07/12/2012 5:00PM

Belmont Park: Zito targeting a stronger second half

Tom Keyser
Jackson Bend is gearing up for next Friday’s Grade 3, $100,000 James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga.

ELMONT, N.Y. – After a relatively slow first half of the year, trainer Nick Zito is gearing up for a strong second half with one old reliable horse and a trio of up-and-coming 3-year-olds.

Jackson Bend, who has provided Zito with both of his graded stakes victories this year, completed his major preparation for next Friday’s Grade 3, $100,000 James Marvin Stakes by working four furlongs in 48.93 seconds Thursday morning over the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga.

It was Jackson Bend’s third workout since his fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont on May 28.

Exercise rider Maxine Correa was aboard for the move, in which Jackson Bend got his last quarter in 24 seconds, according to Saratoga clockers.

“He worked fine, Maxine was happy with him, I’m happy with him,” Zito said. “He’s been training all along. He had some bullets, so we didn’t need to do too much. We just want to keep him happy and fresh.”

Jackson Bend has been the bright spot in an otherwise slow year for the Hall of Famer Zito. In four starts this year, Jackson Bend won the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream and Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct while finishing third to Mucho Macho Man in the Gulfstream Park Handicap and fifth in the Met Mile.

Zito said Jackson Bend was “never comfortable” in the Met Mile, a race in which he broke from the outside post in the six-horse field.

“He does like the fence, and he couldn’t get over,” Zito said. “He couldn’t run the way he likes to run.”

Jackson Bend won the James Marvin last year, and later in the Saratoga meet he captured the Grade 1 Forego. Jackson Bend is 4 for 4 at seven furlongs.

With Corey Nakatani moving his tack to Del Mar for the summer, Zito has tabbed Rosie Napravnik to ride Jackson Bend in the James Marvin.

Napravnik also will be aboard Fast Falcon when that 3-year-old runs in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy for Zito on July 28.

Fast Falcon, a son of Awesome Again, was beaten a neck by Teeth of the Dog in the Grade 2 Dwyer after finishing second to that same rival in the Easy Goer Stakes.

The day before the Jim Dandy, Zito plans to send out Easter Gift in the $100,000 Curlin Stakes. Easter Gift, a son of Hard Spun, won his first two starts sprinting before finishing second to Le Bernardin in the Grade 3 Pegasus at Monmouth, going 1 1/16 miles for the first time.

Zito also is hoping to get Spin Out to some of the sprint stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. He could start in either the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam on July 29 or a first-level allowance race.

“The second half of the season, we’ll see what happens,” Zito said. “Hopefully, Nick Zito can do something.”