10/18/2011 1:18PM

Breeders' Cup prospects Jackson Bend, Ice Box drill at Saratoga

Tom Keyser
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile prospect Jackson Bend breezes four furlongs in 47.92 seconds Tuesday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Most barns are empty and whatever leaves remaining on the trees are multi-colored. However, activity at the Oklahoma training track on this crisp October Tuesday morning was almost as brisk as if the calendar had read August.

After several days of wet tracks prompted trainers to postpone workouts, a total of 90 horses breezed Tuesday morning at Saratoga, including about two dozen from trainer Nick Zito’s barn.

Heading the Zito contingent was Jackson Bend, the Grade 1 Forego winner who breezed four furlongs in 47.92 seconds in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Zito also worked Ice Box, who went a half-mile in 47.96 seconds and is being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the same day.

Jackson Bend, under exercise rider Maxine Correa, worked outside of stablemate Our Dark Knight. Jackson Bend galloped alongside a stable pony from the eighth pole to the 4 1/2-furlong marker before eagerly getting into his work and edging up alongside his stablemate.

Jackson Bend and Our Dark Knight went their opening eighth in 12.27 seconds and the quarter in 24.15. Jackson Bend finished the move in 23.77 seconds and was a neck in front at the wire. He galloped out well in front of Our Dark Knight, going five furlongs in 1:01.18 and three-quarters in 1:15.41.

“I was happy with him, he’s a tough little guy,’’ Zito said. “He’s so small but has got such a big heart. I want to see him get something good all the time. I’m definitely rooting for him to win that thing.’’

Zito said he would have preferred to have worked Jackson Bend last Saturday, but only planned to work him twice before the Breeders’ Cup anyway, so the wet weather didn’t hinder him.

In the set after Jackson Bend, Ice Box, who is winless in eight starts since winning the 2010 Florida Derby, worked a half-mile by himself in 47.96 seconds, getting his last quarter in 23.93. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.33, six furlongs in 1:15.24, and seven-eighths in 1:30.17.

Ice Box finished last in the Jockey Club Gold Cup after losing contact with the field early on under Corey Nakatani. Zito reasoned that it’s worth taking a shot in the Classic in part because this will likely be Ice Box’s last race and he did finish second in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill last year.

“They’ll go fast, we’ll see what happens,’’ he said. “One thing about this outfit – this trainer, this owner – we play the game. Win, lose, or draw, right or wrong, left or right, it doesn’t matter, we do it.

“A lot of times you look up there and the guy – Nick Zito, Bob LaPenta – wins the Belmont Stakes,’’ Zito added. “You look up there and the guy wins the Florida Derby; 25-1 or 50-1 we just play the game. I don’t have any more sophisticated answer for you than that.’’

Dialed In back in training

Dialed In, who won the Florida Derby for Zito and LaPenta earlier this year, was on the track Tuesday morning galloping. Dialed In, who has not run since finishing fourth in the Preakness, had a chip taken out of his right knee in late May. He will be pointed to a 2012 campaign that Zito hopes includes a start in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont in May.

“If everything goes good he’s going to be one of the better horses next year,’’ Zito said. “His Preakness was a tough blow. I’m not going to do anything in a hurry. He’ll get a start in Florida.’’