Soldat in the Fountain of Youth.

Soldat in the Fountain of Youth.

Coglianese Photos

Soldat Marching On to Florida Derby

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin says colt exits Fountain of Youth ready for his next step.

The Florida Derby (gr. I) would be next for Soldat  following the colt's dominating two-length win in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, his trainer said Feb. 27.

Soldat is “happy and in great shape,” conditioner Kiaran McLaughlin said on the morning after the front-running triumph Feb. 26.

The 3-year-old colt by War Front  led virtually every step of the way as the 7-5 betting favorite and finished comfortable ahead of Gourmet Dinner and morning-line favorite To Honor and Serve.

“The Florida Derby, Sunday, April 3; that’s the race we’ll point for now,” ” McLaughlin said.

The Fountain of Youth was Soldat’s first victory over a fast main track, an outcome that pleased McLaughlin but didn’t surprise him in the least.

“Going into the race, I wasn’t concerned about that at all,” McLaughlin said. “He’s always trained extremely well over a fast track, but it is nice to finally get it in print that he likes it fast.”

While Soldat has won his last two races from the front end, McLaughlin says he has no concerns about his colt’s ability to rate in the future.

“He absolutely could rate,” the trainer said. “We have no worries about that.”

McLaughlin says there are no definitive plans for Darley Stable’s 3-year-old Crossbow, who was scratched after drawing the rail in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II), the race that preceded the Fountain of Youth.

“We were originally thinking of running him (March 5) in the Gotham (gr. III) at Aqueduct,” McLaughlin said. “But now it looks like we’ll look at all options.”

Meanwhile, trainer Steve Standridge reported that FOY runner-up Gourmet Dinner will next go in either the Florida Derby or the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) as the colt’s next start.

Standridge said Gourmet Dinner was doing well following his Fountain of Youth effort.

“I’m very happy with the way he ran,” Standridge said. “He switched leads down the stretch when Ramon (Dominguez) hit him right handed, then he changed back after a few strides, but you lose a little momentum."

Gourmet Dinner continues to prove himself on the big stage, having placed in the money in seven of eight starts while shipping back-and-forth to the West Coast twice. He's run at four different tracks.

“He’s a warrior,” Standridge said. “We’re going to play it by ear as far as his next start. We’re looking at the Florida Derby and Santa Anita Derby, but we’re leaning a little toward Santa Anita. I know it will be easier in California than it is here, and it gives us another week.”

Gourmet Dinner has plenty of graded earnings to make it to the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby May 7 off his victory Nov. 20 in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (gr. III).