It's easy to see why Soldat's connections want to keep him on turf after last year's Triple Crown contender scored an impressive comeback victory at Gulfstream Park March 4 (VIDEO).
Facing seven rivals in a $55,100 allowance optional claiming event in his comeback, 4-5 choice Soldat was a no-doubt three-length winner while clocking a time of 1:41.18 for 1 1/16 miles on firm going.
The 4-year-old Soldat was making his first start since he finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 7. After early success on turf, the dark bay/brown colt was switched to the dirt by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin last winter. Soldat won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream by two lengths prior to a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Florida Derby (gr. I).
“It’s nice to have him back,” said McLaughlin of Soldat’s victory.
Soldat was given time off after the Derby with foot problems but encountered other minor physical issues along the way, McLaughlin said. He has been training well at Palm Meaodws for his return.
The son of War Front out of the Coronado's Quest mare Le Relais is owned by Harvey A. Clarke, W. Craig Robinson III, Paul Braverman, and Namcoock Stable.
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Soldat stalked pacesetter Live in Joy in second on the outside through solid fractions before taking over in upper stretch and driving to an easy triumph under hand urging.
"I didn’t give Javier any specific instructions," said McLaughlin. "I didn’t know whether he would end up close to the pace or not, but he rode him perfectly and we’re pleased to have him ride."
Soldat will "be pointed for a campaign in major turf stakes this year," the trainer added.
McLaughlin said the Maker’s Mark (gr. IT) at Keeneland April 13 and the Woodford Reserve (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs May 7 are among Soldat's next options.
Soldat showed plenty of ability on grass as a 2-year-old. He won the With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga, finished second in the Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park, and was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs that fall.
The winner paid $3.80 for his fourth win in 10 lifetime starts while boosting his earnings to $617,360. Charles Fipke’s 4-year-old Fastest Magician finished second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Stipa Racing Stable’s 80-1 shot Numb Lips.