10/25/2011 12:13PM

Santa Anita: Bob Black Jack, at 6, the comeback kid again

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Benoit & Associates
Bob Black Jack, David Flores riding, wins the San Carlos Handicap in February 2010, his most recent start.

ARCADIA, Calif. – When it seemed the racing career of the multiple stakes winner Bob Black Jack was over because of injury in early 2010, trainer James Kasparoff found it more difficult than expected to find him a new home.

There was minimal interest from California’s stud farms, and the financial side of a potential stallion deal did not appeal to owners Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff, James’s brother. In fact, the financial side was nonexistent, Kasparoff recalled.

“They’d let us keep him at their place and we’d pay them,” James Kasparoff said last weekend, describing the potential stud deal.

Bob Black Jack never went to stud. In the end, he was not retired, either. Bob Black Jack was sent to a local farm to rest an injured suspensory ligament, forgotten by the racing public, but not by James Kasparoff. This summer, Bob Black Jack, who is by the Bertrando sire Stormy Jack, went back into training, 16 months after he won the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita in what seemed to be his final start.

He is on the verge of a comeback. Saturday at Santa Anita, Bob Black Jack is scheduled to start in the $100,000 California Cup Sprint for statebreds. It will be the second time that he has returned from an injury to resume racing.

“We thought we’d give him plenty of time and bring him back on our time,” Kasparoff said. “So far, knock on wood, it’s worked.”

Despite many interruptions, Bob Black Jack has had a remarkable career. The 6-year-old horse has won 5 of 11 starts and $682,925, and won four stakes.

The most races he has ever run in one season is 6, in 2008, the year he won the Sunshine Millions Dash for California-breds and Florida-breds in January, running six furlongs in a then-world-record time of 1:06.53. After a second in the Santa Anita Derby that April, he was part of a pace duel in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, but faded to finish 16th, 32 lengths behind Big Brown.

After that race, Bob Black Jack was rested and made two more starts in the final weeks of the year. A fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in November was followed by a victory in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs in late December.

The Malibu win left James Kasparoff hoping for a trip to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen in March 2009, but an undisclosed injury put the then-4-year-old on the bench that spring. A year later, in his comeback in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap, Bob Black Jack led throughout seven furlongs, beating a field that included the reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Dancing in Silks. That win remains Kasparoff’s favorite performance.

“It was the way in which he did it, off the break,” Kasparoff said. “No one went with him.”

A month later, after a workout, the suspensory injury was detected.

It was not until last month, several weeks after Bob Black Jack resumed workouts, that Kasparoff thought the horse was likely to make it back yet again.

“He’d handled everything really well,” he said. “He’s sharp and he wants it. He’s got all his energy. He’s been telling me he’s ready to run.”

The Cal Cup Sprint is a tough spot for a comeback, even if the race is restricted to statebreds. The field is expected to include the multiple stakes winner M One Rifle and Mensa Heat, second in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes on Oct. 1.

“He hasn’t run in a year and a half and he’s facing some gas,” Kasparoff said of an expected fast pace.

There is satisfaction for Kasparoff that Bob Black Jack has made it this far. He is the pride of the 37-year-old trainer’s 10-horse stable. Last weekend, Kasparoff reflected on the preparation to get Bob Black Jack back to racing.

“It would be the achievement of getting him back from an injury and racing at the highest level,” he said. “I think it’s a definite training feat and a tribute to him as a racehorse.

“It’s nice to be around the horse. He’s the epitome of a good horse.”