07/21/2004 11:00PM

'Merry Me' in her first stakes bid

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Merry Me in Spring has flashed raw talent in each of her three career starts, but in her most recent race she really showed the bent of her mind. In a professional effort that belied her experience level, she turned a rail trip into a 1 1/4-length victory over older rivals in an allowance July 8.

It was the kind of performance that convinced her connections that the time has come to move Merry Me in Spring into stakes company, something that will happen Saturday when she puts her 3-for-3 record on the line in the $50,000 Senorita at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La.

Her task in the 1 1/16-mile Senorita, a turf race for 3-year-old fillies, is not easy. Topango, whose one career loss on turf came by a neck last out in the $100,000 Lone Star Oaks, is already a stakes winner at the meet. She returned from a seven-month layoff two races back to capture the $50,000 Chapel Belle over the Louisiana Downs turf course in May.

Also in the Senorita is Dancing Meg, who finished third in the Lone Star Oaks behind winner America America; Kurlicue, who was the runner-up in the $80,000 Bay Meadows Oaks two starts ago; and stakes winner Josie G.

Merry Me in Spring will break from the outside post in the eight-horse field, and as a result could get a different trip than she did last time, when she was on the rail throughout in a one-mile turf race at Louisiana Downs. Despite the tight quarters, she maintained her composure as she stalked the pace in fourth, then made her bid up the rail when asked by jockey John Jacinto.

"John said she was patient," said Sam David Jr., who trains Merry Me in Spring for Derby Fever Stables.

Merry Me in Spring won her maiden at seven furlongs on May 28, then came back and won an off-the-turf allowance at a mile and 70 yards on June 17. She followed that race with her victory in the two-other-than turf allowance July 8.

Jacinto has been aboard Merry Me in Spring for each of her starts, and will be again Saturday.

Topango is a terror on turf. She won her maiden in her first start on the surface last July, then proceeded to win an allowance on the grass, as well as the $100,000 La Senorita at Retama Park and the Chapel Belle. E.J. Perrodin, who was aboard for the Chapel Belle, has the mount on Topango for HSB Racing and trainer John Locke.