Fountain of Youth (gr. II) winner Soldat turned in his final Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) breeze Friday, April 29 at Palm Meadows under the watchful eye of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
The son of War Front was timed in 1:01 2/5 for five furlongs, after getting the opening quarter-mile in :25, the next quarter in :24, and galloping out the final eighth in a little over :12 with regular rider Danny Wright aboard. It wasn’t an overly fast work, but McLaughlin was not looking for anything too quick.
“I was very pleased,” McLaughlin said. “He went fast in his work last week, going :47 and :59. He hasn’t missed a day of training in over a year, so he’s already fit. This was just a maintenance work. He’s ready to go.”
Soldat will fly to Louisville on Saturday, April 30, and have his first gallop at Churchill Downs on Monday. After two impressive wins to begin his season, Soldat enters the Derby off a disappointing fifth-place finish as the favorite in the April 3 Florida Derby (gr. I). McLaughlin is willing to forgive that performance.
“We were in the 1-hole that day and we wanted to go, but Alan (Garcia) said he was spinning his wheels and he couldn’t. It was hot that day and the track was deep and dry. The rail wasn’t the place to be but we could never get off of it. I’m willing to draw a line through the race.”
In Soldat’s two wins this season he went wire-to-wire while setting a moderate pace. Like the Florida Derby, he likely will not wind up on the lead in the Kentucky Derby. Those that are not in his corner say that he is less effective when having to rate behind horses and he is not fast enough to get the lead. McLaughlin thinks he has a big chance.
“He doesn’t need the lead. We know he can rate,” McLaughlin said. “In the Florida Derby, we had a target on our back. That won’t be the case in this race. There will be 19 other horses and we’ll be 15-1 or more.
“Ideally, we can get into a stalking position. Our post will be important, hopefully we can get something around 12, pick a spot, and be somewhere in third to sixth position. We don’t want to be on the lead through a :22 and :45.”
Soldat is 3-4-0 from eight starts. Of those eight starts, three came on turf, including a runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) at Churchill last November. He is owned by Harvey A. Clarke, W. Craig Robertson III, Paul Braverman, and Namcook Stables.