08/01/2013 4:01PM

Gulfstream Park: Swagger Jack, Jackson Bend meet in Housebuster Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Swagger Jack enters Saturday's $100,000 Housebuster Stakes off a troubled seventh-place finish in the Metropolitan Handicap in May.

Swagger Jack and Jackson Bend have won the last two runnings of the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, and on Saturday, both will be returning to the seven-furlong distance of that race when they meet in the $100,000 Housebuster Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Their presence, along with the entry of Grade 3 winner Apriority, has made for a deep first edition of the race. The field of nine older horses includes Manicero, a seven-time stakes winner making his first start since December 2011.

“We’re really excited about having this kind of race for our first summer meet, and with the quality of the field, we’re hopeful it might become a graded stakes,” said Tim Ritvo, president of Gulfstream.

Swagger Jack won the most recent Carter on April 6 at Aqueduct. He rallied for a three-quarter-length win and earned a career-high 105 Beyer Speed Figure. It was the first stakes win for the horse, who had run second in both the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship and the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap leading up to the Carter.

“He likes Gulfstream, has always run well at Gulfstream,” said Marty Wolfson, who trains Swagger Jack. “I like the distance Saturday. I think that probably his best distance is a one-turn mile. At seven-eighths, he ran strong in the Carter and the Sprint Championship at Gulfstream. It’s a good distance for him.”

Swagger Jack will be shortening up from a mile, having finished a troubled seventh in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont in his last start May 27. The race was won by Sahara Sky, whom he defeated in the Carter.

“I hope he has a lot better trip than he had in the Met Mile,” Wolfson said. “He just got totally eliminated.”

Wolfson said Swagger Jack was turned sideways coming to the quarter pole when he and another rival went for the same hole. Swagger Jack, whom he describes as “very athletic,” emerged healthy and was entered in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 6.

However, he was scratched in favor of supporting racing at Gulfstream, Wolfson said. Swagger Jack has since worked sharply. He will break from post 6 under Edgard Zayas.

“He needs a good pace in front of him,” Wolfson said.

Wolfson said that with a strong race, Swagger Jack could advance to the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga on Aug. 31.

Jackson Bend won the Forego in 2011 and the Carter in 2012. Those wins are his biggest, and both came at seven furlongs. Most recently, he was third in the six-furlong Smile Sprint. Jeffrey Sanchez has the mount for trainer Stanley Gold.

–additional reporting Mike Welsch