Soi Phet’s four-race winning streak came to an end two weeks ago, but it was a happy ending, a remarkable ending, in fact.
The 5-year-old California-bred gelding finished third in the Grade I, $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes on Sept. 28, 6 ½ lengths behind runaway winner Mucho Macho Man, who stamped himself as one of the favorites for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.
Soi Phet will return to a more realistic spot in his next start, but it’s been a good ride while it lasted, and it may not be over yet.
Trainer Leonard Powell claimed the son of Tizbud for $16,000 on May 23, then ran off a string of four straight daylight victories, each at a considerably higher level than Soi Phet’s claiming price. While he finished a non-threatening third in the Awesome Again, Soi Phet was well in front of stakes winners such as Golden Ticket, Liaison and Jeranimo.
The secret to Powell’s success?
“I claimed him for several reasons,” said Powell, a 37-year-old native of France who has been training on his own for seven years. “He was a good-looking horse; he’s by Tizbud, which is a good stallion, and he had all his conditions, being a Cal-bred . . . he had a huge upside.
“When you claim a horse, you’re looking ahead for a race to run him in next. When I first got him, within two or three days I knew the horse was kind of special. He had a lot of class. I train very differently, and usually horses will take several weeks to get used to it.
“Within a few days, he got into the routine. He’s very smart. He took everything in stride.
“What did we change about him? Nothing drastic. We just put him through our routine, but nothing drastic. We take our time. We spend a lot of time walking and riding.”
Powell, still with a detectable French accent, was raised on a farm in Normandy, deep in France’s horse country. Currently his top runner is Zuma Beach Stakes winner Aotearoa.
“I was always around horses,” Powell said. “I came here as an exercise rider and was assistant to John Shirreffs, Richard Mandella and later Bill Currin, who gave me a couple horses to get me started.”
As for Soi Phet, look for him to face a much less daunting task in his next race.
“We’re going to run him in an overnight stakes,” Powell said.
That would be the Big Bear Stakes for three year olds and up at one mile on Oct. 31 for a purse of $70,000.