02/27/2013 5:42PM

Gulfstream Park: Merit Man likely to scratch from Swale

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Tom Keyser
Forty Tales, here working outside Shanghai Bobby, will be among the favorites in the Grade 3 Swale on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The $150,000 Swale Stakes no longer has any weight in determining eligibility for this year’s Kentucky Derby. But the money is still enough to lure a full field of 13 sprinters when the tradition-rich Grade 3 dash has its 28th renewal here Saturday.

Unfortunately, Wednesday’s post position draw has claimed at least one victim, with Merit Man expected to scratch after drawing post 2. Merit Man would have been one of the choices in the Swale after winning the Spectacular Bid at six furlongs on New Year’s Day and finishing fourth last month in the Grade 2 Hutcheson.

[SWALE STAKES: Get PPs, watch video handicapping previews]

“I’d say it’s highly likely he’s not going to run due to the post position,” said Merit Man’s trainer, Bob Hess, late Wednesday afternoon. “I just don’t want him to have to be used early near the inside in this big field, especially going seven furlongs. The alternative is to run in the OBS Stakes  in Ocala on March 11. It’s at six furlongs and restricted to sales horses, and I think it would be good for his mind to face an easier field, hopefully get an easy win, and then come back against these types of horses.”        

Hess said Merit Man travelled well over a synthetic surface in the sales preview at Ocala and again when winning his debut last summer at Del Mar.

Forty Tales, who was victimized by the inside post when finishing a troubled second behind Honorable Dillon in the Hutcheson, will likely be favored in the seven-furlong Swale. Other key players in the Swale include Undrafted, who is also poorly drawn in post 1, Little Distorted, Gombey Dancer, and Are You Kidding Me. 

Also on Saturday, eight 3-year-old fillies, including a pair from trainer Graham Motion’s barn, will contest the $150,000 Herecomesthebride if the race goes as scheduled on the grass.

Motion will send out Tuttipaesi, an impressive winner of the Ginger Brew Stakes in her U.S. debut, and Kitten’s Point, second under high-priced optional-claiming conditions in her first start since the Breeders’ Cup. Caroline Thomas and I O Ireland are among the other key contenders in a field that also features Coffee Clique, With Sugar On Top, Frege, and Tokyo Time.