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Kentucky Derby: Soldat in focus
by Geir Stabell / Globeform
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SOLDAT (War Front) / K McLaughlin / Globeform 116p

Two wins over 1 1/8 miles this year, one on a wet track - always useful experience to have - and one against sharp opposition in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). Yes, there's a lot to like about Soldat, who has clearly improved from his juvenile days, when he was also a pretty smart performer. Like Barbaro he has 'tried it all' having run on fast and wet dirt and also on turf. But he failed to follow up in the Florida Derby (G1), a race Barbaro won smoothly before outclassing his rivals in the Run for The Roses. So there stop the comparisons then. Soldat had a good trip just off the pace but just did not fire and was well beaten in fifth behind Dialed In in the Florida Derby. He sweated in the paddock and it was probably just an off day. We know Soldat is better than that - but does he need the lead to show it? Another question, how much speed will there be in this Derby?

Kiaran McLaughlin's colt looked a serious Kentucky Derby contender when winning the Fountain of Youth over 9 furlongs at Gulfstream in February. Making his second start of the year following a romp over a sloppy track at the same venue in January the son of War Front went straight to the lead in the Fountain of Youth, and he stayed there for quite an impressive and comfortable win. The fractions were not fast and there is no doubt that Soldat enjoyed the run of the race that day, but his performances last year indicated that he is not a natural front-runner. He was so relaxed on the lead, this colt can be held up, and could get further. He kicked away strongly at the top of the lane in the 'FOY' and ran on really well to win by 2 lengths from Gourmet Dinner, with To Honor and Serve beaten almost seven lengths in third. To Honor and Serve, who completed the Nashua / Remsen double last fall, was making his first start of the year and clearly needed the run but this was a big margin. Gourmet Dinner, winner of the Delta Jackpot (G3) last November, was coming off a game third in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3), beaten 1 lengths by Dialed In (who was value for more than the bare margin).

Soldat's best form appears to be strong. Though he was nowhere near his best when beaten over ten lengths into fifth behind Dialed In in the Florida Derby. After sitting nicely on the rail just a few lengths off the pace, he simply faded away and was never a factor. The kick-back was soon put forward as an explination, and it may well have been the reason Soldat failed to fire. To expect an easy lead at Churchill Downs would not be realistic, but speed runners have dropped out of the race, something that should work in Soldat's favor. He has finished in the top two in seven of his eight starts to date, he has experience from four different tracks, he is open to further improvement, and he must not be underestimated on Derby day.

His sire War Front, a son of Danzig, was a high class sprinter. He won the Vanderbilt Breeders' Cup Handicap (G2) and ran second in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1), Forego Stakes and three other Graded stakes. War Front is a half-brother to Ecclesiatic, a smart sprinter who stayed 9 furlongs. War Front is also the sire of The Factor, a speedy winner of the San Vicente Stakes (G2) and Rebel Stakes (G2) this spring. Soldat's dam, the unraced Le Relai, is a daughter of Haskell and Travers winner Coronado's Quest. Soldat is Le Relai's first foal and she is herself a half-sister to the Canadian Grade 3 winner Mulrainey, who was placed third in the Selene Stakes (G1) and Mazarine Breeders' Cup (G1). This is not a pedigree pointing at 1 miles as the ideal trip but the way Soldat finished off his race in the Fountain of Youth gives his supporters hope that he will stay the Derby distance.

Published: 2011-04-30 05:40:11

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