06/06/2013 1:51PM

Calder: Jackson Bend preps for Summit of Speed in Ponche

Laura Villasana/Coady Photography
Jackson Bend makes his first start in eight months on Saturday in the Ponche.

The $75,000 Ponche Handicap serves as the traditional prep for Calder’s premier sprint race, the Grade 2 Smile. But never has the field for the Ponche been as strong or as deep as it will be Saturday, when two-time Grade 1 winner Jackson Bend takes on the Grade 3-placed Bahamian Squall, Grade 1-tested Trickmeister and five others in the feature event on the 12-race Summit of Speed Preview program.

The Ponche will be the fourth and final stakes on a card that also includes the Unbridled for 3-year-olds, its filly counterpart, the Leave Me Alone, and the U Can Do It Handicap for older fillies and mares. All four Summit Preview Stakes will carry a $75,000 purse and be decided at six furlongs.

The Summit of Speed will be held on July 6.

Jackson Bend, now 6, returns to Calder for the third time in a career during which he’s won 9 of 28 starts, including both the Grade 1 Forego and Grade 1 Carter Handicap. Both those victories came for trainer Nick Zito, but it is Stanley Gold who has Jackson Bend back in the barn this season.

Jackson Bend was perfect in five starts at 2 for Gold, including all three legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes. He briefly returned to Gold during the opening half of the 2011 season, finishing third in the Memorial Day Handicap, before being transferred to Zito for a second time. Jackson Bend was retired briefly last fall, shortly after being involved in a freak training mishap at Saratoga.

Jackson Bend, who has not started since finishing seventh in defense of his title in the Forego eight months earlier, will carry high weight of 122 pounds in the Ponche.

Bahamian Squall was freshened by trainer David Fawkes after finishing a close third in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on Feb. 9. He won the restricted Sunshine State at Gulfstream last year to close out his 3-year-old campaign.

“This is definitely a very salty spot, but I think he looks super in the race,” said Fawkes. “The little break did him some good, he’s training outstanding, and I think I may have a more seasoned and fitter horse right now than both Jackson Bend and Trickmeister. It’s still a prep for the big race, but we might as well put the irons to the heat.”

Close It Out rallied to upset Bahamian Squall here last fall in the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap and tuned up for the Ponche with an easy 4 1/2-length victory in the Champali Stakes three weeks earlier. Close It Out finished third, beaten a nose for second, behind Gantry in the 2012 Smile.

The injury plagued Trickmeister will make his first start since being transferred to trainer Allan Hunter earlier this winter. Trickmeiseter, once a highly regarded member of the national handicap division, has been away since finishing third more than seven months earlier in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap.

Angelica Zapata will go postward the starting highweight under 120 pounds in the U Can Do It even though she has not started since winning the 1 1/16-mile Stage Door Betty Handicap in late September. Angelica Zapata closed out her abbreviated 2012 campaign with four straight stakes wins, each of which came around two turns.

Trainer Marty Wolfson entered four for the U Can Do It, led by Starship Truffles, winner of six of her last eight starts, including the Musical Romance overnight stakes on April 20. The remainder of his quartet includes Oh Carole, Bahia Beach, and Givhans Ferry.

Capitalism At Risk, who brings a four-race win streak into her stakes debut, and Saint Aggie, a well-graded winner of her last start, are also key contenders.

The lightly raced Vitameta could kick off a big day for the Fawkes barn if she runs to expectations in the Leave Me Alone. Vitameta has won three of her six starts, including the Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in her 3-year-old bow. She has been idle since finishing a distance fourth in an overnight stakes at Gulfstream on March 1.

“She’s doing super good, runs well fresh, and I expect her to run a big race right off the bench,” said Fawkes.

The Leave Me Alone lured a full field of 12 3-year-old fillies plus two also-eligibles. The field includes stakes winner Street Girl, and the Kirk Ziadie-trained duo of Dreaming of Lucy and Dreaming of Sophia.

Sr. Quisqueyano, idle since dominating the Calder Derby by 7 1/2 lengths on April 6, will turn back to a sprint and be heavily favored to win the Unbridled. He could face his stiffest challenges from Two T’s At Two B and the steadily improving City of Weston.

Two T’s At Two B was a two-time stakes winner last year at 2, but has been idle since finishing second trying to stay two turns for the first time in the In Reality Stakes in his juvenile finale.