing. As long as she can work good with her mind, she’ll give you her all at the end.”
She had to do that to prevail, as Mo City, third-place finisher We the Clouds, fourth-place finisher Ceci Valentina and fifth-place finisher Swiss Skydiver all took their best shots. Two Sixty’s time for the 7 furlongs was 1:22.80, .60 seconds off the stakes record.
YOU GOT IT, EDGARD: Jockey Edgard Zayas, on No. 8 Two Sixty, takes a quick peek to confirm his neck victory in the $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes from Mo City (courtesy SV Photography)
The Gasparilla was the second stakes victory for Two Sixty, a Florida-bred daughter of Uncaptured-Jim’s Lonesa, by Put It Back. Two Sixty is owned by Gary Barber and trained by Mark Casse, who teamed to win the 2016 Gasparilla with R Girls a Charmer.
“We had a lot of confidence in this filly,” assistant trainer Mitch Downs said of Two Sixty, who won the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association My Dear Girl Stakes at Gulfstream on Sept. 28 to earn a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. “She’s been training well at the (Casse) Training Center (in Ocala), and when she relaxes, she’s as good as a lot of 3-year-old fillies around. She put that together today.
“Even though she had some pressure, she was doing it nice and easy, and when Edgard called on her she responded,” Downs said.
Two Sixty is now 3-for-7 and the winner’s share of $105,000 raised her career bankroll to $409,000.
The third stakes on the card, the 36th edition of the $50,000 Wayward Lass for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth, went to the Lael Stables-owned 5-year-old Jehozacat, who won for the first time since an allowance/optional claiming race on the turf here last March. She led virtually every step of the way and cruised to a 5 ½-length victory from Tweeting, with Classic Fit finishing third.
Back to Pasco winner Liam’s Lucky Charm, who is by the Florida sire Khozan – a half-brother to three-time Eclipse Award winner and Hall of Fame member Royal Delta – and is out of P. S. I Love You, by Stormy Atlantic. He paid $4.80 to win as the heavy favorite. Liam's Lucky Charm is a homebred racing for the Stonehedge, LLC concern of Gilbert G. Campbell.
Zayas carried out his duties on Liam’s Lucky Charm to near-perfection, sitting off a quick early pace by My Man Flintstone before letting the winner move to the lead on his own from the No. 1 post.
Challenged on the far turn by Albert Park from the outside and No Getting Over Me on the inside, Zayas went to work on Liam’s Lucky Charm, who responded to vigorous right-handed whipping to pull away. His time of 1:21.75 was .86 seconds off Win Win Win’s track record and the fourth-fastest Pasco Stakes in history.
Albert Park held off No Getting Over Me by a length-and-a-half for second, with He’s Smokin Now a non-threatening fourth and My Man Flintstone fading to fifth in the seven-horse field.
First-place money of $105,000 boosted Liam’s Lucky Charm’s career bankroll to $338,800.
“I wasn’t really planning to be on the lead – if it happened, it happened – and he broke good but the 5 (My Man Flintstone) just out-broke him,” Zayas said. “My horse was going so easy, I just let him do his thing. He’s a really classy horse and he’s developing well, and he pretty much moved on his own.
“Once he felt those other horses, he kind of woke up and took off and finished really strong. I was expecting him to run that way and I’m really happy and I know he is going to keep improving from here.”
Zayas also won the fifth race on 3-year-old colt Dudley Square, a first-time starter owned by Siena Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, and the sixth race on the turf on 4-year-old filly Bello Porte, owned by Sonata Stable and trained by Jorge Navarro, before returning to take the Gasparilla.
Liam’s Lucky Charm, who was making his first start since Sept. 28 and his first outside Gulfstream Park, improved to 3-for-6 with a second and two thirds. He won the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Florida Sire Affirmed Stakes in August at the same distance.
In the Wayward Lass, Daniel Centeno rode Jehozacat, a full sister to Lael’s graded-stakes winner Divining Rod, who finished third in American Pharoah’s 2015 Xpressbet.com Preakness. Arnaud Delacour, who trained Divining Rod, is the conditioner of Jehozacat, who was bred by Lael Stables owners Mr. & Mrs. M. Roy Jackson.
The daughter of Tapit-Precious Kitten, by Catienus, toured the distance in 1:43.94, .67 seconds off the stakes record. She is 4-for-16 lifetime, with four seconds.
The 5-year-old Lael Stables mare Jehozacat appears to be getting better with age, if her Wayward Lass Stakes victory under Daniel Centeno is an indication (courtesy SV Photography)
“This is her first time running on the dirt here, but she’s been breezing well on it,” said Delacour, who won the 2018 Wayward Lass with Well Humored. “I was eager to see if those works would translate to a good performance today and they did, so everybody is happy with that. Her dam was a Grade I winner on turf, so her pedigree says she can do well on either surface.”
Jehozacat paid $3.80 as the decided wagering favorite. The Wayward Lass is the first stakes victory for the gray mistress and she led every step of the way.
“It looked like (Tweeting) was the speed in the race and the track is a little fast today, so the plan was to break well and see what happened,” said Centeno, who has won three of the last four runnings of the Wayward Lass and four overall. “My filly jumped on her pretty quick, and as soon as she got the lead I let her get comfortable and she really relaxed. Every time (Tweeting and Classic Fit) started to come to her, she responded very well, and the last sixteenth I just let her gallop out strong.”