SWALE STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 7 FURLONGS
Making his initial start for trainer Nick Zito, Spot collared weakening No Nay Never in the drive and bounded away to a 2 ½-length win in the $200,000 Swale Stakes March 1 at Gulfstream Park.
It was a big upset for the 9-1 shot Spot, who registered his first stakes win for new owner Joseph M. Moss with Jose Lezcano aboard. No Nay Never, who was undefeated in three starts and a group I winner in France, was sent off as the 2-5 pick in a field of six 3-year-olds.
No Nay Never became the overwhelming choice when morning line favorite Havana was scratched from the race in the morning due to a foot problem.
Spot, rebounding from a troubled fifth in Gulfstream's Hutcheson Stakes Feb. 1, covered the seven-furlong Swale distance in 1:22.44 on a fast track. No Nay Never, ridden by Javier Castellano, finished second by 1 ¼ lengths over Brothersofthetime and Jesus Rios.
Bred in Kentucky by Curtis C. Green, Spot is out of the Quiet American mare Quiet Summernight.
Zito said he saw Spot run in the Hutcheson and bought him from Green afterward. Transferred to to his client Moss, Zito suggested that the Swale would be a good opportunity.
"I expected improvement,"the Hall of Fame conditioner said of Spot. "He hadn't run in a while. We got him, and we started to like him. Sometimes they go to a new place and things change. I got goose bumps.
"I said, 'Havana will keep the field down, let's do it.' That's what I did. I figured he would keep out of trouble, and it worked out perfectly."
No Nay Never broke best but a tugging Can't Stop the Kid pulled his way to the front along the inside and showed the way through swift quarter mile fractions of :22.24 seconds and :44.49 seconds. No Nay Never, making his first start on dirt, was always close to the pacesetter, taking control rounding the turn but shortening stride in upper stretch.
Lezcano, riding Spot for the first time, was in fifth at the three-eighths pole and asked the gray Pulpit gelding for his best while closing down the middle of the track. Spot responded to take the lead approaching the furlong mark and won going away as No Nay Never offered little resistance. Spot carried 117 pounds, six fewer than the top-weighted No Nay Never.
"He broke good and the speed went very good in front of him," Lezcano said. "When I asked him, he came running and he gave me the kick that I needed to win the race. [No Nay Never] had to go on the pace the whole way and gave me the opportunity to win the race. When I really asked him, he took off very good."
Previously trained by James DiVito, Spot won for the second time in six career races. He broke his maiden by 8 ½ lengths going six furlongs at Hawthorne Oct. 24 to close out his juvenile campaign. In his initial start of the year, Spot broke slowly in the Hutcheson and tired after shifting wide to finish eight lengths behind Wildcat Red.
Castellano said No Nay Never was softened up by the speedy tempo.
"He was fresh and hadn't run in a while," he said. "He came out quick, broke on top, but I had to rate a little bit because [Can't Stop the Kid] had speed and I let him go. But that horse stopped so quick, and when my horse got on the lead he seemed to completely lose his momentum."
Inflating his career bankroll to $151,632, Spot returned $21, $4.60, and $3.40 as the fourth choice. No Nay Never paid $2.40 and $2.10 and was part of a $54.40 exacta. Brothersofthetime paid $5.20 to show. Prudhoe Bay, Can't Stop the Kid, and Breitling Flyer followed.
"Everybody is saying Kentucky Derby, but I don't know," Zito said. "I wish there were a mile race here. I'll figure it out."