A baker's dozen of 3-year-olds has been entered in Saturday's $150,000 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The seven-furlong race has a post time of 5:35 p.m. (ET).
Going after his first win of the year will be Merit Man, trained by Bob Hess Jr. The colt, owned by Bruce Chandler and partners, has drawn post No. 2 with Kent Desormeaux getting the ride for the first time.
Merit Man began 2013 with a win in the Spectacular Bid Stakes at six furlongs, but never challenged when finishing fourth in the Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 2.
"It was a disappointing race, but not terrible," said Hess. "I probably over- instructed the jockey (Paco Lopez) trying to see if he could be rated. I think he's best if you just let him run his race. We'll enter in the Swale and take a look, see who is in it and what post we draw. If we don't like it we can run him in the OBS race the next week."
Merit Man established himself as a top runner when he won his first start on Sept. 2 at Del Mar, then followed with a victory in the Tim Conway Stakes on Oct. 6 at Santa Anita.
He was second as the 1-2 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 2, losing by a nose to longshot Hightail.
Merit Man has banked $299,500 with three wins in five starts.
Breaking from post 5 in the Swale will be Clearly Now with jockey Luis Saez. Trained by Brian Lynch, the colt is owned by Up Hill Stable.
Clearly Now won his first two starts at Woodbine and was third to Avie's Quality in the Display Stakes at the Toronto track on Dec. 1. He began his 2013 season with a third-place finish as a 42-1 longshot behind Itsmyluckyday in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream.
"He ran all right in the Holy Bull," said Lynch. "I just don't think he's ready for the horses he has to face down here right now going two turns, but the race in the Holy Bull is ideal to set him up to come back at seven- eighths. I still think he'll stretch out with maturity when we get back to Toronto."
In four career starts, Clearly Now has two wins and two thirds for $124,598.
Here is the field for the Swale in post position order: Undrafted, Julio Garcia; Merit Man, Kent Desormeaux; Little Distorted, Joe Bravo; Dighton, Manny Cruz; Clearly Now, Luis Saez; Gombey Dancer, Corey Lanerie; Nevada, Paco Lopez; Tulira Castle, Elvis Trujillo; Triple Cross, Mario Pino; Forty Tales, Javier Castellano; Singanothersong, Jozbin Santana; Res Judicata, Joe Rocco Jr.; Are You Kidding Me, Edgar Prado.
Won last year by eventual champion sprinter Trinniberg, the Swale can serve as a prep for the Florida Derby on March 30.