07/22/2011 6:17PM

Saratoga: Jackson Bend springs upset in James Marvin

Barbara D. Livingston
Jackson Bend, with Corey Nakatani riding, wins the James Marvin on opening day at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Nick Zito always said Jackson Bend was small in stature but big in heart. He's also a lot faster than most people give him credit for, too.

Reuinted with Zito for the first time since the end of his 3-year-old campaign, Jackson Bend turned back to seven furlongs for just the second time in his career and beat up on a graded stakes-quality field of sprinters, rallying to a convincing 2 1/2-length victory over Hamazing Destiny in the $75,000 James Marvin Stakes, co-feature on Friday's opening-day program at Saratoga.

Jackson Bend was turned over to Zito for the first time after owner Robert LaPenta purchased a majority share in the colt from his breeder, Fred Brei, at the conclusion of his 2-year-old campaign. Jackson Bend was winless at 3 but turned in some big efforts that included second-place finishes in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Wood Memorial and a troubled third in the Preakness. But after tailing off at the end of the season, Jackson Bend returned to south Florida with his original trainer Stanley Gold.

Zito got Jackson Bend back for a second time late this spring, and his decision to turn him back to seven furlongs paid big dividends. Despite getting shuffled back near the rear of the pack after the break, Jackson Bend quickly recovered to race in perfect striking position behind the early leaders under jockey Corey Nakatani, found ample room along the rail to wrest control near the eighth pole then drew away with complete authority.

Hamazing Destiny, making his first start since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, forced the pace three wide from the outset and held gamely to finish second, a half length in front of the pace setting Escrow Kid. Here Comes Ben, the 2010 Forego winner, finished fourth with Aikenite, the tepid 5-2 favorite in the James Marvin, fifth in a field reduced from 11 to eight starters earlier in the day.

Jackson Bend completed the distance in 1:20.91 seconds and paid $18.80.

"He's got so much guts, so much heart," said Zito. "He's just a great little horse. He won a couple of sprints as a 2-year-old, and I wanted to back him up a little bit with our goal being to get him to the Breeders' Cup Mile. He's trained unbelievably and has been a very happy horse since he's been up here."

Zito said Jackson Bend would likely return in the Grade 1 Forego on Sept. 3.