Getting Better With Age, Soaring Free Repeats in Highlander

(from Woodbine report)
Sam-Son Farm's 8-year-old Soaring Free, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year, not only successfully defend his title in the Scott Highlander Stakes Handicap (Can-III) at Woodbine on Sunday, but also surpassed the $2 million mark in career earnings in the process.

Sent postward the prohibitive 2-5 choice over eight rivals contesting the six-furlong turf event, Soaring Free broke like a bullet on the outside before being reined back into third by jockey Todd Kabel. Longshot pacesetter Draw Fire blazed through an opening quarter in 22.08 seconds.

But after the half was reached in 44.50 when the field turned into the long stretch of the E. P. Taylor Turf Course, Soaring Free, who was the 126-pound high weight, set sail for the lead. In a few steps, the Sam-Son champion blew by Draw Fire, then had more than enough left to fend off the challengers. Worldwind Romance came on for second, two lengths back, with All Star Lover third.

The final time was a blistering 1:08.03, three-fifths of a second faster than what it took the gelded son of Smart Strike to win last year's Scotts Highlander.

"It's a great feeling, just to be a part of Soaring Free, the Samuel team, and everybody that's working with him," said Kabel. "He's just a tremendous horse that runs hard every time he comes out. He's maturing with his age. He's not as speed crazy as he used to be."

Trained by Mark Frostad, Soaring Free was making his local bow this year after only one previous outing, a winning performance in the five and one-half furlong Shakertown Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland on April 16.

"He's just a great horse," added Frostad. "He gives his best every time. We're getting beyond maturity now (with him). We're getting into a little bit of old age. That's why we're not running him as much as we used to. We'll space his races ... three, four weeks (apart) at least. We've got to pick our spots now."

Last year, Soaring Free won five stakes, highlighted by the Atto Mile (Can-I) on his way to banking more than $1 million for the season. He finished an excellent fourth to Singletary in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Lone Star Park in his final race of the campaign. That earned him a Sovereign Award as Canada's top Male Turf Horse in addition to Horse of the Year honors.

The homebred has now won 15 of 24 lifetime starts and with today's pot of $134,280 has banked a remarkable $2,122,070. Soaring Free paid $2.80, $2.40, and $2.10, combining with Worldwind Romance ($5.90, $5.10) for a $19 exacta. All Star Lover ($6.90) fashioned a $180.60 trifecta payoff.

(Chart, Equibase)