It's been a long time in coming for the little guy. Jackson Bend had not found himself in the winner's circle for the better part of two years. The horse who once won five straight races including four stakes and a sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes series, to become one of the most talked about juveniles of 2009, had not tasted victory since October of that year.
Twelve times he had entered the starting gate, and twelve times he had lost. In all fairness, each of those races came in stakes, and the small chestnut colt had run several good races, including four 2nd place finishes, and a bang-up race when beaten by only three-quarters of a length in last May's Preakness. But last fall he appeared to go a little off form, and while his four races so far this year could be classified as decent, none of those efforts, all in Florida, seemed to carry the promise that he once had. All that changed today. It seems a return to the barn of Nick Zito, a trip to Saratoga, and a return to sprinting ignited something big.
Let go at odds of 8-1 by the opening day crowd, Jackson Bend took full advantage of a large opening on the rail as the field hit the stretch, and rolled home to a very fast, and very impressive win in the $75,000 James Marvin Stakes. And don't lessen this effort because of the lack of grade or the smallish purse. This was no ordinary $75,000 stakes race, as the field of eight was littered with graded stakes winners.
Jackson Bend, noted as a horse with a big heart, could not have been a more popular winner, scoring by 2 ½ lengths over Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Hamazing Destiny who was a half-length better than long shot Escrow Kid for second. Meanwhile, the three race favorites, Here Comes Ben, Aikenite, and Caixa Eletronica finished fourth, fifth, and sixth respectively.
With the win, the four-year-old son of Hear No Evil improved his lifetime record to 6-5-2 in 19 starts, and pushed his career earnings over the $900,000 mark.
For winning rider, Corey Nakatani, it was admittedly a dream trip. The veteran rider, obviously pleased with the day's results, Tweeted after the race, “Feels great to win one on opening day at Saratoga!”
Sure, Jackson Bend got a great trip today, but it was the type of win that can turn around a career that looked to be on the decline. It will be interesting to see if his Jackson Bend’s connections look to wheel back their diminutive star in one of the most important sprint stakes on the calendar, the Grade 1 Forego on Saratoga’s closing weekend. After today, I can’t imagine why not.
As further proof of the quality of today's performance, he covered the same seven furlongs that will make up the Forego, in 1:20.91. That time, on the Spa’s fast track, is just two-fifths of a second off a 33-year-old track record set by Darby Creek Road. Welcome back, Jackson Bend!