Nick Zito seems pleasantly surprised these days whenever he’s talking about Jackson Bend.
The Hall of Fame trainer sent out the 5-year-old Monday morning for his first full-speed workout since a training incident on Aug. 18 that left him on the ground in a bit of shock after a collision with another horse. Jackson Bend worked four furlongs on the Oklahoma Training Track in 49.77, fifth fastest of 18. The first part of the exercise ride was with a workmate, but Jackson Bend was taken forward away from that horse before the work was over.
“I didn’t want to do too much, I didn’t want to do too little,” Zito said. “So, I thought it worked out OK. The horse I had with him was just a workmate for a little while. I didn’t want him to go on with him the whole way. So he kind of went by him, and he was kind of disinterested. He was looking for another horse.”
Last week, Zito sent Jackson Bend out on a trail ride to ease him back into training with a relaxing morning of running. If he continues to look good, Zito may still enter him in Saturday’s Grade I $500,000 Forego, a race he won last year.
Even if that happens, though, Zito said it’s not certain Jackson Bend wouldn’t scratch out of the race. It’s a tireless process Zito’s going through to make 100 percent sure the horse is 100 percent.
“Obviously, the horse is our first concern. We’d all love to run, but we have to talk it over,” he said. “This is a day-by-day thing, and a moment-by-moment situation. Even if we entered, we’re not positive we’re going to run, but on the other hand, we’ll never say never. We’ll just see how he is [today], Wednesday and Thursday, and obviously, we’ll know something by Friday.”
On the Oklahoma Training Track on Aug. 18, Jackson Bend was passing the entry gap when Little Nick was spooked and bolted onto the track, colliding with Jackson Bend.
Zito and his team monitored Jackson Bend’s health as test after test returned with good
results, slowly dispelling the fear of something unseen putting him on the shelf, or worse, threatening his career.
“I’m really grateful. Nine days ago, I wouldn’t have . . . it didn’t look so good. It’s amazing, it’s a miracle and I’ve got to thank God,” Zito said. “Everything is good. With all his tests, they always come back good. All his doctors and all the people that are around him, the medical people and everybody else, he’s always checking out good. All my veterinarians and all the techs — we’ve got a lot of people watching him.”
The fans at Saratoga Race Course seem fairly invested in the horse’s health, too. It’s not surprising, since Jackson Bend won twice here last year in his first two starts for Zito after coming over from Stanley Gold’s barn.
Jackson Bend won the James Marvin by 21⁄2 lengths at 8-1 before taking the Forego by 31⁄4 lengths. Both times, the winning margin was growing through the stretch. He was 4-1-2 in his first seven starts for Zito, also winning the Grade I Carter and Grade III Hal’s Hope. He was most recently fourth by three lengths in his repeat bid in the James Marvin — a Grade III this time — at Saratoga.
“I see everybody, when I go to the grandstand, and I’m one of those fellows who will walk through the grandstand and meet a lot of people,” Zito said. “They’ll tell me, ‘We’re rooting for Jackson.’ And I say, ‘Thanks, thanks for asking about him.’ And I know a lot of people will be happy to see him working.”
It’s Tricky stumbled out of the gate Sunday in the Grade I Personal Ensign, suffering superficial cuts, but was otherwise OK after her third-place finish.
“She kind of scraped the front of her ankles with the way she broke,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin told the New York Racing Association. “On the positive side, [jockey Eddie Castro] stayed on her. I think she earned a lot of respect, running the way she did, and we will point for the [Grade I] Beldame. One turn, a mile and an eighth, at Belmont, where she’s undefeated.”
Personal Ensign winner Love and Pride, as well as beaten favorite Royal Delta, both exited the race in good shape. Trainer Todd Pletcher said the Beldame also is a possibility for Love and Pride.
Go Unbridled got out around Opus A and Great Gracie Dane entering the stretch and rode off to win the $100,000 Saratoga Dew, the feature race on Monday’s card at 11⁄8 miles on the dirt for fillies and mares 3 and older.
Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens said he was surprised by the win.
“She didn’t gallop out very strong the other day, but the boy said she seems to know where the finish line is,” he said. “I’d never heard that one before, but it’ll do. She’s been an old pro all her life.”
Opus A got out to the lead and showed the field through the first quarter mile in 23.95 seconds, then the second quarter in 24-flat. Great Gracie Dane made her move going into the far turn, but couldn’t finish the rally through the stretch.
Go Unbridled finished 61⁄2 lengths ahead of favored Opus A.
Effie’s Trinket remained perfect in her second career race, taking the overnight stakes in the third, the $100,000 Aristie by a nose.
Effie’s Trinket jumped out to the lead in the six-furlong dirt run for 2-year-old state-bred fillies, then she quickly relinquished the lead as My Smartness showed early speed.
Effie’s Trinket was kept just off the hip of My Smartness by jockey Alan Garcia, while Golden Fire and Zekes Surprise ran side by side a couple of lengths back, with
favored Agilion last in the field of five horses. Halfway through the turn, Agilion kicked in wide as Golden Fire faded along the rail and Effie’s Trinket pulled even with My Smartness.
My Smartness didn’t have enough to maintain the pace, and Effie’s Trinket ran off. Agilion, though, was in hot pursuit, and closed to within a head at the wire.
A pair of Starlight Racing 2-year-olds put in their final work before the Grade II Hopeful. Lawn Man went four furlongs in 48.65 on the main track, while Shanghai Bobby went five furlongs in 1:00.91. Shanghai Bobby is 2-for-2 in his career with a stakes win at Belmont in the Track Barron.