Liam’s Lucky Charm Adds Blinkers To Win Tampa’s Pasco, Take Aim On Derby Trail

Liam’s Lucky Charm ran to the expectations of his connections in today’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 (Khozan), 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.”

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.

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 post Liam’s Lucky Charm Adds Blinkers To Win Tampa’s Pasco, Take Aim On Derby Trail appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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