Bruce Chandler, Robert McKee and James Glavin’s Merit Man
is just a
nose short of being perfect in four starts for trainer Bob Hess, Jr. But
the 3-year-old will have to travel a furlong farther than he has before
when he goes to the post as the favorite in Saturday’s $150,000
Hutcheson Stakes (G2) going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park.
Jockey Paco Lopez gets the call on Merit Man in the field of 10
3-year-olds after the Florida-bred son of With Distinction won the
$100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes going six furlongs here on New Year’s
Day by three-quarters of a length.
Merit Man made three starts in California last year, beginning with
his winning debut at Del Mar on Sept. 2, followed by a 5 ½ lengths score
in the $100,000 Tim Conway Stakes on Oct. 6 at Santa Anita before a
tough nose loss when second to longshot Hightail in the $500,000
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint as the 1-to-2 favorite.
“I was happy his race in the Spectacular Bid, although he ended up
on the lead from the one post, which wasn’t ideal.” said Hess as he
accompanied the colt to school in the walking ring during the fifth race
Wednesday. “He was hooked and was very game to go on from there. He
doesn’t need to be on the lead. I’d rather see him sit and stalk. He’s
got a better post for this race (5).
“I think he will have to improve from the Spectacular Bid to handle
the competition he’ll face in the Hutcheson. I’m not really worried
about the seven furlongs. I think anything up to a one-turn mile is well
within his range.”
Swifty Farm’s Pataky Kid is an accomplished contender with jockey
Corey Lanerie to ride for trainer Tom Proctor in his first start since
finishing fifth in the one-mile Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs
on Oct. 28. The Oklahoma-bred son of Rockport Harbor worked a ‘bullet’
half-mile in 46 3/5 Wednesday morning.
Pataky Kid finished third in his debut at Churchill on July 1 before
breaking his maiden and capturing the Arlington-Washington Futurity
(G3) at Arlington Park over the summer. In one more start before the
Iroquois he finished an even fourth in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at
Keeneland, those last three races run on Polytrack.
“He’s got ability, but he’s a little quirky kind of horse,” said
Proctor. “We’re looking for this race to get him started and see where
we go from there. We still don’t know whether he’ll be best on dirt,
‘Poly’ or maybe even grass. We tried blinkers on him for the Iroquois
and he didn’t break. They do that sometimes the first time with
Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Thunder Mocassin to win the Hutcheson
last year and also won the race a remarkable five straight times from
2003-07. Gulfstream’s leading trainer appears to have another promising
prospect for this renewal in Perretti Racing Stable’s Forty Tales with
jockey John Velazquez to ride. The son of Tale of the Cat has won his
only two starts – his debut at Aqueduct on Nov. 24 by 2 ¾ lengths and an
allowance at Parx no Jan. 5 by 3 ¾ lengths.
James Covello and Newtown Anner Stud’s Falling Sky makes his first
start for new connections Saturday with jockey Luis Saez to ride for
trainer John Terranova. The son of Lion Heart was a sharp allowance
winner going six furlongs on Dec. 15 for trainer Antonio Sano and was
consigned to the OBS January Mixed sales where he was purchased for
“We’ve had him up here at Palm Meadows for a couple of weeks and
he’s doing well. He’s talented and ran in some key races,” said
Terranova, referring to the fact that Majestic Hussar and
Singanothersong each won their next starts here after finishing second
and third to Falling Sky in the Dec. 15 allowance.
Two other contenders that deserve respect are Herman Van Den
Broeck’s Singanothersong and James Bucci’s Honorable Dillon, who
finished one-two, separated by three-quarters of a length in a 6
½-furlong allowance race over the track on Jan. 4. Jockey Jozbin Santana
has the mount on Singanothersong for trainer Ron Pellegrini and Joe
Rocco, Jr. gets the call on Honorable Dillon for trainer Eddie
Singanothersong is a veteran of eight races now, including a
third-place finish behind Brave Dave and Sr. Quisqueyano in the
Birdonthewire Stakes at Calder in late September. The homebred son of
Songandaprayer went wire-to-wire in the Jan. 4 victory after a good
third in a previous allowance here on Dec. 15.
Honorable Dillon was the 13-to-10 favorite when second to
Singanothersong as he was making his third start and first since
breaking his maiden at Saratoga on Aug. 25 following a third-place debut
at the Spa. The roan/gray son of Tapit rallied from fifth of six in the
Gulfstream allowance and should benefit for the effort.
“I think he needed his first race and will move forward from it,”
said Kenneally. “That’s about the way it worked for him at Saratoga last
year. He finished third in his first start and then improved to win his
second start impressively.”
Not to be overlooked in the Hutcheson is Silverton Hill LLC’s Little
Distorted with jockey J.L. Castanon in the saddle for trainer Darrin
Miller. The son of Distorted Humor created a buzz when he won his debut
at Belmont Park in late October by 2 ¼ length for previous connections
and was sold privately shortly thereafter. In his lone start since then
he finished third, beaten 5 ¼ lengths as a slight favorite behind Merit
Man in the Spectacular Bid.
Completing the field for the Hutcheson are Nancy and Richard
Kaster’s Really Sharp, Elvis Trujillo; Wes Welker’s Undrafted, Angel
Serpa; and Red and Black Stable’s Weekend Hideaway, Joe Bravo.