Merit Man Goes from BC to Spectacular Bid
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Merit Man
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Bruce Chandler, Robert McKee, and partners' Merit Man will be the horse to beat in the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds on the New Year's Day card at Gulfstream Park.
The Florida-bred son of With Distinction won his first two starts at Del Mar and Santa Anita Park and went into the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint at Santa Anita Nov. 2 as the 1-2 favorite for trainer Bob Hess, Jr. He led every step but the last, losing a nose decision to longshot Hightail  .
"He ran a great race. I think he got to loafing a little bit out there on the lead," Hess said from California. "We think we've learned a few things about him since then and he's probably best with a target to run at. I'll be there (Dec. 29) and we'll school him in the paddock (Dec. 30)."
The six-furlong Spectacular Bid, which has drawn a field of six and is carded as race three with an approximate post time of 1:41 p.m EST, shares the card with the $100,000 Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old filly sprinters (race 5, approximate post 2:37 p.m.) and the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby for 3-year-olds going a mile (Race 9, approximate post 4:35 p.m.). 
Brave Dave is among the most experienced and accomplished in the Spectacular Bid line-up, with jockey Paco Lopez reunited with the colt for trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. A homebred son of Put It Back, Brave Dave won his career debut at Calder Race Course & Casino June 30 and shipped to Monmouth Park with Plesa's summer division.
Brave Dave made his second start in the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Race Course July 22, finishing fourth behind Bern Identity after prompting the pace and then drifting out to the middle of the track in the stretch.
"All I can say about that race is that he seemed to lose focus," Plesa. "It wasn't really a bad race."
From the Sanford, Brave Dave won three straight in the Sapling Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth on Sept. 2, the Birdonthewire Sept. 29, and Jack Price Juvenile Nov. 10 at Calder. In one start since, he finished second by a length as the 1-2 favorite in the six-furlong Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs Dec. 1.
"I have a lot of respect for Jane Cibelli's horse that beat us (Gulfstream Derby contender Purple Egg), but there were some things that worked against us that day," Plesa said. "First, he had to ship up there, and then we had a little bug in our barn at the time and when we scoped him he had a little mucous. He's 110% now."
Silverton Hill LLC's Little Distorted has run only once but will get solid support with jockey Javier Castellano to ride in his first start for trainer Darrin Miller. The son of Distorted Humor   made a flashy debut winning first out at Belmont Park Oct. 28 by 2 1/4 lengths for Kuehne Racing and trainer Michael Mareina, and was sold privately not long after.
Mareina actually brought the colt to Gulfstream in November and looked after him there before sending him to Miller at Payson Park.
"I haven't had him that long, just since Dec. 2," Miller said. "I like what I've seen so far. We think this is the next logical move to see where we are with him."
Completing the field are Rockyshomerun, Cat Five Hurricane, and City of Weston.
$100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes (Race 3, approximate post 1:41 p.m. EST), 3YOs, six furlongs (dirt)
PP., Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Merit Man (FL), J. Rosario, 120, R B Hess, Jr.
2. Rockyshomerun (FL), G.W. Bain, 116, R Dixon
3. Cat Five Hurricane (FL), K.J. Desormeaux, 116, B R Rose
4. Brave Dave (FL), P. Lopez, 122, E Plesa, Jr.
5. Little Distorted (KY), J. Castellano, 116, D Miller
6. City of Weston (FL), L. Saez, 116, A Sano

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