Jackson Bend walks over the Pimlico track.

Jackson Bend walks over the Pimlico track.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Gate Training Puts Final Edge on Jackson Bend

Jackson Bend is sharp and ready for the May 15 Preakness Stakes.

A little gate training for Jackson Bend and some good-natured ribbing between trainers was included with an easy gallop May 14, as the son of Hear No Evil made his final prep for the May 15 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

“I told (Bob) Baffert I took Jackson to the gate today and he looked at me and said, ‘Really?’,” said trainer Nick Zito. “I said it is because you’re next me, and I want to get out of there. You’ve been so ‘lucky’ lately you’re likely to come over on me.”

Jackson Bend will break from post 6 in the Preakness, immediately to the inside of Baffert’s Lookin At Lucky  (7) and the favorite and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Super Saver  (8). In the Derby, Lookin At Lucky had a rough trip with a lot bumping while breaking from post 1. In all seriousness, Zito said, he hopes Jackson Bend will be among the top three heading into the first turn in the Preakness.

“I told Mike you have a good spot, get a good position and we’ll see what happens,” said Zito, referring to jockey Mike Smith. Zito has won five Triple Crown races since 1991. His only Preakness win came in 1996 with Louis Quatorze. Zito said there are not many similarities between Louis Quatorze, who was a big royally bred colt, and Jackson Bend, who is smaller and not so royally bred.

"But Jackson's got this,” Zito said bumping a fist over his heart.

Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei own Jackson Bend. Brei bred the colt under the name of Jacks or Better Farm, which he runs with his wife Jane near Ocala, Fla.

Jackson Bend, who finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby, is coming into the race off a :46 3/5 bullet work May 10 at Churchill Downs. Though it was the colt’s fastest four-furlong work since the beginning of the year, Zito said the work sharpened him and provided reassurance that Jackson Bend deserved a shot in the Preakness.

“That good workout and the way he bounced out of the (Derby) you got a good feeling maybe we got a little shot here, maybe,” Zito said. “Most people are picking Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky. That is probably the way it looks on paper, but you have to do it out there (pointing to the racetrack).”

During a conversation outside Pimlico’s stakes barn after Jackson Bend returned from the track, Super Saver’s co-owner Bill Casner told Zito he thought Jackson Bend could be the winner if he gets a clean trip.

“I think there are 11 horses in there who can beat us,” Casner said when asked later who he saw as the most serious threats in the race. “They are legit horses or they wouldn’t be here. I think Lookin At Lucky will be very tough. He got in all sorts of trouble. I think Paddy O'Prado has a heckuva' shot. We’ll go off the favorite but there are several horses that could step up and outrun us.”

Casner added that he’s confident Super Saver is up to the challenge against a collectively strong crop of 3-year-olds.

“He is training well,” Casner said. “He came out of the (Kentucky Derby) very good mentally and physically."