Jackson bends, but doesn’t break.
It’s all systems go today for the tough little horse who was crashed into by Little Nick during a routine gallop on the Oklahoma training track two weeks ago.
Jackson Bend was in doubt for the seven-furlong Grade I Forego at Saratoga Race Course after getting knocked to the ground and staying down in shock for five minutes, but he has given trainer Nick Zito and everyone around his barn, including regular exercise rider Carlos Correa, every indication that he’s his feisty old self.
So he’ll get a chance to win the Forego for the second year in a row against seven rivals who include 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile winner Shackleford.
“After talking to [owners] Mr. [Robert] LaPenta and Fred Brei, there was no reason why we shouldn’t,” Zito said. “I’d like to probably not, it would be easier, anxiety-wise, but on the other hand, all the tests we’ve taken with him every single day since that accident happened, he’s passed every single one of them. That’s, basically, the decision.”
And there’s no better supplement to all the medical exams that have been performed on Jackson Bend than the simple observations of those who know him best, Zito and the colt’s handlers.
Zito stuck his own leg out sideways to demonstrate a sneaky move that Jackson Bend, who is prone to nipping and kicking people, surprised Zito with a few days ago.
“He tried to kick me the other day, and I went all the way around him,” he said. “He tried a cow kick, which is unusual. I was feeling his legs, and they were good and cold. I wish it [collision] didn’t happen. It’s so crazy, this meet, and on the other hand, I’ve got to be thankful that he’s in the entries. And it could happen; he could win.”
Jackson Bend is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line behind Shackleford after finishing fourth to Pacific Ocean as the 4-5 favorite in the James Marvin.
He’ll get a rider switch from Rosie Napravnik to Junior Alvarado, both of whom have been getting ample business from Zito at the meet, for the Forego.
Alvarado, on Zito’s Fast Falcon, was a fast-closing third on the outside of the Alpha-Golden Ticket dead heat in the Travers, and almost won the King’s Bishop that day on the Zito-trained Fort Loudon, who was a half-length behind Willy Beamin.
Jackson Bend never threatened while running wide in the James Marvin, but in the end he was only three lengths behind Pacific Ocean, who’s back for the Forego.
“I think what happened is he’s a horse that likes to fight, and he got a little lost out there when he made his move,” Zito said. “When you put that in the proper perspective, he likes to be around a horse, he likes to mix it up a lot, so maybe that was an excuse.”
On Aug. 18, Little Nick was on his way through the gap on the first turn at the Oklahoma when something spooked him, and he bolted out onto the track, where he smashed into Jackson Bend.
Everyone was OK, except that Jackson Bend was pretty shaken up.
He was taken back to the barn and given electrolytes to treat for shock, and after a few listless moments and a ginger walk around the shedrow, he was back to his old self a two days later.
What Zito won’t know until today’s race is whether the trauma of the collision has had any lingering psychological effect on Jackson Bend.
“That’s something we’ll never know, and we’ll find out,” he said. “If any horse is tough, it’s him. If any horse could put something like this behind him, it’s him. I always say he’s a blessing, and maybe after Saturday, people will bow their heads. We’ll see.”
Shackleford is also looking to rebound from a bad experience.
For the third time in his career, he faced a muddy track last time out, in the A.G. Vanderbilt on Aug. 5, and for the third time he bombed, finishing eighth of eight under John Velazquez.
Trainer Dale Romans said immediately after the race that he’d draw a line through the race and move on to the Forego, as long as the track isn’t wet. With beautiful weather since Monday, it won’t be.
Today’s card also includes the Grade II Bernard Baruch at a mile and a sixteenth on the Mellon turf.
The 7-5 favorite is another nice turf horse from trainer Shug McGaughey’s barn, Data Link, who has won two of his last three, the Grade I Makers 46 Mile and the Grade II Monmouth.
“I was kind of disappointed the first couple times I ran him on dirt, but that all changed when I put him on turf,” McGaughey said.
One interesting entrant in the Bernard Baruch is Dominus, who is making his second start for trainer Todd Pletcher and his first start on turf.
Third in the Jim Dandy and fourth in the King’s Bishop for Steve Asmussen last year, Dominus won a seven-furlong allowance on the dirt at Saratoga on Aug. 4 for Pletcher, but now he’ll go on the grass.