Calling on the generous reserve of grit and determination that has
defined his career, Jackson Bend overcame a little bobble at the start
and a lack of racing room at the top of the stretch and willed his way
to victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The diminutive 4-5 favorite, who emerged as one of the country’s
premier sprinters in 2011, got off to an impressive start for his 2012
campaign in the one-mile stakes, closing from far off the pace to score
by a length under jockey John Velazquez.
“He stumbled leaving there, then had to sit there with nowhere to go
until he found a place to run in the stretch, He’s got a tremendous
heart. He’s very special,” trainer Nick Zito said. “He has the guts of a
Jackson Bend settled into stride quickly after a hesitant start, as
Will’s Wildcat set the pace along the backstretch. The Zito trainee
advanced along the rail on the far turn, only to be blocked by a wall of
horses leaving the turn into the homestretch, forcing Velazquez to bide
his time before swinging his mount outside to find room. Once clear,
Jackson Bend kicked in powerfully to prevail over Sangaree, who also
overcame a slow start to finish second under Rajiv Maragh.
“I’ve been watching replays of his races and he can be a little bad (at
the start). He didn’t really stumble, but he didn’t break that well. I
was sort of biding my time around the turn,” Velazquez said. “I didn’t
know if I should go inside or outside. But then I took the easy way out
and said, ‘I’ll just take him outside.’ It worked out great.”
Jackson Bend, who ran the mile in 1:38.19, earned $60,000 for owners
Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei with his 8th victory in 23 starts. Cool
Blue Red Hot, ridden by Manoel Cruz finished third, a neck behind
Sangaree and four lengths clear of Soaring Empire, the 2011 Hal’s Hope
winner who took a brief lead in the stretch before fading to fourth.
“He just got tired after 5 ½ months off. He hasn’t run in a long time.
Julien said he felt good though. He was a little closer than I wanted
but they were going slow. I was hoping for more pace in the race,” said
Cam Gambolati, trainer of second-choice Soaring Empire. “As long as he
comes out OK, we’ll race another day.”
Jackson Bend was a force on the 2010 Triple Crown trail, finishing
third in the Preakness Stakes after runner-up finishes in the Wood
Memorial and Fountain of Youth. The 5-year-old son of Hear No Evil has
raced primarily in route races thereafter until Zito switched him back
to one-turn races. Jackson Bend responded with a victory in the Forego
(G1), a runner-up finish in the Kelso (G2) and a third-place finish in
the Breeders’ Cup.
“I’m going to suggest to Mr. LaPenta that we keep him in races up to a
mile. That’s what he’s happy doing. He ran so good to be third in the
Preakness you could think he liked the distance, but I think that was
just on class,” Zito said. “I’d like to take a shot at the Met Mile (at
Belmont in May) with him. I’ve been second in it a couple times. We’ll
probably run him here one more time.”