07/18/2012 2:57PM

Saratoga: Jackson Bend targets repeat in James Marvin Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Jackson Bend wins the 2011 James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Jackson Bend served notice he’d be a force to be reckoned with in the sprint division a year ago with his rail-skimming, 2 1/2-length victory in the James Marvin Stakes. On Friday, Jackson Bend will attempt to defend his title and regain his standing as one of the country’s elite sprinters when topping a field of seven entered in the $100,000 James Marvin, a race elevated to Grade 3 status for the first time this summer.

Jackson Bend re-joined Zito’s barn last summer after spending the first half of the season in south Florida with trainer Stanley Gold. Zito decided to turn Jackson Bend back in distance for the James Marvin following a steady diet of longer races, and the plan worked to perfection. Jackson Bend slipped through along the rail, overtook the leaders in early stretch, and drew off to an easy victory in what proved to be a stepping-stone to an even more impressive 3 1/4-length triumph here six weeks later in the Grade 1 Forego.

Jackson Bend captured two of his first three starts in 2012, including his second Grade 1 – the seven-furlong Carter Handicap – but is coming off a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Metropolitan Handicap.

“Things just didn’t work out his way in the Met,” Zito said. “The fence was good that day, and he couldn’t get over. He tried to take it to them, and it just didn’t work out for him. This is the race that really got him started last year, he likes it up here, and you just hope he comes with his run, just like he did a year ago.”

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Jackson Bend will break from the extreme outside in the James Marvin, just as he did in the Metropolitan, and will be ridden for the first time by Rosie Napravnik.

While Zito would prefer to have Jackson Bend breaking inside in the James Marvin, trainer Todd Pletcher said he’d like to switch posts and have his Caixa Eletronica beginning outside rather than from the rail. Caixa Eletronica rallied from more than a dozen lengths off the pace to a three-quarter-length victory over Justin Phillip in the Grade 2 True North Handicap on June 9.

“He’s doing great, training well, it’s a competitive race, but we got the worst post,” Pletcher said. “In an ideal world, we’d rather have Jackson Bend’s post, but he’s versatile enough I think he can overcome it. I don’t anticipate we’ll be as far back as in his last start, but he’ll be back a little bit.”

Pacific Ocean, who tired badly after setting a brutally fast pace in the True North, figures to be in front again in the James Marvin. The True North was Pacific Ocean’s first start over dirt and his first since turning in a career-best performance winning Hollywood Park’s Grade 3 Vernon Underwood in his 2011 finale.

Crossbow chased the leaders, but failed to muster a late response when finishing fifth in his graded stakes debut in the True North. He has trained extremely well at Saratoga in preparation for the James Marvin.