The 6-year-old son of Hear No Evil worked five furlongs under Fernando Jara in 1:03 2/5 under the supervision of Stanley Gold, who conditioned him throughout his 2-year-old season before he was sent to Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito.
Jackson Bend had been retired to stud for the 2013 breeding season by co-owners Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei of Jacks or Better Farm. In January it was announced he would not stand after test breeding revealed lingering discomfort from a back injury suffered during a training incident at Saratoga Race Course in the summer of 2012.
A loose horse, 7-year-old gelding Little Nick, severely collided with Jackson Bend during training hours on the Oklahoma oval. He had been training for a title defense in the Forego Handicap (gr. I) and in fact ran in the race. He suffered significant swelling and back soreness and was believed to have also suffered a concussion, although he was never officially diagnosed with any health issues. He finished seventh in the Forego and never ran again.
According to Brei, Jackson Bend essentially put himself back into training when Brei started him in a light exercise regimen at his farm in Reddick, Fla., in an attempt to strengthen his hind end. The horse, bred by Brei out of the Tabasco Cat mare Sexy Stockings. had been slated to stand for $5,000.
"Because of the wreck at Saratoga last fall, we were having too many problems with his back and back end," Brei explained. "We removed him from stud before the season opened, so the first of February he went back to my farm for rehab. My chiropractor worked on him, and we started working on getting him strong. We elected to put him back in exercise, jogging two to three miles a day, just making sure his back and his back end got strong, and one day he decided he didn't want to do that anymore."
Jackson Bend, Brei said, hauled his rider through some faster-paced exercise after a little more than a month back under the saddle.
"He was jogging for about six weeks and all of the sudden it was like all the cobwebs cleared out; he was totally comfortable, and he told us he wanted to do more than jog," Brei said. "He took off and did an absolutely tremendous 2-minute lick going a mile and a half and I said 'Okay, let's go ahead and gallop him.' Well, he absolutely loved turning and galloping, his head was getting back on straight after what we suspect was a concussion he got up in Saratoga, and we just proceeded with training on the farm."
An overnight stakes at Calder will be the trial target for Jackson Bend, who could continue racing for the season, according to Brei. He could also run and then return to the farm, depending on what kind of enthusiasm and effort he puts in on race day. One such race is June 8, although Brei said there would be no rush to hit a particular target.
"This is right now a situation of allowing the horse to do what we believe he wants to do, and if he gets into the heat of battle and we see he doesn't want to do that, he's out of training and turned out until next season for stud," Brei said. "We know he's totally sound and past the problem that was created last year in the accident, and only he will tell us whether he wants to compete at the stakes level any more."
Asked if Jackson Bend could potentially return to training with Zito, Brei said such decisions would be made at a later date. Zito saddled Jackson Bend in 18 of his 28 starts, including victories in the Forego and Carter (gr. I) handicaps as well as to a third-place finish in the 2010 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and a third in the 2011 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I).
Jackson Bend won six other stakes and placed in a total of nine stakes. His current record stands at 9-6-4 from 28 starts, with earnings of $1,613,450.
"Other than training extraordinarily well, we don't even know until we put him in the gate if he wants to do this anymore," the co-owner remarked. "He might say, 'I want to exercise, but I don't want to do this.' We've got to remember we're talking about a horse who is 6 years old with 30-plus starts, and none of them have been easy. He's been running in stakes races and graded races since the second time he ever ran.
"That's where we're at. I certainly hope for him that this is what he wants to do, and he'll show us in his first couple races back. Only he will tell us whether or not he wants to compete at the stakes level any more, and if he doesn't we'll turn him out and get him ready for the breeding season in 2014. This is listening to the horse, as Shug McGaughey would say."
According to Brei, all reports were positive from Gold following Jackson Bend's breeze under Jara.
"He called me and told me, 'We breezed him out of the gate and you're right, he wants to get back to the races,'" Brei said.