Kentucky Derby Daily – Day 7
I have heard a lot of theories on why race favorite Soldat,
ran so poorly in the Florida Derby, but no matter how good the excuse, he will
need an unprecedented turnaround to be victorious in the Kentucky Derby. No
horse in my lifetime has proved best on the first Saturday in May coming into
the race as badly beaten as he was in their last start.
Going into the Florida Derby, The Kiaran McLaughlin
trainee had been nothing if not consistent. Never worse than 2nd in his first
seven starts, Soldat was skyrocketing up everyone’s Derby lists through three
terrific performances in succession. He closed out 2010 with his best
performance at two when he finished a game second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Turf. Wasting no time in 2011, Soldat rolled in a damp, January allowance race
at Gulfstream Park by more than ten lengths. The Beyer number boys put their
stamp of approval on the performance with an impressive 103 figure. From there
he proved that he could get it done on a fast dirt track with a facile two
length score in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. His consistency going in, made
the Florida Derby all the more of a head scratcher.
It was in the Florida Derby that Soldat ran the first
poor race of his career. Considering it came in his last race before the Kentucky
Derby, he arrived today in Louisville as a major question mark. Ridden by his normal
pilot, Alan Garcia, Soldat was stuck down on the inside, and farther off the
pace than he normally is (he had wired both of his previous 2011 wins,) and ran
a seemingly uninterested race. Only getting farther from the leaders in the late
stages, he finished 5th, beaten 10 ¼ lengths by Dialed In as the 3-2 favorite.
Normally such a performance would make the horse an automatic toss in the
Derby, but the race was so uncharacteristic for Soldat, that I can’t help but
to wonder if I should draw a line through it.
Can he turn it around, and get back to his winning ways
in America’s grandest of races? History is not on his side, but on the other
hand, most of the competition he will face in Louisville has also proved to be
far from infallible. As far as bettors are concerned, there is good news in
that if you still have faith in the son of War Front, you will be handsomely
rewarded if he can win the big one.
Will I bet him to buck history and rebound from his dismal
performance last time? While I think he represents one of the more
dangerous horses in the field, I would have to say no. As much I admire horses
who can handle any surface like Soldat, and believe that he will prove to be a very
classy runner, I am not buying that he can so radically turn around his last
effort as to be draped in roses one week.