Photo Credit: David Alcosser
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – The $100,000 Housebuster Stakes will be inaugurated in style at Gulfstream Park Saturday, when a pair of Grade 1 stakes winners, Swagger Jack and Jackson Bend, clash in the first running of the 7-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up.
Just two races back in his past performance lines in the program, Swagger Jack joined the sprinting elite with a triumph in the $400,000 Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct on April 6. The 5-year-old son of Smart Strike scored by nearly a length at 15-1 odds while running 7 furlongs in a sharp 1:21 2/5.
The performance was the culmination of a steady progression under the care and guidance of Marty Wolfson, who took over Swagger Jack’s training last year.
“When I first got him I didn’t think he’d be a Grade 1 winner, but as he progressed and his races here at Gulfstream got stronger and stronger, then I thought he had a shot at it,” Wolfson said.
Swagger Jack came into his own at Gulfstream’s 2012-2013 meeting, during which he won an allowance before finishing second behind Fort Loudon in the Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G3) and checking in second behind Discreet Dancer in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2).
Swagger Jack had won one race – a maiden turf race at Gulfstream in February 2011 – in seven starts to open his career before being put on the shelf for 15 months. In his debut for Wolfson, the Virginia-bred horse scored over only two rivals in an off-the-turf race by nearly ninth lengths. Wolfson continued to tinker with Swagger Jack for his next three starts before finding the winning combination with the allowance victory at Gulfstream.
“He came to me as a turf horse. I switched him over to the dirt, and I think that made a big difference – that and taking the blinkers off. He had blinkers most of his career I guess. Taking the blinkers off made a difference,” said Wolfson, who has named Edgard Zayas to ride in the Housebuster.
After winning the Carter, in which he defeated Fort Loudon and Discreet Cat, Swagger Jack ran into trouble in the Grade 1 Met Mile at Belmont Park, finishing seventh after experiencing significant traffic during the early going.
Freshened up a bit after his last outing on May 27, Swagger Jack has been working sharply at Gulfstream in recent weeks, including a swift half-mile breeze on Monday in 46.45 seconds.
Jackson Bend Continues Comeback
While Swagger Jack is a horse that has just emerged as a Grade 1 sprinter, Jackson Bend is a veteran in the midst of a comeback to recapture past glory. The gritty 6-year-old was retired last fall after losing some of his punch following a training accident at Saratoga. Back in his native Florida, where he was bred by co-owner Jacks or Better Farm, the son of Hear No Evil demonstrated signs that his competitive spirit was very much alive and was put back in training.
Jackson Bend, who captured the Forego (G1) and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in 2011, has started twice this season and appears to be back in top racing condition. After returning from a nine-month layoff with a fifth-place finish in the Ponche Stakes at Calder on June 8, he showed his old kick to finish third behind Bahamian Squall in the Smile Sprint Handicap (G2) while missing by just a nose of catching Eclipse champion Trinniberg for second money.
In the Smile, Jeffrey Sanchez rode Jackson Bend for the first time since pulling off a sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series aboard the $1.6 million earner back in 2009. The Arlington Park-based rider will be back for the Housebuster.
Stanley Gold is currently enjoying his third stint at training Jackson Bend, who was transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito following his Stallion Series sweep and majority-interest sale to Robert LaPenta. After finishing second in the Holy Bull (G3) and Fountain of Youth (G2) and a third-place finish in the Preakness (G1) during the 2010 season, Jackson Bend was sent back to Gold for the beginning of the 2011 campaign that included a second-place finish in the Skip Away (G3) at Gulfstream. Back with Zito in the spring, Jackson Bend went on to establish himself as one of the best sprinters in the country.
Currently in his second stint at training Apriority, trainer David Fawkes is hoping to see improvement in the Housebuster from the 6-year-old warrior, who finished a never-threatening 10th in the Smile Sprint Handicap. It was his first start back for Fawkes after spending the first half of the 2013 season with trainer Bob Baffert in Southern California.
Apriority, the runner-up in the 2011 Carter Handicap (G2), is winless since capturing the Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream Park in December 2011.
“He needs to get his confidence back. You can look at the horse and see it,” Fawkes said. “Even when he broke (in the Smile), he just didn’t break with any enthusiasm. He definitely could use a confidence builder.”
After studying the competition, Fawkes said the Housebuster may not be the normal or ideal confidence-building race. In addition to the two Grade 1 winners, the 7-furlong sprint has attracted four other stakes winners, including Close It Out, Black Diamond Cat and Numb Lips.
Steve Towne-trained Close It Out, who finished sixth in the Smile after breaking last and having to be steadied in the backstretch, is a multiple stakes winner of more than $385,000 in purses. Larry Bates-trained Black Diamond Cat, seventh in the Smile, previously won the Ponche, beating runner-up Close It Out and Jackson Bend.
Trainer Agustin Bezara is scheduled to saddle both Manicero, a multiple-stakes winner who will be making his first start since December 2011, and Numb Lips, a late-striding horse who’ll be making his first start in almost a year.
Mucho Mas Macho Works Sharply for Saturday’s Undercard Allowance
Mucho Mas Macho, who captured the Fort Lauderdale (G2) during Gulfstream’s winter meeting, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.53 over the main track Thursday morning in preparation for a stakes-quality turf $44,000 allowance in Saturday’s seventh race.
Trainer Henry Collozo gave the thumbs up for his Gulfstream return following the sharp breeze.
“It was super good. I was really pleased with the effort, and more than anything, the way he cooled out at the barn. That was the important thing,” Collozo said.
Mucho Mas Macho, who followed up his Fort Lauderdale score with a fifth in the Pan American (G2) and a fifth in the Miami Mile (G3), will be challenged in a field of eight by Alley Oop Oop, who captured the $100,000 Armed Forces over the Gulfstream Park turf on July 4.
“It’s a nice spot in my mind. It will give us a line of exactly where we’re at with him,” said Collozo, who trains the 4-year-old gelded son of Macho Uno for Signal Hill Farms. “Hopefully, we head north from that spot and he gets better – not necessarily on the turnpike north but on the upswing.”
Regular rider Juan Leyva was aboard for Thursday’s work, but due to a previous commitment, he will likely be replaced by Ronald Ordonez Saturday.
GULFSTREAM PARK is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and is one of North America's top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world's largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; XpressBet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets.The Stronach Group is also a major producer of televised horseracing programming through its HRTV cable and satellite network and is North America's premier supplier of virtual online horseracing games, as well as a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry. For more information contact David Joseph at email@example.com or call 954.457.6451.