Jackson Bend (8-1) shows a lot of heart for Zito

Jackson Bend rarely gets there, but he always keeps coming. Here he comes again, after sneaking thro
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Jackson Bend rarely gets there, but he always keeps coming.

Here he comes again, after sneaking through on the rail under Corey Nakatani to run away with the $75,000 James Marvin by 21⁄2 lengths on a steamy Friday at Sar­atoga Race Course.

It was the first win for Jackson Bend in 13 races going back to a five-race streak at Calder in 2009 while owned by Jacks or Better Farm and trained by Stanley Gold.

Robert LaPenta bought into the promising colt, who was transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, but Jackson Bend never got to the winner’s circle for Zito until Friday.

He did it in typical fashion, grinding away at the leaders and pulling away to victory over a game Hamazing Destiny.

“He’s got so much guts, it’s unbelievable, he’s got so much heart,” Zito said. “He came back to us and trained brilliantly.”

Jackson Bend, 12th in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness for Zito last year, bounced back to Gold’s barn this spring, then back to Zito.

LaPenta wants to get Jackson Bend to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, so Zito shortened him up to seven furlongs in the James Marvin, the first time Jackson Bend has raced at shorter than a mile in 14 starts.

“As a 2-year-old, he won a couple of sprint races,” Zito said. “One of them was a very, very good race, and that’s the way we purchased him. So he’s a top horse, and I can’t be more happy for the horse. He’s a great, great horse.”

The fourth running of the James Marvin drew a loaded field that included three Grade I winners, including 2010 Forego winner Here Comes Ben, who was using the race as a prep back to the Forego.

The field was diminished in number and quality by the scratch of Grade I Cigar Mile winner Jersey Town, Gayego and 50-1 long shot Ravalo.

Breaking from the rail, long shot Escrow Kid brushed with Jackson Bend out of the gate and assumed the lead.

Nakatani kept Jackson Bend, who went off at 8-1, in a good tracking position near the rail and took advantage of a wide opening on the rail as the field came off the turn.

He took the lead from Hamazing Destiny at the eighth pole and dueled with him for much of the stretch before prevailing under a vigorous hand ride.

It was Nakatani’s first ride on Jackson Bend in 19 career starts.

“I couldn’t have designed a better trip,” Nakatani said. “I was wanting to gauge what they were doing outside and just track them.

“When I asked him the question turning for home, he shot through the rail like it was meant to happen, and I’m glad it did.”

“I love Corey,” Zito said. “Corey’s as good as any rider in the country, trust me. Hopefully, if everything goes good for him, I hope he has a good meet, because he can really ride.”

Jackson Bend suffered three straight gutsy second-place finishes in the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial last year, but had plenty of graded stakes earnings to make the Kentucky Derby field.

He had a troubled trip and finished 12th, then was third to Lookin At Lucky in the Preakness.

“I thought he should’ve won the Preakness,” Zito said.

His days of running classics and routes appear to be over now, though, as Zito said Jackson Bend will likely shoot for the Forego or another short race later in the meet as a steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

“You’ve got to keep digging in, keep thinking like you know it could happen,” Zito said. “And I really appreciate what Stanley Gold did with this horse he did last year.

“Absolutely, towards the end of the meet, we’ll look at the Forego or something else. But this looks pretty good right now. If you want to run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, let’s shorten him up. So Bob said, ‘OK, go ahead and do it.’ ”

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