11/03/2010 11:34AM

Jackson Bend eyes rebound in Ack Ack

Tom Keyser
Jackson Bend will be looking to regain his form from earlier this year when he runs in the Ack Ack Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Colizeo wasn’t quite good enough for any of the Triple Crown races, and Apart wasn’t quite ready enough. Jackson Bend was good and ready, although with the benefit of hindsight, he might be paying for it now.

With those instructive months in the rearview mirror, that trio of 3-year-olds will get together Friday at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap, the main lead-in to the six Breeders’ Cup events.

Three older horses, including the defending champion, Demarcation, will join their more youthful counterparts to form a compact field of six for the 18th running of the $100,000 Ack Ack, a 1 1/16-mile race that goes as the fourth of 10 Friday races.

Jackson Bend ran well enough in the winter and spring – finishing second in the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth, and Wood Memorial – that trainer Nick Zito took a shot at the Kentucky Derby with the diminutive colt. And although he was never a factor when finishing 12th at 23-1 in the Derby, Jackson Bend nearly pulled a stunner when third, beaten less than a length for all the money, two weeks later as an 11-1 shot in the Preakness.

“He ran the race of his life that day, and I thought we were a little unlucky not to win,” Zito said. “Looking back, maybe that race took a toll, because obviously he hasn’t done that again.”

While Jackson Bend has run poorly in his two races since the Preakness, his fellow 3-year-olds have been on the rise. Both Colizeo, trained by Todd Pletcher, and Apart, trained by Al Stall Jr., have won 3 of 5 starts since Derby Day, and both have become two-time stakes winners.

“The Triple Crown is tough,” Zito said. “But my horse probably needed his last race, and he’s doing good. His coat looks good. Hopefully, he can get back on his game here.”

The Ack Ack, named for the 1971 Horse of the Year, was run last year as a one-turn mile. Demarcation rallied from well back to prevail at 10-1, and following what has been a productive year in the interim, his connections are hoping the 6-year-old gelding can repeat. Calvin Borel has the mount.

“It’s great how the horse seems to fire every time,” said Bob Feld, racing manager for owners John and Jerry Amerman. “We decided to not be too audacious by running in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and try to win the Ack Ack again.”

Post time for the Ack Ack is 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

Noble’s Promise tops Jimmy V

Two allowances (races 1 and 2) and the $85,000 Jimmy V. (race 3), an overnight stakes for 3-year-old sprinters, kick off a Friday card that starts at 2 p.m. Gates open at noon.

The Jimmy V., named for the charitable foundation honoring the late North Carolina State basketball coach, Jim Valvano, drew a field of nine, including Noble’s Promise, the fifth-place finisher in the 2010 Derby.

Noble’s Promise is unraced since finishing fifth in June in a one-mile turf race at the prestigious Royal Ascot meet in England. Ken McPeek backed off on the colt afterward, citing a rugged winter and spring campaign and the fact the colt’s feet were “just a little sore.”

Cool Bullet, Bulldogger, Latigo Shore, and Backtalk form the core of opposition for Noble’s Promise.