Soldat will be making his third start of the year on Sunday and is coming off a win in Gulfstream's Fountain of Youth Stakes in February. The colt will be ridden by Alan Garcia from the inside post.
The colt's victory in the Fountain of Youth along with wins in the Florida Derby and Preakness Stakes would give his owners a $5 million bonus and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin a $500,000 bonus.
Soldat began his path to the Kentucky Derby with a victory in an allowance race at Gulfstream in January. He is the winner of three of seven lifetime starts for $554,300.
As a two-year-old he finished second in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf to Pluck. Last September Soldat won the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga and was second in Belmont Park's Pilgrim Stakes the next month.
"I think he still has his best races ahead of him," McLaughlin said, "and he's run two nice races down here. But I don't think he was all out to win the Fountain of Youth. If we had to ask him for more, I think there was more there.
"This time there's quite a bit of speed probably in the race if Todd Pletcher puts blinkers on Stay Thirsty, if Dutrow (Flashpoint) will run the Hutcheson winner. There's quite a bit of speed. To Honor and Serve has speed. We'll just play it by ear and (Alan) will make that decision but we will have a game plan when we go into the race depending on our post position."
Holy Bull Stakes champ Dialed In will be making just his fourth career start in the Florida Derby. Trained by Nick Zito for owner Robert LaPenta, the colt and jockey Julien Leparoux will break from post seven.
Dialed In won his first career start at Churchill Downs on November 12. After the Holy Bull the colt finished second in an allowance race at Gulfstream versus older horses.
"If you saw his first race and of course the amazing performance in the Holy Bull," LaPenta commented, "he's a horse with enormous talent. I think his performance against the older horses I think got a little more critical reviews than possibly were warranted. But I think he does, to a certain extent, have a score to settle and I think everybody is looking to see who the real Dialed In is on Sunday."
Dialed In has earned $279,206 in his three starts win two wins and a second.
"The Florida Derby to me of all of the races thus far and even looking ahead to some of the races that are coming up including the Wood, the Illinois Derby or the Indiana Derby and the Arkansas Derby and even the Blue Grass, to me this is a mini derby," LaPenta noted. "There are so many good horses in here. You know, I could see almost half of them, if not more, being in the Derby on the first Saturday in May."
To Honor and Serve will try to improve off a disappointing third-place result behind Soldat in the Fountain of Youth. Owned by Live Oak Plantation, the colt will start from post two with Garrett Gomez in the saddle.
"I know he can run," Gomez said about his mount. "He's certainly a talented horse. He ran a respectable race last time out in his first start of the year, and I'm expecting him to move forward off of that race."
Trained by Bill Mott, To Honor and Serve is the winner of three of five career starts, including last year in the Nashua and Remsen Stakes. The colt has banked $304,640.
"I think we definitely want to see improvement," Mott said. "We were just very flat through the stretch last time. I want to see him run all the way to the wire, even if he were to get a little tired and get beat, but I would want to see a much stronger effort."
Here is the complete field for the 60th Florida Derby in post position order: Soldat, Alan Garcia; To Honor and Serve, Garrett Gomez; Arch Traveler, Jose Lezcano; Bowman's Causeway, Paco Lopez; Shackleford, Jesus Castanon; Stay Thirsty, Ramon Dominguez; Dialed In, Julien Leparoux and Flashpoint, Cornelio Velasquez.
The Florida Derby has a scheduled post-time of 5:42 p.m. (et).
The last three Floirda Derby winners to go on and capture the Run for the Roses were Monarchos (2001), Barbaro (2006) and Big Brown (2008).