Soldat On Course For Florida Derby
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Following his dominant two-length victory in the $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2), Soldat is “happy and in great shape” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reported Sunday.
The 3-year-old colt by War Front led virtually every step of the way Saturday as the 7-5 betting favorite and finished ahead of Gourmet Dinner and morning-line favorite To Honor and Serve.
“The Florida Derby (G1); Sunday, April 3,” McLaughlin said. “That’s the race we’ll point for now.”
The Fasig-Tipton 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,” McLaughlin said. “We have no worries about that.”
McLaughlin says there are no definitive plans for Darley Stable’s Crossbow, who was scratched after drawing the rail in Saturday’s Hutcheson (G2).
“We were originally thinking of running him (March 5) in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct,” McLaughlin said. “But now it looks like we’ll look at all options.”
Standridge Considers Options With Gourmet Dinner
Trainer Steve Standridge reported Sunday morning that Gourmet Dinner, second in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2), came out of the race “very well” and will chose between the April 3 Florida Derby (G1) and April 9 Santa Anita Derby (G1) as the colt’s next start.
“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 as an “iron horse,” having placed first, second or third in seven of eight starts, having shipped back-and-forth to the west coast twice, and having 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.”
No matter where Gourmet Dinner runs next, the colt has plenty of graded earnings to make it to the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby (G1) May 7 just off his victory Nov. 20 in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3).
Powhatan County Returns in Thursday Allowance Feature
Handicappers will have a solid ‘class line’ to guide them in making selections for Thursday’s featured eighth race at Gulfstream Park, an ‘a other than’ allowance with Richlyn Farm’s Powhatan County entered to make his first start since finishing second in the With Anticipation Stakes (G3) on turf at Saratoga on Sept. 3 behind Soldat, winner of Saturday’s $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).
Jockey Javier Castellano will be aboard Powhatan County for trainer George Weaver in the one mile ‘a other than’ turf allowance with a full field of 12. The son of Fusaichi Pegasus broke his maiden at Saratoga earlier in the summer in his second start, finished fourth as the favorite in the Continental Mile over the Monmouth Park course in mid-August and was the 2-to-1 beaten favorite in the With Anticipation.
Another contender in the race making his season debut and was Graded stakes-placed on turf last year is Silverton Hill LLC’s Ocasta with John R. Velazquez in the saddle for trainer Darrin Miller. The son of Cherokee Run finished third last out behind Rogue Romance in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on Oct. 10 after breaking his maiden at Kentucky Downs in his first start on grass.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has Soldat shifted to the main track and on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, but has an intriguing prospect in Thursday’s race with Mrs. Fitriani Hay’s Breathless Storm making his American debut after winning one of three in England last year. The Kentucky-bred colt by Storm Cat was a $300,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase.
Pletcher & Castellano Post Triples on Saturday
Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano teamed up to win the first race Saturday at Gulfstream Park with Starlight Partners’ 3-year-old Achaemenes and both made two more trip to the winners’ circle during the afternoon to buoy there totals on the horsemen’s leader boards.
Pletcher’s day was highlighted by the victory of E. Paul Robsham Stable’s 3-year-old filly R Heat Lightning in the $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) to extend his lead in the standings with 21 victories as he bids for an eighth consecutive meet title. Pletcher leads by seven over closest rival Nick Canani second with 14.
Sidelined jockey Paco Lopez continues to lead the riders’ standings with 38 victories despite being out of action since sustaining an elbow injury in the nasty spill last Friday (Feb. 18), and each of his three closest rivals made up ground riding multiple winners on Saturday’s program. Lopez is the defending Gulfstream meet champion.
John R. Velazquez rode two winners, including R Heat Lightning in the Davona Dale, to move within four of Lopez with 34 tallies and Castellano’s triple left him two more back in third with 32, followed by Jose Lezcano fourth with 29 and Alex Solis and Rajiv Maragh tied for fifth with 26 apiece.
Uncle Mo Drills ‘Bullet’ Sunday Morning at Palm Meadows
It was a busy Sunday morning at Palm Meadows for trainer Todd Pletcher’s juggernaut stable with a dozen stakes runners hitting the work tab, led by Repole Stable’s undefeated Eclipse champion Uncle Mo, who worked five furlongs in a ‘bullet’ 1:00 3/5 in company with stablemate Stay Thirsty as both 3-year-olds get close to their season debuts.
Uncle Mo, 4 ¼ lengths winner of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs in his last start, is expected to launch his march to the Kentucky Derby (G1) in the $100,000 Timely Writer overnight stakes to be run at one mile on Sat., Mar. 12 at Gulfstream Park.
A son of Indian Charlie, Uncle Mo was virtually unchallenged in his three starts last year, winning his debut by 14 ¼ lengths at Saratoga in late August and the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park by 4 ¾ lengths in early October before the Breeders’ Cup.
Other notable Pletcher-trained stars on the Sunday morning tab at Palm Meadows included WinStar Farm’s 3-year-old Brethren (49 2/5), WinStar’s 4-year-old Rule (1:01 3/5) and Candy DeBartolo’s 6-year-old mare Life At Ten (48 2/5).
Brethren is a Kentucky homebred by Distorted Humor, also undefeated in three starts and bound for the Kentucky Derby. Brethren won his debut at Belmont in mid-October, a Churchill Downs allowance in late November last year and the $225,000 Sam Davis Stakes (G3) by four lengths on Feb. 12 at Tampa Bay Downs where he is expected to return to contest the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G3) on Mar. 12.
Rule has made his last three starts at Gulfstream, beginning with his third-place effort behind Ice Box as the favorite in the 2010 Florida Derby (G1), his final start of the season. The Kentucky homebred by Roman Ruler finished second in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) on Jan. 8 and third in the Donn Handicap (GT1) last out on Feb. 5. Rule could make his next start in the $300,000Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1), also to be run here on Mar. 12.