Paco wins Gulfstream Park stake on Zero Rate Policy

Trainer Terri Pompay had a lot of confidence in Zero Rate Policy going into Sunday’s $60,000 Sunshine State Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The son of Trippi had shown a fondness for the racing surface by breaking his maiden in his last start over it on April 23 and demonstrated that he had returned to peak form with a four-length triumph at Monmouth Park in his most recent start.

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Yet, Pompay had one nagging reservation as Zero Rate Policy went to post against eight fellow Florida-bred horses in the seven-furlong feature. He had never run beyond six furlongs in his previous eight starts.

She needn’t have been concerned. The strapping 2-1 favorite handled the extra furlong and his elders with a thoroughbred professional victory by 1 ¼ lengths under jockey Paco Lopez.

“I really liked him today. He’s been training great and improving all the time. I wasn’t sure about the seven-eighths, but now it’s good to know he handles that far,” Pompay said. .”We knew he loves the track here from last [meeting].”

The 3-year-old gelding broke alertly from his outside post position to rate a few lengths behind pacesetter Our Edge along the backstretch. Lopez moved the son of Trippi on the far turn and engaged the pacesetter leaving the turn into the homestretch. Zero Rate Policy quickly opened up a clear lead in mid-stretch and had plenty left to hold off the late surge by Manicero.

“We sat in perfect position. My horse was really strong today,” said Lopez, who is the two-time defending riding champ at Gulfstream. “I knew in the stretch Manicero would be coming. I’ve ridden him before and he’s a nice horse. I actually moved a little early wanting to get the jump on Manicero and that’s why my horse got a little tired. Luckily, we had enough to hold on.”

Manicero, a multiple-stakes winner owned and trained by Leo Azpurua, dropped far back during the early going before making a late rush under Jose Lezcano.

“He had a little trouble in the gate and didn’t break that sharp. Then when the dirt started hitting him in the face he started to back up even more. Once we got to around the quarter pole, he just took off, but we ran out of room.”

It’s Never to Late, a three-time winner at Gulfstream earlier in the year, finished third, a length behind Manicero and a neck in front of a tiring Our Edge.

Zero Rate Policy, who ran the seven furlongs in a swift 1:21 .57, earned $36,000 for his fifth victory in nine races for Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence. His trainer is looking forward to a bright future with her gelding.

“I think he’ll like grass, but right now we know that he does well at six and seven furlongs and there are plenty opportunities for him. He’s a Florida-bred and the (Florida) Sunshine Millions races are all here this year ($200,000 Sprint on Jan. 28),” Pompay said. “I think he’ll like grass, but for now we’ll probably just keep him doing what he’s doing. It’s been a great year for us and this is a good way to get the meet going.”