Updated 09/01/2012 03:08 PM
The Spa Spot: Zito delighted with 'tough' Jackson Bend
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito
Two weeks after what could have been a career-threatening and possibly a life-threatening accident, Jackson Bend will go to the starting gate today for the Grade 1 Forego.
The 5-year-old horse has bounced back from the incident on the Oklahoma training track and with the scratch of Shackleford is likely to go off as the betting favorite. Even with Shackleford out, the Forego still has a deep field and Jackson Bend will have to turn in a strong performance to win the seven-furlong race for the second consecutive year.
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito isn't sure what to expect. From daily tests and exams, he knows Jackson Bend has recovered from whatever damage he might have incurred in the collision with the horse Little Nick. From what he can tell, there doesn't seem to be any psychological issues. But Zito acknowledges that he is guessing.
"That’s the thing that we’ll never know," he said. "You won’t know five weeks from now. If we said, 'OK, let’s run him five weeks from now,‘ you won’t know if he’s put it past him mentally."
Jackson Bend was galloping a couple of paths off the rail under exercise rider Carlos Correa when they ran into Little Nick, who was traveling in the other direction. Correa was thrown over Little Nick and Jackson Bend was knocked to the ground. Jackson Bend lay on the ground for a few minutes, stunned, twitching and trying to regain his breath.
A couple of days later when Jackson Bend returned to the track, Zito had him brought back to the area he called "the scene of the crime." Zito wanted to see how he would react.
"I took him right there with Carlos on his back," Zito said. "I figured the both of them were hit and the both of them went down, so that’s what i did. He doesn’t seem to worry about it."
Long before the accident took place, the plucky but smallish Jackson Bend, had become a Zito favorite.
“He’s tough. He is fearless," Zito said.
Zito has been very cautious with Jackson Bend, but started showing his enthusiasm in the last few days when he began to believe that the horse was OK and would make the race.
"I always said, ‘If this happened, people would thank God,' and I always do," Zito said. "And they’ll believe in God, I guess. It’s a great story and an amazing thing.
"All I can do is take everything I am supposed to take, all the tests. I did and they all came back good. I even have an acupuncturist work on him every single day and he tells me he’s fine."
Correa is a veteran rider who some 30 years of experience. Jackson Bend is one of the horses he gets on every morning and he said the horse has left the accident behind.
"He’s like me. He’s forgotten it," Correa said. "We just keep going. He’s like a boxer. He’s ready to go battle. He’s ready to get in the ring. The way he’s been galloping the last two days, Jesus, it’s scary the way he’s been going."
Correa smiled at the suggestion that Jackson Bend can take a hit.
"He’s a tough horse," Correa said. "You see the horses he runs with. He’s not afraid of nobody."