Havana Looking to Hit Kentucky Derby Trail in Swale

Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) runner up Havana is back in action in Saturday's Swale at Gulfstream Park (photo credit: Breeders' Cup Ltd.)

The Todd Pletcher trained Havana is looking to hop on the Kentucky Derby trail by starting off his three-year-old campaign in Saturday’s $200,000 Swale (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

The colt won two of his three starts as a juvenile, taking the Champagne (G1) and running second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). There are no Derby points up for grabs in the Swale, but the colt did earn 14 points last year and is currently seventh in the 2014 Kentucky Derby points standings. A victory likely would send the colt to the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on March 29.

Havana is currently listed at 40-1 in Kentucky Derby Future Wagering at Bovada, and a victory on Saturday would send the price plummeting.

His main foe is likely the undefeated No Nay Never, who will be making his first start on dirt. The colt makes his first start since winning the Darley Prix Morny (G1) last August in France.

There is one Derby points race this weekend, the $500,000 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, with 50-20-10-5 points up for grabs, assuring the winner a starting berth in the gate for the Run for the Roses.

Pletcher sends out a trio of runners, but they are all longshots. Monopolize and Master Lightning are both listed at 20-1, while his best chance of winning appears to be with Harpoon, who is listed at 10-1 on the morning line.

The one-two finishers of the Withers (G3) on Feb. 1 will throw down again. Samraat and Uncle Sigh did battle in the stretch in the Withers, a length separating the pair of New York breds at the wire, with Samraat staying undefeated with his fourth career win.

The duo figures to garner most of the attention at the betting windows again, but I am going to look for more value for the top spot.

Saturday’s Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my strongest plays from Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct including all of the stakes action.

Let’s head out to Gulfstream Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:


Gulfstream Park Race 9 The Swale G2 Post time 5:10 ET

1 Havana   9-5

3 No Nay Never   2-1

2 Can’t Stop the Kid   6-1

4 Prudoe Bay   5-1

Havana makes his much anticipated three-year-old debut here for the Pletcher barn. The colt broke his maiden in his debut and then won the Champagne (G1) in his first start against winners. He was sent off as the betting favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), was clear in the stretch but was run down late by New Year’s Day. Three runners came out of the Juvenile to win next out while third place finisher Strong Mandate came back to run a good second in the Southwest (G3).

Two back in the one-turn Champagne (G1) the colt took the field gate to wire, holding on to win by a neck over Honor Code, who won the Remsen (G2) in his next start while fifth place finisher Intense Holiday won the Risen Star (G2) in his most recent start. The $575,000 purchase is a half to three winners, top earner Joey Whispers ($174,760). The Pletcher barn is 20% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff.

No Nay Never is not Derby bound, and instead will head back overseas. The colt broke his maiden on polytrack at Keeneland and then went overseas to win the Norfolk Stakes (G2) and the Darley Prix Morny (G1), both on turf. The Swale will be his first go on conventional dirt but he has been working smartly in the mornings over the surface.

The colt also has a pedigree that leans more toward dirt, by Scat Daddy out of an Elusive Quality mare. The main question mark is whether he is going to be tight enough here off a six-month layoff. The Wesley Ward barn is 24% winners with runners coming back off a +180 day layoff.

Can’t Stop the Kid finished behind a couple of these he faces today when third in the Ocala Sprint over the fake stuff and then came back with a sharp effort beating Alw-1 optional claimers over the main track here going six furlongs. The colt is perfect in two trips over the main track at Gulfstream Park and posted a bullet work on Feb. 20 here.

The colt owns solid early and mid pace numbers and looks capable of being right in the mix early. He is out of the stakes winner Halo Reality ($205,805) who is graded stakes placed over the Gulfstream Park main track.


WIN: Havana to win at 8-5 or better.

EXACTA: 1,3 / 1,2,3,4

TRIFECTA: 1,3 / 1,2,3,4 / 1,2,3,4,5


Road to the Kentucky Derby Package

Catch Derby Fever with Michael Dempsey’s Road to the Kentucky Derby Package! Subscribers receive ALL of Michael’s Saturday’s Reports now until the first Saturday of May.

Included in the package is coverage of all of the major Derby preps, his Best Plays Report and his full card reports each Saturday! In addition, this package includes his Kentucky Oaks Day and Kentucky Derby Day Reports! A $300 value!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

DRF Past Performances

Check out the most powerful
interactive Past Performances
used by Michael Dempsey. Use the code TENOFF19 which gives
you a 10% discount on any DRF Formulator plan that is one month or longer.


Free Horse Racing Picks

Get free horse racing picks each day from expert race handicapper Michael Dempsey Click Here

Belmont Stakes News & Reports
Breeders' Cup
Turf ‘n’ Sport handicapper Michael Dempsey has the Belmont Stakes covered with his selections, analysis and fair odds for every race on the card!
Wager on the Belmont Stakes
Belmont Stakes News

Belmont Stakes Reports

Horse Racing Betting Tips

Horse Racing Betting Tips
Turf 'n' Sport handicappers give out basic horse racing handicapping information..