Soldat's performance in the $400,000 Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes turned naysayers into believers when the post-time favorite took the lead at the start and never looked back. With his two previous wins coming over a sloppy dirt track and the turf, people were wondering how well this colt would perform over a fast dirt track. Soldat quickly put those worries to bed when he broke sharply for the lead over longshot El Grayling and second choice To Honor And Serve.
Soldat, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by jockey Alan Garcia, led the pack at a moderate pace and was able to hold off the competition when John Velazquez and To Honor And Serve challenged him around the turn. Just at that point, Gourmet Dinner, who had sat back in fourth through most of the race, began to make his closing move and overpowered the tiring To Honor And Serve. Coming on strong, Gourmet Dinner began to gain ground on the leader, but still couldn't catch Soldat who seemed to kick into high gear down the stretch.
A disappointing To Honor And Serve finished third in front of Bowman's Causeway. Finishing out the field were Shackleford, Racing Aptitude, Casper's Touch, and El Grayling.
Key things to take away from this race:
1) This was To Honor And Serve's first race in three months and he likely didn't need to win it to garner enough graded stakes earnings to make the Derby. Even his trainer Bill Mott said prior to the race that it wasn't supposed to be his best race, so let's give him another shot and look for him to do better in the Florida Derby in April;
2) Gourmet Dinner has finished second and third in his races this year behind horses in the top five on most handicappers' Derby lists--being Dialed In and Soldat. He's doing everything right and could be the one in top form by the time the first Saturday in May rolls around; and
3) What's up with Bowman's Causeway? This is a colt who's morning line odds going into the race were 20-1, but who's odds I saw drop to as low as 9-1 leading into the race and finally settling to 13-1 at post time. Julien Leparoux, who had previously been Casper's Touch's jockey, rode Bowman's Causeway for the first time Saturday for trainer Patrick Biancone. Bowman's Causeway finished fourteen lengths in front of Shackleford, who was another nine lengths in front of Racing Aptitude with Casper's Touch even further back. This is a horse I want to keep an eye on in the future!
The results of the other three-year-old stakes races on Saturday's Gulfstream card -- R Heat Lightning prevailed over favored Dancinginherdreams in the Grade 2 Davona Dale, an Oaks prep for fillies. Flashpoint turned in a flashy 7 1/4 length win over favored Travelin Man in the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes. Time will tell if he pursues a sprint career or launches onto the Derby trail.
The Derby trail moves on to New York where Aqueduct Racetrack will host the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes this weekend. We'll preview the race on Friday.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby