Despite Collision, Jackson Bend Feisty and Fit for Forego
In the aftermath of a violent collision on Saratoga's Oklahoma training track, some wondered whether or not Nick Zito's five year old Jackson Bend would survive, let alone race again. But remarkably, when the gates swing open for Saturday's Grade One Forego, just two weeks after that training accident, the five year old fighter will be in the mix.
On August 18th, the normal hustle and bustle of Saratoga Race Course's Oklahoma training track gave way to paralyzing fear, as a forceful collision between two horses left one of them laying on the track, unable to get up for more than five minutes. It was Nick Zito's multiple Grade One winning Jackson Bend down prone, having been clobbered head-on by the Anthony Quartarolo trained Little Nick, who stepped onto the track, spooked, and bolted under his jockey.
The collision was enough throw Jackson Bend's exercise rider, Carlos Correa, over the top and onto the dirt. It was there that horse and rider lay for a number of minutes, both trying to catch their breath. "I was disgusted for him," said Correa, who, when asked, said he thought the horse wouldn't survive the ordeal. "It was a hard impact, you know? I thought he might have broken his shoulder."
Trainer Nick Zito echoed the grim thoughts. "I was horrified. I said 'Oh please, no. It can't be him.'" But while those on the scene simultaneously hoped for the best and prepared themselves for the worst - and while Zito attempted to contact the horse's owners, Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei - the horse simply stood up; and after being vanned back to Zito's barn and examined by doctors, seemed, astoundingly, fine.
"It's an amazing story," said Zito, who spoke at length defending his decision to run Jackson Bend on Saturday. "All I can do is take all the tests, and I did. And they all came back good," he said. Unfolding a printed sheet of paper and turning it for us to see. He continued, "See [the blood work results]?" indicating the paper, "This is Jackson Bend. Know when this was taken? Yesterday. You know what it is? Perfect." "I ask [exercise rider Carlos Correa] every day, if he said no, it'd be no," he finished.
For his part, Correa agrees, saying that the horse is "over it," and specifically mentioning how well he's trained of late, "It's scary the way he's been going, like his old self."
Attempting to explain away the horse's impressive resiliency, both trainer and rider noted his toughness, calling him feisty and fearless. But perhaps it was Zito who put it best when he said simply, "He's a tough little bastard."
And so against all odds, Jackson Bend will race on Saturday. He's been installed a 7/2 second choice in Saturday's Grade One Forego, and will likely have to rely on that grittiness to score a win. With plenty of front-running speed joining him in the starting gate, he'll likely sit near the back and rely on a ferocious closing run - and if the fight he's displayed battling through an ordeal that would have doomed lesser horses is any indication, I wouldn't ignore him when stepping up to the betting window. Why would you want to anyway? A horse like this? He's one to root for. Go get 'em Jackson Bend.