Hallandale Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana makes his much anticipated 3-year-old debut Saturday in the $200,000 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park versus six challengers going seven furlongs.
The gray colt, trained by Todd Pletcher, is being pointed toward the Kentucky Derby and has been training at Palm Meadow Training Center near Gulfstream.
"You never expect a graded stakes here to be easy," Pletcher recently noted. "But we need to get him started somewhere, so we'll see how it goes."
Owned by the partnership of Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, Havana will break from the inside post with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez riding.
Havana was the 5-2 favorite for the Juvenile when he finished 1 1/4 lengths behind New Year's Day at Santa Anita last Nov. 2. The gray colt won his first two starts, including the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.
"I thought he ran very well. Unfortunately, he finished second. It looked like he was going to win at the eighth-pole and he kind of hung the last part of it," Pletcher said about the Juvenile. "We're trying to determine how far he wants to go."
The 3-year-old has earned $708,000.
Returning to the United States to race is trainer Wesley Ward's No Nay Never. After two starts in Europe last summer, No Nay Never will start the Swale from post 3 with Javier Castellano getting the mount for the first time.
"It seems to me that Gulfstream is his preferred surface. That's a little scary with all he's accomplished," said Ward. "I'm really excited for this race. 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."
Owned by Ice Wine Stable in partnership with Magnier, Tabor and Smith, No Nay Never is perfect in three career starts. He won first time out at Keeneland on April 26 and then in June was sent to Ascot in England where he captured the six-furlong Norfolk Stakes by a length with Joel Rosario in the saddle.
Two months later, No Nay Never won the six-furlong Prix Morny at Deauville in France by a length with David Flores having the mount.
"It was like watching a high school athlete against middle schoolers," Ward said. "Or a college athlete against high schoolers, or a professional athlete against college."
The colt has earned $367,999.
Here is the field for the Swale in post position order: Havana, John Velazquez: Can't Stop the Kid, Luis Saez; No Nay Never, Javier Castellano; Prudhoe Bay, Paco Lopez; Spot, Jose Lezcano; Brothersofthetime, Jesus Rios and Breitling Flyer, Luis Conteras.
The Swale has an approximate post-time of 5:10 p.m. ET.