Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei’s Jackson Bend, a multiple Grade 1 winner that swept the 2009 Florida Stallion Stakes, was named Florida-bred champion sprinter of 2011, and earned over $1.6 million in a career that included victories in the Carter Handicap and Forego Stakes, in addition to third-place finishes in the 2010 Preakness and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, worked five furlongs from the gate in 1:03.40 at Calder Casino & Race Course on Sunday in his first recorded move since exiting retirement.
“It was a first work back, but it really wasn’t a first work back because he’s been galloping and breezing on the farm,” Stanley Gold, trainer of Jackson Bend during the early stages of his career and the horse’s current conditioner, said of the 6-year-old’s morning move. “This wasn’t something to see if he was ready to come back. He already showed that he was ready on the farm.”
Jackson Bend hasn’t run since finishing seventh in the 2012 Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga on September 1, a race that took place two weeks after the son of Awesome of Course was knocked to the ground after colliding with another horse in a freak morning accident on the Oklahoma training track.
It was the lingering effects of that fall that led to an October announcement that Jackson Bend would be retired to Journeyman Stud, but after showing signs of discomfort when observed with test mares in January, a decision was made to bypass the 2013 breeding season and the horse was sent to a farm in Ocala for rehabilitation.
“At that time, I wasn’t asking any questions and was just reading the stories like everyone else,” Gold said. “I knew that he was on the farm rehabbing with light exercise, and with each thing he was asked to do, he showed that he wanted to do more.
“So one thing led to another, and he went from jogging the wrong way, to jogging further the wrong way, to galloping, and all the time, he was progressing and wanting more. And at some point, it was decided that the horse wanted to come back and would come back.”
With the decision made to bring Jackson Bend out of retirement, the horse returned to Barn 55 at Calder, a track he last saw in June 2011, during the early afternoon hours of April 30.
“He’s not in the same stall, but he’s acting like the same horse,” Gold said of his returning pupil. “His attitude is good and he is happy to be here, but most importantly he seems back both physically and mentally. It appears to me that he is 100-percent.”
Gold recognizes the challenge that lies ahead for both horse and trainer.
“Anytime you get a good horse in the barn, you’re glad to get one,” Gold said. “But with a high profile horse like him, you run the chance of looking bad if things don’t work out. But that’s why you get in this game; to have a nice horse and to be challenged.”
Gold has targeted the Smile Sprint at Calder on July 6 as the main target for Jackson Bend.
“If you’ve got a really good sprint horse, where is the best sprint race for him?” Gold asked. “It’s right here in the Smile Sprint. So that’s his primary objective.
“Obviously he’s got to show that he’s up to that, but he’ll get a chance to do that in the Ponche Handicap (June 8), and if anything were to go amiss, or if at any point it doesn’t look like this is the best thing for him, he’ll leave and wait for the 2014 breeding season to begin.
“But if everything goes good, I think he can have a season that could be very rewarding for everyone involved with him. And then he’ll go to the breeding shed in 2014.”