03/31/2005 1:00AM

Zakocity sticks around

Email

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The restriction on horses shipping into New York from south Florida because of the strangles outbreak has changed the complexion of Saturday's Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Patrick Reynolds wanted to run in Aqueduct's Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap on Saturday, but because the horse is not allowed to ship there, he has stayed here and will run against nine other older horses in the 1 1/8-mile Skip Away.

With the way Zakocity, an improving 4-year-old, has performed over the Gulfstream main track this winter, Reynolds is not fretting too much about having to change his itinerary. Zakocity finished second, beaten a neck by longshot Musique Toujours, in the Sunshine Millions Classic here, and third behind Eddington in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

"It's not the worst thing in the world," said Reynolds. "If all goes well, maybe this race will be a little easier on him. He couldn't be doing any better, and he's already run two dynamite races over the track."

Reynolds was also able to obtain the services of jockey Jerry Bailey, who has won three renewals of the Skip Away.

Zakocity, who carries high weight of 117 pounds, will concede one to five pounds to his rivals: Twilight Road, Biblical Scholar, Unigold, Sir Oscar, Tap Day, Ole Faunty, The Lady's Groom, Eurosilver, and Spite the Devil.

Trainer Carl Nafzger will put blinkers on Eurosilver in hopes that it will help the horse rebound from a fourth-place finish as the 4-5 favorite in his 2005 debut, a third-level optional claiming race Feb. 28. The outing was the first for Eurosilver since his fifth-place finish behind Saint Liam in Churchill Downs's Grade 2 Clark Handicap on Nov. 26.

Eurosilver has not won a race since capturing a second-level allowance dash here in February 2004.

The Lady's Groom, who is Grade 2-placed, will be making his third start of the year. He finished a tiring fourth in a competitive high-priced optional claiming race here Feb. 3, then shipped to Oaklawn Park, where he was a tiring sixth after forcing the pace in the Grade 3 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Trained by Mike Gorham, The Lady's Groom finished third after setting the pace in the 2004 Gulfstream Park Handicap and was third, beaten a neck by Offlee Wild and Funny Cide, in the Grade 2 Massachusetts Handicap in 2004.

Sir Oscar figures to set the pace stretching out off a series of sprint races, but he has yet to win a race beyond 1 1/16 miles.

Tap Day has captured 3 of his last 4 starts, including the Bud Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 12.

New York-bred Spite the Devil will be making his first start since rallying from last to upset Belmont's Empire Classic Handicap at nine furlongs on Oct. 23.