Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Little Colt That Could

Jackson Bend at Churchill Downs
The dark chestnut colt stepped onto the track alongside a pony horse. The pony horse was taller than him. He may be little in size, but he sure isn’t little in heart.
The gutsy racehorse is known as Jackson Bend. As a two-year-old, he became the seventh horse ever to sweep the open division of the Florida Stallion Stakes. At the time he was owned by Jacks or Better Farm – also his breeders – and trained by Stanley Gold. Not long after winning the Florida Stallion In Reality Stakes, a majority interest of the colt was sold to Robert LaPenta and the colt was transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito.
Jackson Bend kicked off his three-year-old season with a good second in the Holy Bull Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream Park. He wheeled off two more seconds, both to superstar Eskendereya, in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) and Wood Memorial Stakes (GI) respectively. After finishing twelfth in the prestigious Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), Jackson Bend rebounded with a very game third-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (GI).
Jackson Bend lost seven more races. He had not won since he was a two-year-old. Finally, things came together. On July 22 of this year, Jackson Bend found an opening along the rail in the James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga and exploded, winning by two and one-half lengths
In the race before the Woodward Stakes (GI), the little colt followed up that win with a victory in one of the most prestigious one-turn races in the country: the Forego Stakes (GI).  Yet again, Jackson Bend found room in the stretch and exploded to win going away. The final winning margin was three and one-quarter lengths.
Zito has since said that Jackson Bend will likely race next in the Kelso Handicap (GII) at one mile over the Belmont Park surface on October 1. The ultimate goal for Jackson Bend is the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) as Zito believes Jackson Bend would prefer the one-turn mile over a six furlong race such as the Vosburgh Stakes (GI) or Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI).
I know Jackson Bend will run his heart out each time he steps foot on the racetrack, as that’s just the kind of horse he is. The other horses may tower over him, but don’t be fooled by his small size. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in heart and determination.

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