Photo: Coglianese Photos/Natalie Fawkes
The Grade 2 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park was supposed to be a battle between Grade 1
winner Havana and undefeated, globe-trotting No Nay Never. No one told that to Spot. The hyped match-up fell apart before it could even get started, as Havana was a morning
scratch due to the discovery of a quarter crack. That left No Nay Never, making
his first start on the dirt, as the top dog of the race. After training lights
out on the dirt in the mornings, he looked to be a deserving favorite on paper,
but as is generally the case, what the papers said and what happened on the
track vastly differed.
When the gates sprang open, No Nay Never, Can’t Stop the Kid, and Prudhoe Bay strode out to the
front together, battling for the lead down the backstretch. Can’t Stop the Kid wrested
a short lead away from his rivals by the quarter pole, putting up the opening 2
furlongs in 22.24. He kept himself in front to the half-mile call, which went
in 44.49, with No Nay Never and Prudhoe Bay in close pursuit.
As they entered the turn, No Nay Never engaged Can’t Stop the Kid and wheeled for home
with a short lead over Prudhoe Bay, who mirrored his move around the turn.
Behind those two, Spot, who had raced second last throughout the early stages
of the race, had finally gotten his motor warmed up and was storming around the
turn in hot pursuit. Despite being out of it early, spinning wide in the turn,
and failing to switch leads until late, Spot had plenty in the tank and easily
passed No Nay Never in deep stretch to win by 2 ½ lengths, stopping the clock
for the 7 furlongs in 1.22:44.
No Nay Never held the place, and Brothersofthetime closed
from dead last to secure the show. Prudhoe Bay rounded out the superfecta. The
order of finish was completed by Can’t Stop the Kid, who faded from his
pace-setting position, and Breitling Flyer who was never a factor.
“He broke good and the speed went very good in front of him.
When I asked him, he came running and he gave me the kick that I needed to win
the race. The horse that finished second 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,” jockey Jose Lezcano said about Spot’s winning effort.
Sent off as the 9-1 fourth betting choice, Spot returned $21.00/$4.60/$3.40 for a
$2 wager. Favorite No Nay Never paid $2.40/$2.10, and Brothersofthetime paid
$5.20. The $2 exacta paid $54.40, the $1 trifecta was worth $243.40, and the $1
superfecta returned $595.80.
After the race, trainer Nick Zito had many to thank for Spot’s
win. “First, I’ve got to thank the Lord. Second, I have to thank Mr. (Joseph)
Moss. He’s an elderly gentleman who loves this sport. He’s just looking for
horses like this. He’s been trying for two years how. We’ve got to a couple
sales and things haven’t worked out. I watched this horse run a month ago, and I
know (owner/breeder) Mr. (Curtis) Green very well. I approached him, and he
said, ‘Why not?’ Mr. Moss is getting up there in age and has so much guts, it’s
Spot had previously run his first 5 career starts for
breeder and owner Curtis Green. On behalf of Joseph Moss, Nick Zito approached
Mr. Green following Spot’s 5th place Hutcheson finish at Gulfstream
on February 1. His graded stakes debut, the Hutcheson was also Spot’s first
start since October 24 at Hawthorne.
“I expected improvement. 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 figured he would keep out of trouble, and it worked
out perfectly,” Zito said in regards to Spot’s improvement over the last month.
A gelding by Pulpit out of the Quiet American mare Quiet
Summernight, Spot improved his overall record to 6: 2-1-0 for career earnings
of $151,632. A next start has not yet been decided on for the gray gelding. A
shot at the Kentucky Derby is not completely off the table, but it is not
seriously on the table at this point either.