Soldat took the first step towards the USA classics with an all-the-way victory in the G2 Fountain Of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
The Florida feature is the traditional opener on the Kentucky Derby trail and Soldat made easy work of it to put six lengths between the placegetters Gourmet Dinner (Trippi) and To Honor and Serve (Bernardini).
Soldat (3c War Front – Le Relais by Coronado’s Quest) broke his maiden in the G3 With Anticipation Stakes in September and was runner-up to Pluck in the G2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
He resumed this year with a 10 length triumph in allowance company and his second-up victory on Saturday has trainer Kiaran McLaughlin setting his sights on the Twin Spires. “It’s on to the Florida Derby now,” McLaughlin said. “The timing of the programme here is perfect. It’s five weeks to the Florida Derby and another five weeks to the Kentucky Derby.”
Soldat is from the first crop of War Front (Danzig) and the Claiborne based stallion is also the sire of last-start G2 San Vincente Stakes winner The Factor.
The Fountain Of Youth winner is from an unraced half-sister to Canadian G3 winner Mulrainy. He was bred by Brookfield Stud in Kentucky and brought $180,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
Bernardini colt To Honor and Serve wasn’t disgraced and jockey John Velazquez was encouraged by his performance. “He settled really well and ranged up to the leader on the far turn but just didn’t have a closing kick,” he said. “That’s to be expected after a layoff and, overall, I thought he ran terrific.”