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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Merit Man Stretches Out A Bit in Hutcheson Stakes


Merit Man is just a nose short of being perfect in four starts for trainer Bob Hess, Jr. Now the 3-year-old will travel a furlong farther when he goes to the post, perhaps as the favorite, in Saturday’s Grade II Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Paco Lopez gets the call on Merit Man in the field of 10 after the Florida-bred son of With Distinction won the six-furlong Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream 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 1/2-length score in the $100,000 Tim Conway Stakes on Oct. 6 at Santa Anita. That preceded 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. “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.

“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.”

Pataky Kid, an Oklahoma-bred, is an accomplished contender with Corey Lanerie to ride for trainer Tom Proctor in his first start since finishing fifth in the one-mile, Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs on Oct. 28. The son of Rockport Harbor worked a bullet half-mile in :46.60 on Wednesday.

“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 blinkers.”

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 to 2007. Gulfstream’s leading trainer appears to have another promising prospect in Forty Tales, with 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 3/4 lengths and an allowance at Parx no Jan. 5 by 3 3/4 lengths.

Falling Sky makes his first start for new connections Saturday. Luis Saez will 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 by James Covello and Newtown Anner Stud for $425,000.

“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. Majestic Hussar and Singanothersong each won their next starts at the track after finishing second and third to Falling Sky in the Dec. 15 allowance. Falling Sky is also entered in Saturday's Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs but is expected to run in the Hutcheson.

Two other contenders that deserve respect are Singanothersong and Honorable Dillon, who finished one-two, separated by three-quarters of a length in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race over the track on Jan. 4. Jozbin Santana has the mount on Singanothersong for trainer Ron Pellegrini. Joe Rocco, Jr. gets the call on Honorable Dillon for trainer Eddie Kenneally.

Singanothersong is a veteran of eight races, 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 made his third start -- and first since breaking his maiden at Saratoga on Aug. 25. 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 Little Distorted, with 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 1/4 length for previous connections. He was sold privately shortly thereafter. In his lone start since then, he finished third, beaten 5 1/4 lengths as a slight favorite behind Merit Man in the Spectacular Bid.

Completing the field for the Hutcheson are Really Sharp, Elvis Trujillo; Undrafted, Angel Serpa; and Weekend Hideaway, Joe Bravo.

Edited Gulfstream Park release with additional content by Dick Downey

Saturday, R10
Grade II Hutcheson Stakes
Gulfstream Park
Seven Furlongs
Post Time: 5:05 ET

Post   Horse ML Jockey Wt Trainer
1 Forty Tales (KY)   J. Velazquez 116 T. Pletcher
2 Falling Sky (PA)   L. Saez 116 J. Terranova
3 Weekend Hideaway (NY)   J. Bravo 120 P. Serpe
4 Little Distorted (KY)   J. Castanon 116 D. Miller
5 Merit Man (FL)   P. Lopez 120 R. Hess Jr.
6 Singanothersong (KY)   J. Santana 116 R. Pellegrini
7 Undrafted (KY)   A. Serpa 116 W. Ward
8 Honorable Dillon (KY)   J. Rocco Jr. 116 E. Kenneally
9 Pataky Kid (OK)   C. Lanerie 120 T. Proctor
10 Really Sharp (KY)   E. Trujillo 116 I. Black

Owners: 1 - Perretti Racing Stable, LLC ; 2 - Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger ; 3 - Red and Black Stable ; 4 - Silverton Hill, LLC ; 5 - Bruce Chandler, Robert H. McKee, and James Glavin ; 6 - Herman Van Den Broeck ; 7 - Wes Welker ; 8 - Joseph Bucci ; 9 - Swifty Farms Inc. ; 10 - Nancy R. and Richard S. Kaster

Breeders: 1 - Randal Family Trust; 2 - Copper Penny Stables LLC; 3 - Flying Zee Stables; 4 - WinStar Farm, LLC; 5 - Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds &Stephen Barberino; 6 - Herman Van Den Broeck; 7 - Catesby W. Clay Investment LLC; 8 - Robert B. Trussell Jr.; 9 - H. Allen Poindexter; 10 - Mr. & Mrs. Richard S. Kaster


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