Denk on Horses Derby contender profiles
Soldat winning the Fountain of Youth. (Eclipse Sportswire)
Soldat looked like one of the fastest members of this crop heading into the Grade 1 Florida Derby, but his stock fell considerably when he finished a distant fifth as the 1.50-to-1 favorite.
Soldat was unable to keep up with the sharp pace set by long shot Shackleford in the Florida Derby, and he showed no interest in rallying through traffic against the toughest field he faced this year. The winner, Dialed In, made a huge rally from far back, while Shackleford gamely held on for second. Soldat never really engaged. It was the first non-effort of his career.
Soldat was a good 2-year-old. He began his career with two seconds in fast maiden sprints on the dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Switched to turf and stretched out to a mile, Soldat broke his maiden by three lengths in the Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes.
His next race, the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes, was contested on a yielding turf at Belmont Park, and Soldat hit the gate and got bumped at the start. He recovered enough to rally from sixth up to second, but he never looked comfortable and expended a lot of energy. Predictably, he ran out of gas near the wire.
Soldat finished his 2-year-old season with a very good run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Stalking the pace from fourth place and checked on the backstretch, Soldat shot up the rail in the stretch and ran his final quarter-mile in about 23.73 seconds. Only a huge rally from the winner, Pluck, kept him from the win.
Soldat made his 3-year-old debut in an entry-level allowance January 21 at Gulfstream Park. The track was sloppy, and Soldat relished the going. On the lead through moderate fractions, Soldat drew off to win by 10 3/4 lengths. His time for the mile and one-eighth was 1:49.22, and he earned a big Beyer Speed Figure of 103, among the best of all Derby contenders.
Next up was the Fountain of Youth on February 26 at Gulfstream, and Soldat again set moderate fractions on the lead before pulling away for another good win.
As fast as Soldat’s two 1 1/8-mile wins on dirt were, I think he may be a better horse on the turf. Unlike a few of his Derby competitors, I don’t think added distance will help him. Soldat’s breeding and internal fractions suggest a sweet spot between 1 mile and 1 1/8 miles.
Soldat is a fast horse. With a form reversal and the right trip, he could have an impact at Churchill Downs, but his profile does not scream Kentucky Derby winner to me.