Race of the Week 2017

Connections Thrilled With Soldat

Soldat has finally given owner Harvey Clarke a reason to visit Churchill Downs.  


“I swore I’d never go until I had a horse in a big race,” said Clarke, the majority owner of the War Front colt with W. Craig Robertson, III. “Now that I do, I’m like a kid in a candy store.”


Soldat, whose first turf start and first victory came in a three-length romp in Saratoga's Grade 3 With Anticipation on September 3, has already offered his connections plenty to be excited about.


“He’s always done everything right,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He’s a really straightforward, nice horse. We ran him twice on the dirt and he was second twice. Knowing that War Front is by Danzig, we always thought about the turf, but we still think he’s a good dirt horse. He did excel on the turf though.”


In his first start, on June 10 at Belmont Park, Soldat finished second over a muddy main track and found himself a runner-up again on July 24 at Saratoga when Wine Police ran off to a 7 ¾ length maiden win. McLaughlin said that it was Clarke’s racing manager, Steve Shahinian, who suggested that rather than enter the horse in another maiden race, he be given the opportunity to try the turf in stakes race.


“Steve picks out a lot of horses for me,” said Clarke, who purchased Soldat at the 2009 Keeneland September Sale for $180,000. “The two of us wander around the sales – he’s got a much better eye than I do – and we both loved this horse. I bid much more than I wanted to, but we liked his athleticism so much we decided to take a shot.”


The gamble paid off in the colt’s eye-catching With Anticipation victory, and his connections’ confidence was reinforced when he overcame a wide trip and trouble in the stretch to finish second behind Air Support, also Breeders’ Cup bound, in the Grade 3 Pilgrim.


“It was a deep course in the Pilgrim, yielding, but I think he handled the ground well,” said McLaughlin. “He was traveling well throughout, we were just wide. We carried more weight than the winner and he bumped us hard, twice, turning for home. [Air Support] is a nice horse and I respect him – he got squeezed back when we won the With Anticipation – but I like our chances. I’m happy that we’re going to the Breeders’ Cup for Harvey Clarke; he certainly deserves to have a Breeders’ Cup horse.”


Clarke, who won his first graded stakes race as an owner last year with Eye of Taurus at Keeneland, has won three graded races this year all at NYRA tracks, all with McLaughlin-trained turf horses.


“You do this because you love horses,” said Clarke. “I’m not much of a gambler, but I like to hang around the barn, muck a few stalls or walk a few hots if they’ll let me. You dream about being successful and I always tell Kiaran ‘We do it for win pictures.’”


Clarke’s son, who named Soldat – the French word for soldier because the colt is by War Front out of Le Relais – will fly in from England to join his father for his first trip to Churchill Down next weekend.


“It’s only been 30 years,” said Clarke. “I won my first graded stake last October and I’ve won three this year. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up soon, but I hope not.”




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