By MICHAEL COMPTON
Florida-bred Jackson Bend may not be the biggest horse on the grounds, but the same thing can't be said about his heart.
Racing for Robert LaPenta and breeder Fred Brei, Jackson Bend demonstrated his grit and made it back-to-back stakes victories at Saratoga with an authoritative score in the Forego Stakes (G1) on Sept. 3.
In the back of the pack early after breaking from the rail, Jackson Bend launched his rally around the far turn. Jockey Corey Nakatani guided Jackson Bend between horses in the stretch and the son of Journeyman Stud stallion Hear No Evil did the rest, hitting the wire 3 ¼ lengths ahead of Jersey Town. He stopped the timer in 1:22.08 for the seven furlongs. Fellow Florida-bred Aikenite rallied late for third.
The victory made Jackson Bend racing's newest millionaire. The $150,000 winner's share of the purse lifted his career bankroll to $1,062,450.
"Last time, I was able to figure him out a little bit," said Nakatani. "He can be tactical. I just let him get in that high cruising speed. When I called on him and needed to get into position at about the three-eighths pole, he was there. Turning for home, I angled down, then I angled back out and he exploded. Once I get to the lead on him, he kind of waits a little for horses. I'm getting to know him a little better each time. Once I set him down and got him running, it was a matter of how far he was going to win."
Jackson Bend bookended his meet in stylish fashion. Prior to the Forego, he captured James Marvin Stakes July 27.
Winning trainer Nick Zito said he vigorously conditioned Jackson Bend in the lead-up to the Forego and was grateful the strategy paid off.
"We socked it to him pretty good [with] those workouts," said the Hall of Fame conditioner. "He hadn't run in six weeks. Whether I'm a tough coach on him, I don't know, but he responded. He didn't get away good but he made up for it and it worked out perfectly for him. We all got excited [on the turn]. Tom Durkin's call was right on the money, he said 'Jackson Bend's starting to run!' and we all got excited."
The Forego was the first graded stakes win for Jackson Bend, who began his career at Calder where he swept the 2009 Florida Stallion Stakes series. He was second in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and third in the Grade 1 Preakness in 2009 and this year had gone 0-1-1 in four Florida starts prior to his two starts at Saratoga. Overall, Jackson Bend is 7-5-2 from 20 starts.
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