Gulfstream Park News & Notes
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Trainer Todd Pletcher is expecting to take the wraps off of Havana in the $200,000 Swale Stakes (G2) next Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The son of Dunkirk has not raced since finishing a game second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) 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 1:02.64 in his career debut at Saratoga. The gray colt withstood Honor Code to land the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont 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."
Mucho Macho Man Ready to Hit the Road
Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Mucho Macho Man put in the last local work Saturday morning, going five furlongs in 1:02.56 on the main track at Gulfstream Park.
On Sunday, the Florida-bred fan favorite will leave for California where he will have one more work at Santa Anita before the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on March 8.
Under regular exercise rider Nick Petro, Mucho Macho Man went out at 6:30 a.m. and was caught in splits of 24.99 and 37.40 seconds, galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.63 down the middle of the track.
“The track was fast today, so we figured we’d take care of him,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “He went five-eighths off the fence, just nice and easy. He galloped out very well and he came back great, and he’ll travel tomorrow.”
Mucho Macho Man won the Awesome Again (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita last fall, and was second by a half-length to Fort Larned in the 2012 Classic.
“Hopefully, it will be the same as it was before, and he’ll have a good trip out there,” Ritvo said. “He likes it there. It’s cool at night and pretty nice during the day, so it’s good horse weather. It’s nice to go out there. He’s had so much success out there, so it’s nice to go. We’re looking forward to it, and he’s doing so well it’s hard not to be excited.”
Accompanying Mucho Macho Man to California will be Ritvo, racing manager Finn Green, Petro and his hotwalker and groom, along with stable pony, Oreo, and Ritvo’s dog, Oliver.
“Everybody goes with him, and we stay the same all the time. He has a routine when we ship,” Ritvo said. “We ship him with another horse we have and that keeps him comfortable because he knows someone from his place is going. We all stay with him, so it makes for a smooth transition. It works really well for us.”
The Santa Anita Handicap will be the first start for Mucho Macho Man since Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs purchased a share in the 6-year-old son of Adena-bred Macho Uno from owners Dean and Patti Reeves earlier this week.
Mucho Macho Man will continue to run in the Reeves’ colors and be trained by Ritvo and managed by Green. Upon his retirement, he will join Adena’s stallion roster that includes Alphabet Soup, Awesome Again, Fort Larned and Ghostzapper, all fellow Breeders’ Cup Classic winners. Champion older horse and Horse of the Year in 2004, Ghostzapper was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
“I’m really excited to be able to train for Mr. Stronach,” Ritvo said. “I have never trained for him before, so it’s exciting to be able to train for someone who has had so much success. It’s great to have a great partner, and we know that he’ll have a great place to retire and have a second career. I’m excited for him.”
No Nay Never Awaits Seasonal Debut in Swale
Many of the country’s top 3-year-olds will be on display Saturday at Gulfstream Park, both on the undercard and in a field of 13 for the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2).
Trainer Wesley Ward, meanwhile, is eagerly awaiting the seasonal debut of his sensational sophomore No Nay Never in the $150,000 Swale (G2) on March 1.
“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, winner of the Champagne (G1) at 2 and the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby (G1) in 2007, 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 track record for a 2-year-old in winning the Norfolk Stakes (G2) in 58.80 seconds, Ward’s third career win at Royal Ascot. From there, he swept past the leaders with three furlongs to run and won France’s Prix Morny (G1) at Deauville 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 58.94 seconds on Feb. 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 Stakes (G1) on June 17 or the Jersey Stakes (G3) on June 18, with the seven-furlong King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga Race Course 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.”