Samraat scores in the Gotham Stakes under Jose OrtizPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
No Nay Never surprised by Spot at Gulfstream
Report: USA, Saturday
Gulfstream Park: Swale Stakes (Grade 2) 7f, dirt, 3yo
ROYAL ASCOT winner No Nay Never tamely surrendered his unbeaten record on Saturday when he could finish only second on his seasonal debut in the Swale behind the late-running Spot (Nick Zito/Jose Lezcano).
Last year's sensational Norfolk Stakes victor was sent off a 2-5 chance for the Grade 2 contest after the late scratch of Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana.
In Havana's absence, No Nay Never was sent straight for the lead by Javier Castellano, only to find himself facing a pair of front-end rivals that resulted in sizzling fractions of 22.24sec and 44.49sec as outsider Can't Stop The Kid made the pace on the rail.
No Nay Never seemed to be travelling comfortably about a neck off the front as they rounded the far turn, only for his stride to shorten in the stretch where 9-1 chance Spot swept past. As he scored by two and a half lengths, he stopped the clock in 1min 22.44sec.
Although maiden winner Spot was receiving 6lb from the favourite, this was hardly the scenario envisaged by trainer Wesley Ward, whose stable star completed a hat-trick as a two-year-old by winning the Prix Morny.
"He was fresh and hadn't run in a while," said Castellano. "He came out quick, broke on top, but I had to rate a little bit because the inside horse 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.
"The other horse got the jump on me and my horse responded when I asked him. Unfortunately he did all of the hard work in the race."
Spot was making his debut for Nick Zito after meeting trouble in running when only fifth a month ago in the Grade 3 Hutcheson Stakes for former trainer James DiVito.
"I expected improvement," said Zito. "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.
"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."
>>Grade 1 winner Havana, who also represents the Coolmore team, was a non-runner after trainer Todd Pletcher reported the colt to have sustained a small quarter crack in his off-fore which came to light on the morning of the race. He had been due to start from the inside berth.
Also on Saturday
Aqueduct: Gotham Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo
Samraat (Rick Violette/Jose Ortiz) completed a five-timer as he edged out old rival Uncle Sigh and In Trouble by a pair of necks after a three-horse battle down the stretch for this $500,000 contest.
Sent off 11-5 favourite, Samraat was forced wide on both turns before defying a 5lb pull in the weights favouring the runner-up compared to their previous meeting in the Withers Stakes. All three principals are set to reconvene in April in New York's foremost Kentucky Derby trial, the Grade 1 Wood Memorial.