By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile
Soldat emerged from the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes undefeated at Gulfstream Park and one of the presumptive favorites for the Grade I Florida Derby.
Challenged early on by El Grayling, and with To Honor And Serve stalking to their outside, Soldat shook them all off to establish a three-length lead at the furlong marker and cruise home a two-length winner, timed in 1:50.23.
Gourmet Dinner, who was bumped at the start and ran just behind To Honor and Serve from the first run down the stretch through the far turn, launched a bid leaving the turn and finished second, beaten two lengths.
To Honor and Serve was outrun in the final stage of the race and finished third, another 4 3/4 lengths back and beaten 6 3/4 lengths overall.
It was a formful top three. Soldat was sent off as the 7-5 favorite; Gourmet Dinner was 7-2; and To Honor and Serve was 8-5. The remaining finishers were all double-digits: Bowman's Causeway, Shackleford, Racing Aptitude, Casper's Touch and El Grayling.
It was Soldat's first start on fast dirt. He adds this victory to a winning resume on sloppy dirt, firm turf and yielding turf.
Soldat earned $240,000 from the Fountain of Youth to push his overall bankroll to $554,300. His total graded earnings now stand at $510,000.
With his second money of $80,000, Gourmet Dinner now has $780,000 in graded money. To Honor and Serve picked up $40,00 and now has $250,000 graded stakes earnings.
Soldat, a son of War Front, is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and was ridden by Alan Garcia for the fifth straight time. He's owned by Harvey A. Clarke, Craig W. Robertson III, Paul Braverman and Namcook Stable.
Soldat was bred in Kentucky by Brookfield Stud LLC and is out of the Coronado's Quest mare Le Relais.
Winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin: “When he drew the one post, we decided he had to go to the lead. That doesn’t mean we might not have another strategy in the future. It’s on to the Florida Derby now. He’s always done everything right, and today we got the fast track we wanted. The timing of the program here is perfect for us –five weeks from now to the Florida Derby and another five weeks to the Kentucky Derby. I’m very happy for this group of owners.”
Winning jockey Alan Garcia: “I just went to the lead and tried to slow it down as much as possible. My horse just kept on going today. I don’t think anyone was going to get by us today the way he ran. He was really good today.”
Ramon Dominguez, rider of Gourmet Dinner: “The race set up good for us, we were in a good spot. I would have liked to have just a little more speed in the race. I can’t take anything away from the winner. He was very good today.”
Bill Mott, trainer of To Honor and Serve: (John Velazquez) liked his race. He said he did everything he asked until he got to the quarter pole, and then he said he got a little flat. I can imagine he might have needed the race. If he got beat I thought he might carry him a little more into the stretch. It looks like he needed the race. John compared him to the horse he rode and won the Davona Dale (R Heat Lightning). The first time down here, she was a little flat, and she came back and ran big today.”
John Velazquez, aboard To Honor and Serve: “I thought he ran very well. He settled really well going down the backside. He ranged up to the leader on the far turn and finished well, just didn’t have the closing kick he usually does. I think, off the layoff that is to be expected. Overall, though, I thought he ran terrific.”