Submitted by Jerry Antonucci on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM
No Nay Never meets Havana in Swale Stakes
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The mere mention of No Nay Never will elicit a giant smile from trainer Wesley Ward. Engage in a conversation about his undefeated colt, and Ward becomes almost giddy.
“I guess you can tell I am really excited about this horse and the race this weekend,” Ward said after chatting at some length about No Nay Never and his matchup with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana at Gulfstream Park in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Swale Stakes.
The seven-furlong Swale will launch the 3-year-old campaigns of No Nay Never and Havana, whose careers figure to head in different directions after the race. Ward is using the Swale as a prelude to a return trip to Europe with No Nay Never, who captured the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Ascot and the Group 1 Prix Morny in France at 2. Trainer Todd Pletcher, on the other hand, is hoping to use the Swale as a springboard to one of the final Kentucky Derby preps for Havana.
Both No Nay Never and Havana are owned, at least in part, by Coolmore but will race as separate betting interests in the Swale.
Ward has targeted the Swale for No Nay Never’s 3-year-old debut since the fall and said his star was so sharp by the time he got him here this winter that he actually had to back off and start on him all over again, fearing he would peak too early.
“I could have had him ready for the Hutcheson if I’d wanted, but it’s a long year,” Ward said. “He’s been training great. He couldn’t be doing any better at the moment. I know Havana is among the forefront of the division, but we couldn’t be any more ready to take on a horse of that caliber. It should be a great race.”
Ward said that while No Nay Never, a son of Scat Daddy, appears to be capable of stretching out farther, he feels seven furlongs to a mile is his best distance.
“He is the spitting image of his daddy, and he went nine furlongs winning the Florida Derby,” Ward said. “But No Nay Never is just awesome at seven furlongs and a mile, and regardless of the outcome on Saturday, we’re going to look to bring him back to Ascot for either the Jersey Stakes or the St. James’s Palace. For what he’s accomplished and where he’s at now, I’d have to say he’s the best horse I’ve ever had.”
Havana missed some training this winter and, as a result, is a bit behind most of the other 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail. The son of Dunkirk won his first two starts at 2, including the Grade 1 Champagne, before suffering his lone defeat when finishing second to New Year’s Day after opening a clear lead at midstretch in the BC Juvenile.
“We got behind a little bit this winter and needed a place to start back,” Pletcher said. “The Fountain of Youth last weekend didn’t make sense, so we felt the Swale was the logical place. I like the way he’s been training, and hopefully he’s ready to go seven furlongs. Then we’ll figure out what to do after that. Right now, he’s on the Derby trail until he tells me he’s not. Like I said, we’re a little bit behind, but he could make up ground in a hurry with a good effort Saturday.”
No Nay Never and Havana will face five rivals in the Swale, including the first three finishers – Prudhoe Bay, Breitling Flyer, and Can’t Stop the Kid – from the OBS Sprint in January. Brothersofthetime and Spot complete the lineup.
Prudhoe Bay ran down the pace-dueling Breitling Flyer to register a neck decision in the restricted OBS Sprint, his second victory in three starts. Can’t Stop the Kid also came from off the pace to finish two lengths farther back over the artificial surface in Ocala, Fla., before returning to Gulfstream to win an entry-level allowance dash two weeks later.
Brothersofthetime was a stakes winner at 2 going a mile at Calder but has not started since finishing fourth in the Foolish Pleasure Stakes on Sept. 14.
Spot broke slowly from the rail before finishing fifth behind Wildcat Red in his stakes debut here last month in the Grade 3 Hutcheson.