Remember early last year when the strapping dark bay
colt Soldat was all the rage in South Florida? A romping and highly rated
allowance win in January was followed by a rather easy victory in the Grade 2
Fountain of Youth. The good looking colt by War Front out of the Coronado’s
Quest mare, Le Relais rocketed up Kentucky Derby lists everywhere.
Sent off as the 3-2 chalk against the likes of Dialed
In, Shackleford, and To Honor and Serve, the speedy Soldat was held off the
lead and would finish a non-threatening 5th in the million dollar, Florida
Derby, but still many an expert tabbed him as a real threat in the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Near the lead early, he would back out to finish up in the
middle of the pack, but I remember thinking that week he was one of the most
impressive looking horses in the field. I wondered what he could do when placed
back on the turf.
That question would not be answered anytime quickly, as
the Kiaran McLaughlin trained colt was besieged by physical setbacks. Foot
problems and then other minor physical issues kept him away from the races for
the rest of last year. His health seemed to be restored this winter as positive
reports came out of the Palm Meadows training center in advance of his return.
Facing seven rivals in a grassy optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park on
March 4 of this year, Soldat looked every bit his old self.
In his first race in ten months, Soldat was an
impressive three-length winner in the solid time of 1:41.18 for the 1 1/16
miles on firm going. It looked like he was primed to be a major player on the
American turf scene this year, as major races this spring in Kentucky were
planned for the colt owned by Harvey Clarke, W. Craig Robertson III, Paul
Braverman, and Namcook Stables.
A soft-tissue setback would once again put a hold on
big Soldat dreams, however; and again his fans would find themselves waiting
for the colt that has finished first or second in eight of his ten starts to
make it back to the races. Now the wait is almost over.
After a series of solid workouts in New York, Soldat
will return to the races on Saturday at Aqueduct in the If Winter Comes Stakes.
The 1 1/16 mile listed turf race has attracted a full field of salty older turf
horses, but if Soldat runs to his ability, the rest might be running for second
It seems like a long time ago since the promising
youngster easily won the Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes in his first ever run
on the grass. When he followed that up two races later with a strong second in
the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, it looked like a promising grass career was
well on its way. With a serious run on the Kentucky Derby trail, as well as,
several physical setbacks, now in the rearview mirror, it may be finally time
to see what Soldat, the turf horse can do.