Jackson Bend Goes For 'Gold' In Gulfstream Park Handicap
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Winless since completing a sweep of the Florida Stallion Series in the In Reality at Calder on Oct. 17, 2009, Jackson Bend will be going for gold again in Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2)…literally.
Having competed at thoroughbred racing’s highest level in 2010 for trainer Nick Zito, the 4-year-old Florida-bred colt will be saddled once again by Stanley Gold, who trained him prior to Robert LaPenta’s purchase of a majority interest from breeder Jacks or Better Farm.
“I was told by Nick that I was getting the horse back and I was told by the Jacks or Better people that I was getting the horse back, and I said, ‘That’s fine with me,’’ Gold said. “Nick didn’t get into any details about why, nor did the Jacks or Better people get into any details. It wasn’t an issue. Nick said everyone involved wants to see the horse do well.”
Jackson Bend, who had won five in a row for Gold before being transferred to Zito, finished second in last year’s Holy Bull (G3) for his new connections before a runner-up finish behind highly regarded and hugely talented Eskendereya in both the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct. After a troubled 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, the Florida-bred colt finished third in the Preakness (G1), beaten by only three quarters of a length by victorious Lookin At Lucky. He closed out his 3-year-old campaign with a trio of off-the-board finishes.
“He still acts the same. He’s taken to my program, just as he took to Nick’s program. We do have different programs, but he’s readapted to my program, and he acts like the same Jackson Bend that he was,” Gold said. “Will he be the same horse that he used to be? That I don’t know.”
It’s been reported that should Jackson Bend return to his old form, he could return to Zito’s barn for a national campaign. Gold said he’s just concentrating on getting the son of Hear No Evil back on track.
“I can’t tell until we test him in the heat of battle, but I’m not having any issues with him. He was good when he came in,” Gold said. “Sometimes they’re not what they used to be and they never do become what they used to be – that happens often. Sometimes they get better. But he came in looking like that Jackson Bend that went out. Obviously, his form tailed off, so let’s see if he can get back up the ladder.”
Gold is concentrating more about Jackson Bend’s welfare than his own potential for monetary gains.
If the 62-year-old trainer’s only goal in life was to get rich, he would have stayed on the fast track to financial gain with a high-powered New York auditing firm and would never have stepped foot on a racetrack.
Upon graduation from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1969, the New Jersey native went to work at Arthur Young & Co, a prominent international auditing firm with strong ties to the New York Stock Exchange.
“After a year of it, I put the brakes on and said, “Whoa, this is not what I want to do. I’m not happy,” said Gold, who commuted daily to Manhattan from his house near Monmouth Park. “I took a leave of absence and started traveling around the country in a van. I saw America. I saw 20,000 miles of America. As my mother said, I had wanderlust – and I exhausted that wanderlust.”
When Gold returned to Jersey, he did not return to Arthur Young & Co. Instead, he took a job walking hots at Monmouth Park for $70 a week. For the next 30-plus years, he gained a wealth of experience, if little else, while mostly working as a groom and assistant trainer and making his way from the Mid-Atlantic to Chicago and, ultimately, to South Florida.
“I didn’t get into this sport for the money. I didn’t get into this sport for anything other than the love and passion for it that grew once I got inside and saw what was going on,” said Gold, who worked for the late Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Croll and his son, Billy, Eddie Plesa, Kathleen O’Connell and Jimmy Hatchett.
It wasn’t until he left the racetrack after being married to his wife, Cheryl, a construction attorney, in 2002 and bought land in Ocala that he was given the chance to train a large stable of horses. When Hatchett, his former boss, retired, Gold was asked to train Fred Brie’s Jacks or Better Farm well-stocked stable of Florida-bred horses.
It has been an association that has reaped personal and professional and financial rewards for Gold, who also had the opportunity to train Awesome Feather, the champion filly whom he saddled for victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) last year.
At the height of their successes, Gold lost both Awesome Feather and Jackson Bend to other trainers. Awesome Feather was sold at auction to Frank Stronach for $2.3 million last fall and sent to trainer Chad Brown.
“I look at it as business. It doesn’t bother me to the extent that I dwell on it. I understand how the business is, so there are no surprises the way these things come about. I’m mentally prepared for it,” said Gold, who credited Jimmy Croll with giving him a solid foundation in training young horses. “I accomplished something, and it doesn’t bother me.”