Soldat & Dialed In the Favorites in 60th Florida Derby Sunday
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Harvey Clarke and partners’ Soldat, winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), and Robert LaPenta’s Holy Bull Stakes (G3) winner Dialed In will be the choices in Sunday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
The historic 1 1/8 miles preview for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Triple Crown has attracted the deepest filed of young prospects assembled in the nation this season.
The 60th edition of the Florida Derby will be run as the 10th race on a 12-race program with post time set at 5:42 p.m. ET.
While Soldat and Dialed In may take the most action in the talented field of eight 3-year-olds, there will also be strong support for Repole Stable’s Stay Thirsty, winner of the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct in his last start for trainer Todd Pletcher, and Live Oak Plantation’s To Honor and Serve, a top-ranked 2-year-old when he captured the Nashua Stakes (G2) and Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct last fall for trainer Bill Mott.
Jockey Alan Garcia retains the mount on Soldat for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin breaking from the rail after they teamed up to wins the Fountain of Youth by two lengths on Feb. 26 over the track and nine-furlong distance with Gourmet Dinner second and To Honor and Serve third.
Soldat, a $180,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by War Front, was a leading 2-year-old on turf last season, winning the With Anticipation at Saratoga and finishing second by a length in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs. He earned his chance to get on the Derby trail winning a 1 1/8 miles allowance here on Jan. 21 by 10 ¾ lengths on a ‘sloppy’ track in his season debut.
Jockey Julien Leparoux gets the return call on Dialed In from post 7 for trainer Nick Zito, who sent out LaPenta’s Ice Box to win the Florida Derby last year. Dialed In established a following winning his only start as a 2-year-old going 6 ½ furlongs at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12, overcoming a slow start while racing greenly as the favorite.
A $475,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by Mineshaft, Dialed In was to have met Soldat in the Jan. 21, but was scratched because of the ‘sloppy’ track in favor of the one-mile Holy Bull on Jan. 30 when he rallied from last of nine to win going away bv 1 ½ lengths. Dialed In got his final tune-up for Sunday’s race finishing second in a 1 1/8 miles allowance on Mar. 6 won by Zito-trained stablemate Equestrio, a 4-year-old.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez rides Stay Thirsty in his second start of the season after winning the 1 1/16 miles Gotham Stakes by 3 ¼ lengths in his first start since finishing fifth behind Repole stablemate Uncle Mo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill on Nov. 6, beaten14 ½ lengths.
A son of Bernardini, Stay Thirsty was a $500,000 Fasig-Tipton February 2-year-old purchase and finished second to Boys At Tosconova in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) last summer at Saratoga following a runner-up debut at Belmont Park in mid-July and 5 ½ lengths maiden score at Saratoga in mid-August.
To Honor and Serve may be the big question mark in Sunday’s race with Garrett Gomez aboard for the first time. He was beaten 6 ¾ lengths as the 17-to-10 second choice when third to Soldat in the Fountain of Youth. However, the $575,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by Bernardini was making his first start since late November going 1 1/8 miles and should benefit and move forward from the effort.
The complexion of the race changed significantly on Thursday morning when trainer Rick Dutrow entered Peachtree Stable’s brilliant, but lightly-raced Flashpoint with jockey Cornelio Velasquez named to ride as they break from the outside post 8 and will almost certainly set the pace.
The roan/gray colt by Pomeroy was a $100,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase and has won both of his starts by big margins, his debut at Aqueduct by 6 ¼ lengths going six furlongs on Jan. 15 and the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream on Feb. 26 by 7 ¼ lengths.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens developed the late Edward P. Evans’ brilliant Quality Road to win the 2009 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby and sends out Centennial Farm’s Arch Traveler with a chance on Sunday with jockey Jose Lezcano as he makes his stakes debut. The $250,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by Sky Mesa has made three starts at the meet following a second-place debut at Aqueduct in December.
Arch Traveler finished third in a seven-furlong maiden test here on Jan. 15, broke his maiden by 2 ½ lengths going seven-eighths on Feb. 6 and came back to score by three-quarters of a length over highly-regarded Nacho Business in a 1 1/8 miles allowance on Fountain of Youth Day, Feb. 26.
Completing the field are Martin Schwartz’ Bowman’s Causeway and Michael Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s Shackleford, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Fountain of Youth. Jockey Paco Lopez rides Bowman’s Causeway for trainer Patrick Biancone and the son of Giant’s Causeway came back to start once more since then, finishing third in a one-mile allowance on Mar. 19.
Jockey J.L. Castanon retains the mount on Shackleford for trainer Dale Romans. The Kentucky homebred son of Forestry looked good winning a nine-furlong allowance test over the Gulfstream track on Feb. 5 by 2 ¼ lengths in his first start since a maiden victory at Churchill Downs in late November.