Soldat, a Triple Crown nominee who captured the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 26 and the With Anticipation Stakes (gr. III) last year, is a $180,000 graduate of the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale, where thousands of young horses were offered.
Steve Shahinian, agent, purchased the dark bay or brown son of War Front for Harvey Clarke from Elm Tree Farm, agent. Since then, Clarke has sold interests in Soldat to several other owners.
"The conformation, his walk, his mind, his athleticism, this horse had everything," said Shaninian when asked what attracted him to Soldat when he had so many yearling from which to choose.
Shaninian and Clarke were interviewed at Palm Meadows Training Center in early March, when they were looking at horses entered in the Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training.
"Soldat isn't a very big horse; he's just an average-sized horse," Shahinian said. "He was by a first-year stallion that was unproven, but I knew a little bit about the stallion from having spoken to Kiaran McLauglin, who trained War Front early on before Allen Jerkens got him."
Soldat, according to Shaninian, ended up costing "about twice" what the agent thought he would.
"I was thinking he was 10 lengths better than anything I had seen at the sale," Shaninian said. "We're quite disciplined and it's rare we find one we get a little silly over one, but we were both very impressed with him and we were very anxious to get him if we could. His walk was very smooth and he was very generous and willing (in his behavior). I had first seen him at four o'clock in the afternoon and by then, most horses are getting tired. But he walked like he had never been out of the stall thzt day. He was very happy and did everything with a smile on his face pretty much. I was very impressed. I came back and saw him the next morning and he was exactly the same."
A heart scan also helped Shahinian and Clarke in evaluating Soldat. Shahinian thought the colt could be a two-turn horse.
During the bidding, "there may have been an elbow or two tossed," Shahinian said of how the two men decided to spend more than planned on Soldat.
"There are times when I surprise Steve by going higher than he thinks I would," Clarke said.
And that's how Clarke ended up with Soldat, who could take him to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) on the first Saturday in May.
"I've known Steve for more than 30 years and we've had a ball so far," Clarke said.