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Shackleford, Jackson Bend work for Forego

Shackleford hopes to return to his Met Mile form (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Classic winner Shackleford, gearing up for Saturday's Grade 1 Forego, worked a half-mile in :50 4/5 over Saratoga's fast main track on Monday.

After a gutsy score in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day, the Dale Romans charge spun his wheels in the muddy Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap August 5 and wound up last.

"He just went really easy, just to let him stretch his legs a little bit," Romans said of Shackleford's breeze. "He went good, came back good, and looked happy.

"It's hard to get him to go that slow. You have to trick him (to make him think) he's galloping. You just ease him into it, let him get a little closer all the time, and let him think he's galloping. He's done enough. It's not a matter of fitness. Just keep him sharp.

"As long he comes back good tomorrow (we'll run in the Forego)," Romans added. "He walked good this morning after the work. If everything goes well tomorrow, we'll be in the entries."

When it comes to Jackson Bend's potential title defense in the Forego, Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito is taking things as they come.

On Monday morning, Jackson Bend -- who nine days ago was run into by another horse on the Oklahoma training track -- breezed a half-mile at Oklahoma in :49 3/5. The son of Hear No Evil was ridden by Maxine Correa and easily outdistanced his maiden workmate, Todd Cole, who finished in :50 4/5.

"The horse that worked with Jackson, Todd Cole, he's a claiming horse," Zito said. "He's not in Jackson's league. When Jackson went by him, Max Correa said Jackson was looking around; he had no competition. So, she just dangled the reins a little bit and he went on his business and galloped out good when he heard other horses. I was basically happy because I didn't want to do too much, and I didn't want to do too little."

After Jackson Bend collided with the Anthony Quartarolo-trained Little Nick, Zito counts himself lucky to have gotten the Grade 1 Carter Handicap winner this far and said he won't make a final decision on whether or not to run until closer to the race.

Defending Forego champ Jackson Bend has made a remarkable recovery from a training accident (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)
"Nine days ago, obviously, we never would have dreamed that he was working today," Zito said. "Fitness-wise he's there, and basically what I'm telling people now is that this is day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute to minute.

"Tomorrow, I'll ultrasound him again. Not today. Check his ribs, check everything again. Even though we got a (clean) bill of health, we'll do all the things again.

"Even if we enter, everybody knows, (owner Robert LaPenta) knows, the horse is the main deal. His partner Fred Brei -- I was just on the phone with him -- knows the main thing. So even if we enter, it's not a guarantee we're running. As long as he trains good, and he's doing good, I'll give it a shot."

Zito is quick to credit Jackson Bend's agility and toughness to bounce back from the incident and said he knows these setbacks are a part of racing.

"I've had a lot of tough horses, but this guy…I think (it's because) he's so agile," the trainer said. "You see when he walks, he walks that way. So agile. I definitely never had one like that.

"One thing about racing…you never know when it's your turn, it's not your turn, and that's it. We take precautions every day; it doesn't matter. You see what happens in racing. Every day there's something new. Street Life stopped in front of (Fast Falcon) in the (Grade 1) Travers, he got hurt. Yesterday, It's Tricky falls on her face (in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign). It's racing."

It's precisely because the sport can be so fickle that Zito says he won't run Jackson Bend until he and his entire team are satisfied that the horse is 100 percent.

"There isn't one person that works on him medically that hasn't given me clearance," Zito said. "They have to keep doing that the rest of the week. I just have to make sure that when I lead him over there -- if I do Saturday, and I hope I do -- that everybody's happy with the way he is. So it's just a normal race. I don't what them saying 'Well, he got hit, he got banged into.'

"The horse's welfare is number one, and that goes from the LaPenta family to all the people that work around us. I know that I have his blessing, and Mr. Brei, who's like a father to Jackson. He bred him. I mean, do they want to run? Of course. That's what they're in the game for. So, day by day, but I'll be glad to run him. Glad. I think you know me by now, I've got no problem running in the big races, no matter what price, or what situation. Right or wrong?"

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin commented on Forego contender Emcee, who breezed four furlongs in :48 over the all-weather surface at the Greentree Training Center on Sunday.

"He galloped real strong," McLaughlin said of the Godolphin runner. "He ran great in the (Vanderbilt, beaten narrowly in third). It would have been nice to win with (Sheikh Mohammed) here, but he ran great. Hopefully run he'll run just as well next week."

Trainer Todd Pletcher revealed that Repole Stable's Caixa Eletronica would likely start in the Forego, with Alma d'Oro possible for the seven-furlong race.

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