Multiple grade I winner Jackson Bend has been retired, Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito confirmed Oct. 11. The 5-year-old son of Hear No Evil will start the 2013 breeding season in Florida at Journeyman Stud for a $5,000 fee.
Bred in Florida by Fred Brei of Jacks or Better Farm, Jackson Bend campaigned to a 9-6-4 record from 28 starts with earnings of $1,613,450. He won eight stakes including the 2012 Carter Handicap (gr. I) over top contenders Caleb's Posse and Shackleford , and this year's edition of the Hal's Hope (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. In 2011 he took the Forego Stakes (gr. I) and James Marvin at Saratoga Race Course, and in 2009 he swept the Florida Stallion Series stakes for juveniles at Calder Casino & Race Course.
"You can't put it in words; you can't put a price on that," Zito remarked. "For us, he was just a special, special horse, one of the best I've ever been around. You could go all over the world and you're not gonna find many horses like that."
Brei bred Jackson Bend out of the Tabasco Cat mare Sexy Stockings. He completed his first six starts for Jacks or Better Farm and trainer Stanley Gold before Robert LaPenta purchased a majority interest and transferred Jackson Bend to Zito.
In 2010 the colt was third in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) following a 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). He was the runner-up in the Wood Memorial (gr. I), Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (gr. II), and Holy Bull (gr. III) earlier that season. As a 4-year-old, he was runner-up in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II) and Skip Away Stakes (gr. III), and finished third in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) and Memorial Day Handicap.
This year he ran third in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) as well.
"When you put everything in the proper perspective, it is very unsual for a horse to do what he did," Zito remarked. "You run competitively in the (Triple Crown) preps, you run well in the Preakness, you tail off and come back and win a grade I at Saratoga, you go to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, win the Hal's Hope, and then you run one of the best races of the year in the Carter. It's emotional for me because he's that kind of horse I thought would always be around, he was so sturdy and so tough."
Last time out, Jackson Bend finished seventh in the Sept. 1 Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course after surviving an Aug. 18 training accident when a bolting horse ran into him on the Oklahoma training track at the upstate New York oval.
"Racing has so many ups and downs, it's just the business we're in," Zito said. "For him to be run into that morning, it's really sad. There's no way he wouldn't have been 1-2-3 in the Forego. I know how well those other horses ran, but he was training like he would have been right there."
After the Forego, Jackson Bend was sent to Jacks or Better Farm in Reddick, Fla.
"At this point what he needed first, after getting clobbered up there at the Saratoga training track, was an extended period of time off," Brei explained. "Then we assessed where we were; he's coming six, he isn't gelded, and we just said he's been such a good horse that we're not even going to try to bring him back. Bob LaPenta, my partner, agreed with me that he's been way too good a horse for us, and we know the incident in Saratoga took a toll on him."
Brei said Jackson Bend did not sustain serious physical damage following the incident, but that his customary brightness and agressive attitude toward training had diminished.
"We know that took a toll on him, but we didn't find any fractures or anything of that nature," he said. "The big thing I didn't like was just his attitude and I knew that needed a lot more than a 30 day rest. He just wasn't coming back. I told Bob, 'At this point, if we let him the rest of the way down, then we might as well leave him out there for six months, and after six months you have no idea whether he's going to come back to a grade I status horse, which he has been all along. Right now, I think it's better for the horse that we retire him."
"With all the starts he's had in him, he's in excellent shape in comparison to most," Brei remarked. "How many horses of that caliber do you find with that many starts today? Not many, usually they self-destruct before they get that many starts. We want to get him a good book of mares and get him off to a good start; that's what we're trying to accomplish with the low stud fee and we're willing to do that to get him established."