10/04/2014 3:41PM

No Nay Never comes off long layoff to beat elders in Woodford

Coady Photography
No Nay Never wins his first against elders Saturday in the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Facing elders for the first time and returning from a layoff of more than seven months proved obstacles easily overcome by the world traveler No Nay Never, who won Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Woodford at Keeneland in front-running fashion.

Unraced since finishing second in the Grade 2 Swale on the Gulfstream main track March 1, which had followed a 2-year-old campaign in which he won a Group 2 at England and a Group 1 in France following a debut victory at Keeneland on Polytrack, No Nay Never showed no signs of rust in his return. He showed his customary early speed, though under pressure from the start from Spring to the Sky.

That pair dueled through a hot opening quarter in 21.53 seconds in the 5 1/2-furlong Woodford, seemingly setting the stage for a closer or stalker to catch them. But No Nay Never refused to quit, turning back an early stretch bid from the eventual third-place finisher Sharp Sensation and lasting by a half-length over the 56-1 longshot Mongol Bull, who rallied belatedly from seventh.

The winner, a 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy owned by a partnership that includes representatives from Coolmore Stud and Ice Wine Stable, raced 5 1/2 furlongs on a “good” turf course under Mike Smith in 1:03.59. He paid $6 as the favorite.

“He is a big, blocky, extremely fast horse,” said winning trainer Wesley Ward. “I just thought this would be a great spot to bring him back and springboard him back into company and what we’re going to do with him.”

Ward will confer with the owners before making a decision on No Nay Never’s next race but said he was leading toward returning No Nay Never to dirt, over which the colt has raced only once, with that coming in the Swale.

“More likely than not, probably the Breeders’ Cup Sprint [is next]”, Ward said.

Alternatively, the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint could prove an option, though it offers a smaller purse at $1 million and less prestige than the $1. 5 million Sprint. Both races are Grade 1s that will be contested Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

The biggest surprise of the Woodward was the performance of the runner-up Mongol Bull, a former claimer who was steadily gaining before running out of ground. He finished a neck ahead of Sharp Sensation, who took late action to start at 9-2 odds.