Deal Driven, running second time off the claim, sprinted to a front-running 2 ¼-length win in Sunday's fourth race at Laurel Park to give Mike Merryman his first career training victory.
Ridden by Carlos Quinones, 4-year-old Into Mischief gelding Deal Driven ($4.40) ran about 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.15 over a fast main track to beat favored Rare Candy in the $23,000 claiming event for older horses, his first win since being claimed by Merryman for $5,000 out of a Nov. 20 win at Laurel.
Deal Driven was the only horse in the five-horse field to be claimed out of the race, taken for $16,000 by trainer Anthony Farrior.
“It feels great. I'm a little disappointed I lost him. I really liked this horse,” Merryman said. “He's a stone-cold runner. The speed hadn't been holding all day so I was a little worried. I thought [Rare Candy] would come running. We just got to the wire first. I'm excited, but also kind of bummed.”
Merryman, 25, comes from a well-established and respected family of Maryland horsemen that include his mother, Ann Merryman; late grandparents John and Katharine Merryman; aunts Katherine Voss and Elizabeth Merryman; and uncles Ed Merryman and John Merryman Jr.
“We're just keeping it going, enjoying it here in Maryland,” Mike Merryman said. “I love being on the farm and training at the track in the morning. It's just fun.”
Deal Driven was the fourth career starter for Merryman, his first coming with Strike 'n Spare Aug. 25, 2017 at Timonium. The native of Sparks, Md. has also worked as an equine dentist for the past five years.
“I went off to college and was going for baseball. I went to [University of Mary Washington] and then I went out to Montana State. I was going to be an engineer and an architect. That's what I was set on,” Merryman said. “I got there and thought, 'This is so boring. I just want to go back to the farm and be with the horses.'”
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