Just two weeks after surviving a mishap on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga in which another horse collided with him during morning training, the resilient Jackson Bend returns to defend his title in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga today. The Florida-bred colt has been installed as the 7-2 second choice in the morning line behind favored Shackleford, who is listed at 2-1 in the program. The $100,000 Forego has drawn a stellar field of eight older horses that will battle the seven furlong distance.
Jackson Bend, who earned his first Grade 1 win a year ago in the 2011 Forego, was galloping on the Oklahoma training track Aug. 18 in preparation for a title defense when he collided with a wayward horse. His Hall of Fame trainer, Nick Zito, said Jackson Bend lay on the track for five minutes “in shock” before he was taken to the barn in an equine ambulance.
Veterinarian Dr. Joe Migliacci inspected Jackson Bend and found no signs of serious injury, and Zito and his staff have maintained a close eye on the 5-year-old every day since the incident. Jackson Bend resumed galloping last Thursday and breezed four furlongs on the training track in 49.77 seconds on Monday.
Zito was sufficiently pleased with Jackson Bend’s training to enter him in the Forego, but on Wednesday said he and the horse’s owners, Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei, will at a later date make a decision on whether he’ll compete in the Saturday’s race. Brei is also the breeder of Jackson Bend at his Jacks or Better Farm in Ocala. He is by Brei’s stallion Hear No Evil, who stands at Journeyman Stud, also in Ocala.
“The horse’s welfare is No. 1 and that goes from the LaPenta family to all the people that work around us,” said Zito on Monday. “I know that I have his blessing, and Mr. Brei, who’s like a father to Jackson. He bred him. I mean, do they want to run? Of course. That’s what they’re in the game for. So, day by day, but I’ll be glad to run him. Glad. I think you know me by now, I’ve got no problem running in the big races, no matter what price, or what situation. Right or wrong?”
Jackson Bend will be shooting for his third victory against grade 1 company having taken the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in April. Zito has given the riding assignment to Junior Alvarado, who will be aboard Jackson Bend in a race for the first time today. Alvarado takes over for jockey Rosie Napravnik who rode him to a fourth-place finish behind fellow Forego entrant Pacific Ocean in the Grade 3 James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga on Jul. 20. Jackson Bend has drawn post four in the Forego.
The Forego will also act as a rubber match between Jackson Bend and Shackleford as the two meet for the third time. Shackleford was third behind Jackson Bend in the Carter then avenged that loss by defeating third-place finisher Jackson Bend in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) on May 28 at Belmont Park in one of the fastest races of the year. Final time for the mile that day was 1:33.30 and Shackleford earned a 115 Beyer Speed Figure while Jackson Bend picked up a 109 for finishing third behind Caleb’s Posse in second.
Trained by Dale Romans for Michael Lauffer, W.D. Cubbedge and Phillips Racing Partnership, Shackleford also has the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes to his credit this year but will need to improve on his last effort when he was eighth in the A.G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga Aug. 5. John Velazquez will ride Shackleford from post two.
Others that figure to garner plenty of support from the mutual windows include Pacific Ocean, who is 4-1 in the morning line after his win in the James Marvin; Vanderbilt third-place finisher Emcee at 9-2 in the program; and Caixa Electronica, winner of the Grade 2 True North Hanicap and $1 million Charles Town Classic (G2) this year.
Photo by Coglianese