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 amazing.”
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.