When it comes to Jackson Bend’s
potential title defense in Saturday’s Grade 1 Forego, Hall of Fame
trainer Nick Zito is taking things as they come. On Monday morning,
Jackson Bend – who nine days ago was run into by another horse on the
Oklahoma training track – breezed a half-mile at Oklahoma in 49.77.
The son of Hear No Evil was ridden by Maxine Correa and easily
outdistanced his maiden workmate, Todd Cole, who finished in 50.90.
“The horse that worked with Jackson, Todd
Cole, he’s a claiming horse,” Zito said. “He’s not in Jackson’s league.
When Jackson went by him, Max Correa said Jackson was looking around;
he had no competition. So, she just dangled the reins a little bit and
he went on his business and galloped out good when he heard other
horses. I was basically happy because I didn’t want to do too much, and
I didn’t want to do too little.”
After Jackson Bend collided with the
Anthony Quartarolo-trained Little Nick, Zito counts himself lucky to
have gotten the Grade 1 Carter Handicap winner this far and said he
won’t make a final decision on whether or not to run until closer to
“Nine days ago, obviously, we never would
have dreamed that he was working today,” Zito said. “Fitness-wise he’s
there, and basically what I’m telling people now is that this is
day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute to minute. Tomorrow, I’ll ultrasound
him again. Not today. Check his ribs, check everything again. Even
though we got a [clean] bill of health, we’ll do all the things again.
“Even if we enter, everybody knows,
[owner Robert LaPenta] knows, the horse is the main deal. His partner
Fred Brei – I was just on the phone with him – knows the main thing. So
even if we enter, it’s not a guarantee we’re running. As long as he
trains good, and he’s doing good, I’ll give it a shot.”
Zito is quick to credit Jackson Bend’s
agility and toughness to bounce back from the incident and said he knows
these setbacks are a part of racing.
“I’ve had a lot of tough horses, but this
guy…I think [it’s because] he’s so agile. You see when he walks, he
walks that way. So agile. I definitely never had one like that. One
thing about racing…you never when it’s your turn, it’s not your turn,
and that’s it. We take precautions every day; it doesn’t matter. You
see what happens in racing. Every day there’s something new. Street
Life stopped in front of [Fast Falcon] in the Travers, he got hurt.
Yesterday, It’s Tricky falls on her face [in the Personal Ensign]. It’s
It’s precisely because the sport can be
so fickle that Zito says he won’t run Jackson Bend until he and his
entire team are satisfied that the horse is 100 percent.
“There isn’t one person that works on him
medically that hasn’t given me clearance,” Zito said. “They have to
keep doing that the rest of the week. I just have to make sure that
when I lead him over there – if I do Saturday, and I hope I do – that
everybody’s happy with the way he is. So it’s just a normal race. I
don’t what them saying ‘Well, he got hit, he got banged into.’
“The horse’s welfare is No. 1 and that
goes from the LaPenta family to all the people that work around us. 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