“He had a number of excuses, but I’m not going to make any. I’m just drawing a line through it and see what he does Sunday. Sometimes everything goes perfect and sometimes everything happens that you don’t want to happen,” Gold said. “He went up in good shape and he came back in good shape. He just didn’t get to run his race, and I’m going to draw a line through it.”
Jackson Bend, whose jockey lost the whip, can make amends for his disappointment at 1 1/16 miles last time out in Sunday’s $100,000 Sunshine State Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Sunshine State, also a stakes restricted to Florida-bred horses, is slated for seven furlongs, the distance at which he has scored both of his Grade 1 wins.
“I think, ideally, one turn is good for him because he wants to make a late run, and they naturally go faster early going short,” Gold said. “You want to see a good honest pace where he can run you down. I still don’t think two turns is out of his realm, but it didn’t go right for him.”
Owned by Robert LaPenta and breeder Fred Brei’s Jacks or Better Farm, Jackson Bend has won the 2011 Forego (G1) at Saratoga and the 2012 Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct, as well as sweeping the 2009 Florida Stallion Stakes series. The 6-year-old son of Hear No Evil nearly won this year’s Forego, in which he closed fast to finish just a half-length behind victorious Strapping Groom.
“He could have easily won that race, but it was still a good race. He only got beat a shrinking half length. Finishing second in a Grade 1, I was sure proud of him. That was quite an accomplishment. I was disappointed when he bounced the next time. I think we’ll make amends Sunday,” Gold said.
“To come back to that level and show everybody the can compete against the best in a Grade 1 was satisfaction enough. Sure, I would have liked to have won, and it would have made a big difference in a number of ways. But he showed he still had it.”
Gold, who named two-time defending champion Javier Castellano to ride Jackson Bend, is also scheduled to saddle Fort Loudon for the Sunshine State. The 4-year-old Jacks or Better Farm’s homebred, who swept the 2011 Florida Stallion Stakes series and was last year’s Sunshine State runner-up, is a very talented sprinter in his own right, banking more than $900,000. The son of Awesome of Course, who captured the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G3) in February, has been idle since July.
“He’s been training excellent. All of his works are good and he’s coming up to the race good,” said Gold, who has named Jeffrey Sanchez to ride.
Jackson Bend and Fort Loudon are set to go up against the defending Sunshine State champion, Bahamian Squall.
“I think he's as good now or even better than he was when he won this race a year ago,” trainer David Fawkes said. “He's a lot more mature, all business now. He’s much more focused.”
The 4-year-old son of Gone West most recently finished sixth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.
“He's doing really well. He came out of the Breeders' Cup well. I think he ran hard but they got away from him a little too far early in the race. He needs to be more forwardly placed,” said Fawkes, whose trainee was beaten by less than three lengths. “I think he'll be a lot closer on Sunday. I believe seven furlongs is going to be better for him.”
Bahamian Squall will be ridden by Joe Bravo.
Close It Out, a multiple-stakes winner who finished third in the 2012 Sunshine State, Star Harbor and Cat Five Hurricane round out the field.