03/01/2014 6:22PM

Gulfstream Park: Spot takes Swale in first start for Zito

Barbara D. Livingston
Spot, ridden by Jose Lezcano, begins draw clear of heavy favorite No Nay Never to win the Swale.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -   Trainer Nick Zito didn’t have a top 3-year-old in his barn this winter. So he went out and bought Spot, who returned quick dividends for his new connections when he rallied  to an impressive 2 1/2-length victory over 2-5 favorite No Nay Never in Saturday’s $200,000 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The Grade 2 Swale lost some of its luster after trainer Todd Pletcher was forced to scratch Havana earlier in the day due to a quarter crack issue.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Spot made his first five career starts with trainer James DiVito, finishing fifth making his 3-year-old debut one month ago in the Grade 3 Hutcheson. Zito purchased Spot for owner Joseph Moss from the horse’s breeder, Curtis Green, shortly thereafter.

With Jose Lezcano aboard, Spot rated off the early pace set by Can’t Stop the Kid and attended by the odds-on No Nay Never,  who held a short advantage entering the stretch. Spot commenced his rally on the turn, continued widest into the stretch, readily overtook the favorite near the eighth pole, and pulled away despite finishing on his left lead.  Brothersofthetime rallied mildly to finish another 1 ¼ length farther back in third.

Spot, a son of Pulpit, completed seven furlongs in 1:22.44 and paid $21.

“I have to thank Mr. Moss, he’s an elderly gentleman who loves the sport and he’s just looking for horses like this,” said Zito. “He’s been trying for two years now, we went to a couple of sales. Nothing’s been working out, so you try this angle a little bit. I watched this horse run a month ago. I know Mr. Green very well. I just approached him, he’s a breeder, and he said ‘Why not?’ ”

Zito said he expected Spot to improve off his last start the way he had been training recently at Palm Meadows.

“I loved the way this horse worked the other day,” said Zito. “I knew Havana would keep the field size down. I figured our horse won’t be in trouble and maybe we’ll improve him.  You know I always do these things, we’re 20-1, 40-1, and we’re up the track. But today, I knew we had a shot, and it worked out perfectly.”

Zito said he has nothing in mind at the moment for Spot, who is nominated to the Triple Crown.

“Everybody will say Kentucky Derby, this and that,” said Zito. “I wish there was a mile race here but there’s not. You never know, a horse like this, if he keeps his composure. I’ll figure things out.”