Once part of a triumvirate of classic preps hosted by Gulfstream Park, and
with an honor roll that includes such standouts as Spectacular Bid, Swale and
Holy Bull, the seven-furlong
is now viewed more as a race for up-and-coming sprinters and milers rather than
as stepping stone to the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby.
While no points toward Kentucky Derby participation will be awarded to the
top four finishers, the Grade 2, $150,000 stakes on Saturday has attracted a
highly competitive group of 10 three-year-olds with no clear-cut favorite.
Merit Man, whose only loss in four starts was a photo-finish beat in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, is easily the most accomplished member of the
field. However, the dual stakes winner doesn’t look quite as formidable on paper
with his recent win in the Spectacular Bid achieved by a margin of only
three-quarters of a length and in an unremarkable time of 1:11 1/5 for six
“I was happy with his race in the Spectacular Bid, although he ended up on
the lead from the one post, which wasn’t ideal,” said trainer Bob 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.”
Little Distorted, third as the 6-5 favorite in the Spectacular Bid, could
bounce back from that third-place effort. The Distorted Humor colt was one of
the more impressive maiden winners in New York last fall, beating the
highly-regarded Revolutionary by 2 1/4 lengths in his debut while blitzing six
panels in 1:09 3/5.
Pataky Kid was a three-length winner of the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington
Futurity over Polytrack in September, but has been a non-factor in two previous
starts on dirt.
“He’s got ability, but he’s a little quirky kind of horse,” trainer Tom
Proctor said. “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 (Grade 3) Iroquois and he didn’t
break. They do that sometimes the first time with blinkers.”
Others with noted stakes form are Really Sharp, who placed in the Grade 3
Bourbon and Grade 2 Nashua last year; Undrafted, a distant third behind
Itsmyluckyday in the Gulfstream Park Derby; and Weekend Hideaway, a multiple
stakes winner in the New York-bred ranks who finished third in the Grade 2
The unbeaten Todd Pletcher trainee Forty Tales enters off an impressive
allowance score at Parx Racing last month, while fellow two-time winner Falling
Sky makes his debut for new connections after bringing $425,000 at the OBS
January Mixed Sale.
“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 trainer John Terranova,
referring to the fact that Majestic Hussar and Singanothersong each won their
next starts at Gulfstream after finishing second and third to Falling Sky in a
December 15 allowance.
Singanothersong is back to oppose Falling Sky and is joined by Honorable
Dillon, who finished second to Singanothersong in a 6 1/2-furlong Gulfstream
allowance on January 4.
Great Attack, runner-up in the past two editions of the
Park Turf Sprint, is the likely favorite to get over the hump when the
$75,000, five-furlong dash is renewed on the Hutcheson undercard. The Wesley
Ward trainee has padded his resume over the past year, winning the Grade 3 Twin
Spires Turf Sprint last May and the January 5 Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs.
Among the five set to oppose the six-year-old are Something Extra, winner of
last year’s Grade 2 Connaught Cup in Canada; recent Florida Sunshine Millions
Sprint upsetter Off the Jak; Group 1-winning Brazilian import Berlino Di Tiger;
and stakes winner Varsity, a three-time winner over the Gulfstream lawn.