Sprint: Jackson Bend wins the Forego

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Nick Zito bounded into the winner’s circle after Saturday’s Grade I Forego, slapped assistant trainer/exercise rider Carlos Correa on the shoulder and bellowed, “We still got it, we still got it.”

Jackson Bend made sure they never lost it.

Repeating his effort from a win in the season-opening James Marvin Stakes at the same 7-furlong distance July 22, the 4-year-old charged from seventh in the nine-horse field to score by 3 1/4 lengths over Jersey Town with Aikenite a head back in third. The winner, owned by Bob LaPenta and Fred Brei, captured his second consecutive race after losing 12 in a row – all eight last year and his first four of 2011.

“He’s got a big heart, a great big heart, a heart like second to none,” Zito said. “Plus he’s good. He almost won the Preakness, should have won the Preakness, last year. He’s all right.”

Saturday, he was better than that.

Jackson Bend broke a step behind the leaders from the rail, but responded to Corey Nakatani’s early hustling to draft into a spot behind the pace set by Hamazing Destiny. Sidney’s Candy ranged up from the leader’s inside through a quarter-mile in 22.09 seconds, followed by longshot Escrow Kid. Jersey Town found his spot in fourth, followed by Regal Ransom and Rule By Night. Jackson Bend was seventh, on the rail, waiting.

Sidney’s Candy led narrowly through a half-mile in 44.45, but quickly felt the pressure and weakened as Hamazing Destiny re-claimed the lead exiting the turn. Jersey Town swung out and made a play for the lead. Escrow Kid tried to hang tough. Behind them, Jackson Bend passed horses on the turn and blasted through horses in the stretch to overwhelm Hamazing Destiny and roll away from Jersey Town. Aikenite, last of nine much of the way, rallied late to claim third. The final time was 1:22.08 and the winner returned $8.90 as the second choice behind Sidney’s Candy.

The result was the same as the Marvin, but the tactics were different as Jackson Bend wound up farther back in the field. Nakatani liked his horse’s versatility.

“Today he settled, last time he was in the race more,” said the jockey. “When he’s fresh he sits close and when he’s run a big race like he did last time he sits off it a little more. I didn’t want to change anything but I know what he’s capable of after riding him. I just let him find that cruising speed, I asked him to start picking it up and he did. When I set him down he was there for me.”

The winner came back covered in grit, soaked in sweat and with a shadow roll that used to be white. Nakatani looked the same and needed a rinse in the winner’s circle before posing for photos.

“He’s small, not very big at all, but he’s tough,” Nakatani said. “He ran though the dirt, really ran for me. He’s got heart, that’s what it takes. Racehorses come in all shapes and sizes. Look at Zenyatta, look at Jackson Bend. He’s small, but he’s a fighter.”

Bred in Florida by Brei’s Jacks Or Better Farm, the winner became a millionaire with the victory, his seventh in 20 starts. The son of Hear No Evil broke his maiden in his second start as a 2-year-old at Calder. He then won four consecutive stakes at Calder at 2 and found a spot in the early Triple Crown talk last year with seconds in the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial. Twelfth in the Kentucky Derby, he wound up third in the Preakness – beaten less than a length by Lookin At Lucky.

Jackson Bend started 2011 with trainer Stanley Gold in Florida, and ran well without winning in four stakes starts. Zito and Correa took over and the horse started working at Oklahoma in June. The time in Saratoga paid off with the James Marvin victory over three of Saturday’s rivals and really paid off with the Grade I tally in the Forego.

“You know what gets me? The names of the races,” Zito said. “The Forego, the Woodward, those are great races. To me, it’s a big deal. Horses like Kelso, Forego, we always talk about that. You win that kind of race, it means something.”