No Nay Never (right): makes his debut on dirt at Gulfstream ParkPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Tough task for No Nay Never on return to track
Preview: USA, Saturday 10.10pm GMT
Gulfstream Park: Swale Stakes (Grade 2) 7f, dirt, 3yo
THE road back to Royal Ascot begins in earnest on Saturday for No Nay Never (Wesley Ward/Javier Castellano) when last year's sensational Norfolk Stakes winner kicks off his three-year-old campaign with a potentially hazardous assignment in Florida.
The son of Scat Daddy, set to target the St James's Palace Stakes or possibly the Jersey Stakes in the summer, makes his debut on dirt in the Grade 2 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, where his rivals include Grade 1 winner Havana (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez).
Gulfstream has been prone to a significant speed bias this year - and Havana is a front-runner who finished runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
No Nay Never is bidding to extend his unbeaten record to four, having won on the Polytrack at Keeneland on his debut last year before scoring at Royal Ascot and then following up with victory in the Prix Morny.
Trainer Wesley Ward reports the horse to have wintered well. "I'm really excited for this race," he said.
"I usually don't get too excited for races. I'm really excited that Havana's going to be in there. Obviously, you'd like an easier race to come back in, but he is training so good right now. I think it will let him show his true class."
Saturday's return to action represents a long-term plan for Ward. "I thought if I kept pressing forward for the Breeders' Cup or whatever other race, it would have gotten on his mind and maybe he'd get a little speed crazy," said the trainer. "When I stopped with him last year, I had this race in mind."
Javier Castellano rides No Nay Never for the first time."It seems to me that Gulfstream is his preferred surface and that's a little scary with all he's accomplished," added Ward.
No Nay Never is drawn in gate three of a seven-runner field, two outside Champagne Stakes victor Havana, who is also owned by the Coolmore team.
"We just wanted to freshen him up a little bit after the Breeders' Cup and we got behind schedule a touch, but we've been able to make up some ground with a solid work pattern over the past month or so," said trainer Todd Pletcher.
"His fitness level looks good. I think he's coming up to it well. We're trying to determine how far he wants to go."
Ladbrokes: 6-5 Havana, 11-8 No Nay Never, 14 Cant Stop the Kid, Prudhoe Bay, 16 Brietling Flyer, 20 Brothersofthetime, 25 Spot
Nicholas Godfrey will be providing a live report of No Nay Never's comeback run on racingpost.com
Also on Saturday
Aqueduct: Gotham Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo (9.17pm GMT, live on ATR)
This $500,000 contest features round two between Samraat (Rick Violette/Jose Ortiz) and Uncle Sigh (Gary Contessa/Corey Nakatani) after the pair fought out the Withers Stakes four weeks ago.
Samraat, who has won all four of his starts, must concede 7lb after scoring by a length last time when the runner-up was getting just 2lb.
Ladbrokes: 5-2 Samraat, 11-4 Uncle Sigh, 5 In Trouble, 6 Extrasexyhippzster, 10 Harpoon, 12 Deceived, Financial Mogul, 20 Classic Giacnroll, 25 Noble Cornerstone, Master Lightning, 50 Monopolize