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Mar 04, 2011

Soldat on right track towards Florida Derby

By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Kiaran McLaughlin had a wise plan heading into the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He instructed jockey Alan Garcia to take his top three-year-old Soldat to the early lead since the colt had drawn the rail in the 1 1/8-mile event.

Despite breaking a step slow, the son of War Front did exactly what McLaughlin wanted as he led by a length after a quarter in a moderate 24 1/5 seconds. After three-quarters came up in 1:12 2/5, the 7-5 favorite, still on the lead, braced for the upcoming challenge from the 8-5 second choice To Honor and Serve.

However, the Nashua and Remsen winner was not up to the task as Soldat powered forward to a three-length lead in mid-stretch. Meanwhile, Gourmet Dinner, who sat fourth on the rail through much of the race, put in a late bid to finish second, two-lengths behind the winner. It was a gap of almost five back to To Honor and Serve in third.

Ramon Dominguez, who rode Gourmet Dinner for the first time, whipped his charge five times through the stretch while Garcia tapped Soldat just once or twice. The $240,000 first place prize was never in doubt as Soldat toyed with his rivals. And even though the final time of 1:50 1/5 was a full second slower than his monstrous 10 3/4-length victory last month in the slop, it was a good two seconds faster than Arch Traveler needed to win an allowance race earlier in the day.

Soldat will now forge ahead to the Florida Derby with a record of three wins and four seconds in seven career starts. This victory was perhaps the most important in terms of public perception as his other two triumphs came on an off-track and on the turf. Look for his odds to drop significantly in Future Wager Pool 2 from the 18-1 he was let go in Pool 1.

All is not lost for To Honor and Serve. Despite a well-beaten third, it was a decent effort for his first start in three months. Trainer Bill Mott sort of expected him to come up short in the nine-furlong event as he didn't have his colt fully cranked. For those looking to easily dismiss the son of Bernardini, remember, last year's Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver finished third as the favorite in his first three-year-old outing against the likes of Odysseus and Schoolyard Dreams.

As for Gourmet Dinner, the gritty colt ran a dynamite race in his second start this year. Take away the fourth-place effort on the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park and the son of Trippi sports seven consecutive in-the-money finishes. His next start is up in the air as his trainer Steve Standridge might send him out west for the Santa Anita Derby instead of keeping him east for the Florida Derby.

If Gourmet Dinner stays in the Sunshine State, look for one of his rivals to be Arch Traveler - the victor of an entry level allowance race earlier in the day. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens is inclined to match the two-time winner against the big boys in the Florida Derby after prevailing by three-quarters of a length over Nacho Business.

This was the colt's first start past seven furlongs, and even though the final time was slow, he did run his final three-eighths in 37 4/5 seconds, the same time it took Soldat to complete his final three furlongs.

Nacho Business ran very well despite jockey Joe Bravo giving him the stranglehold for much of the race. In addition, the outside was not the place to be all day long and the horse was still able to close, despite failing to get up for the win.

A "FLASH" IN THE PAN? NOT A CHANCE!

Outside of Soldat, the most impressive three-year-old colt that ran on Saturday was the Richard Dutrow-trained Flashpoint. The powerfully built son of Pomoroy blew away heavily favored Travelin Man to win the Hutcheson Stakes by 7 1/4-lengths, while running the seven furlongs in 1:22 seconds.

Perhaps the most electrifying part of his race was how calm jockey Cornelio Velasquez was on top of the three-year-old. He never whipped Flashpoint and the colt still overpowered Travelin Man and the seven other horses with ease.

It was Flashpoint's second win in as many starts. The first was an impressive 6 1/4-length score at Aqueduct on Jan. 15. His breeding is geared towards sprinting but Dutrow stated after the race that the nine-furlong Florida Derby could be the colt's next start.

Unless he's the second coming of Seattle Slew or even Big Brown (when talking about Dutrow), don't expect him to win the Grade I event. The better spot would be the seven-furlong Swale Stakes on the undercard, but with an $850,000 difference in the two purses as well as the opportunity to test the colt's endurance, one can see why Dutrow might choose the $1 million Grade I Florida Derby.

UNCLE MO AND DIALED IN WORKOUTS

The top two Kentucky Derby favorites both hit the track this past week in preparation for next start.

Uncle Mo and Dialed In each worked five-furlongs at Palm Meadows, but on different days. The former, in tandem with stablemate Stay Thirsty, breezed five in 1:00 3/5 for the top work of the day, while the latter breezed five in 59 and change with the next fastest work being 1:01 2/5!

Uncle Mo will make his 2011 debut at Gulfstream Park on Mar. 12 in the Timely Writer Stakes. If for some reason that race doesn't fill, his connections will go back to their original plan of sending the two-year-old champ to the Tampa Bay Derby on the same day. Meanwhile, Nick Zito is looking for a two-turn allowance race in early March for Dialed In. Unfortunately, there are zero races of that nature scheduled at either Gulfstream Park or Tampa Bay Downs, so unless he sends his colt outside the state (which he doesn't want to do), look for Dialed In to show up in the Timely Writer at one-mile or the 1 1/16- mile Tampa Bay Derby.

THE JEFF FRANK TOP 12

1) Uncle Mo; 2) Dialed In; 3) Soldat; 4) Brethren; 5) To Honor and Serve; 6) Cal Nation; 7) Sway Away; 8) Bench Points; 9) The Factor; 10) Mucho Macho Man; 11) Santiva; 12-T) Jaycito and Runflatout



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