Racing News

Havana, No Nay Never gearing up for Swale showdown

  • The gray Havana will sport blinkers in next week's Swale (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Trainer Todd Pletcher is expecting to take the wraps off of Havana in the $200,000 Swale next Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The son of Dunkirk has not raced since finishing a game second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on November 2.

"He's doing well," Pletcher said. "I plan to breeze him on Sunday and, assuming that goes smoothly, we will go in the Swale."

A $575,000 juvenile purchase by the partnership of Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, Havana smoked five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 in his career debut at Saratoga. The gray colt withstood Honor Code to land the Champagne at Belmont Park on October 5 prior to his California trip. Freshened up afterwards, the Eclipse Award finalist got back on the work tab on February 1 and has recorded four works in the interim.           

In the seven-furlong Swale, Havana will likely square off with unbeaten No Nay Never, who traveled overseas to score a brace of Group 1 races for trainer Wesley Ward last summer.

"You never expect a graded stakes here to be easy," Pletcher added. "But we need to get him started somewhere, so we'll see how it goes."

Ward, meanwhile,  is eagerly awaiting the seasonal debut of No Nay Never.

"It's the race I've been pointing for ever since he came back," Ward said. "He's just been amazing. Everything he's done, he's done it easily. This is a little bit of a stretch-out to seven furlongs, but certainly as good a horse as he is, he should be able to handle that off the comeback."

A son of Scat Daddy, No Nay Never is perfect in three starts. He broke his maiden on the Polytrack at Keeneland last April before finding success abroad.

In June, he broke the five-furlong course record for a two-year-old in winning the Norfolk Stakes in :58.80, Ward's third career win at Royal Ascot. From there, he swept past the leaders with three furlongs to run and won the Prix Morny at Deauville, in France, in 1:09.82 for six furlongs.

"You wouldn't go that far if you didn't think you could win, but doing it is another thing," Ward said. "It was great."

No Nay Never has had six works for Ward at Gulfstream, including a five-furlong breeze in :58 4/5 on February 15, third-fastest of 70 horses. Ward expects to work him again on Sunday.

"He got a little bit too geared up the first part of his works, so I kind of backed off him a little bit," Ward said. "His last few works have been unbelievable. His work last Saturday was just outstanding. If he runs like he works, we'll be all right."

Beyond the Swale, Ward is hoping to bring No Nay Never back to Royal Ascot for the St. James's Palace Stakeson June 17 or the Jersey Stakes on June 18, with the seven-furlong King's Bishop at Saratoga a long-term goal.

"He's the most talented horse I've ever had," Ward said. "We're hoping for big things in the future. Hopefully, he stays sound and can go out there and run the best race he possibly can every time I lead him over. We'll see what we can do."