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Derby Threat: Soldat

by Ian Tapp

Front-running 3-year-old colts by War Front (TrueNicks,SRO) have won Kentucky Derby (gr. I) preps in each of the past two weekends, but the similarities between The Factor and Soldat probably end there.

San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) winner The Factor, while extremely fast, is one-dimensional. He needs the lead and is unlikely to stretch his speed much farther than seven furlongs. Soldat, meanwhile, is about as versatile as they come. He was already a winner at nine furlongs, and after his Fountain of Youth (gr. II, video below) score, he is now a graded winner on dirt and turf. Soldat has never been worse than second in seven career starts, running on fast, good, muddy, and sloppy main tracks, and on firm and yielding turf courses.

Soldat possesses early speed, but he’s already shown the ability to rate off the pace, an important skill for fast-paced races like the Kentucky Derby. In this regard, Soldat’s three turf forays last season—the With Aniticipation (gr. III), Pilgrim (gr. III), and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. II)—were quite educational, as he rated well in each contest.

Soldat’s style is reminiscent of Super Saver (TrueNicks,SRO), a pace horse whose tactical speed (and Calvin Borel) put him in the ideal striking position in last year’s Kentucky Derby.

Clifford Barry of Pin Oak Stud bred Soldat under his Brookfield Stud banner. A former Kentucky farm manager of the year, Barry bought Soldat’s dam, Le Relais, as a yearling for $27,000.

Le Relais is a daughter of Haskell Invitational and Travers (both gr. I) winner Coronado’s Quest, whose broodmare sire record has been booming recently thanks to Soldat, Hopeful (gr. I) winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) second Boys At Tosconova, and Dubai World Cup (gr. I) contender Mendip.

Le Relais is a half sister to Canadian turf mare Mulrainy, a grade III winner at seven furlongs, and a grade I-placed stakes winner at 8.5 furlongs. Le Relais did not make it to the races, but Barry sent her to first year stallion War Front for her initial mating. The resulting colt, Soldat, was foaled and raised at Pin Oak. The mare still resides at the farm, where she is in foal to Pin Oak stallion Broken Vow (TrueNicks,SRO).

Harvey Clarke races Soldat, having purchased the colt at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale. Bloodstock agent Steve Shahinian advised Clarke on the selection.

“He’s by an inexpensive stallion, and I thought I’d buy him for $50,000 or $75,000,” Shahinian told The Blood-Horse last November. “We ended up giving $180,000. But he was so nice compared to what else I was looking at that we stretched the budget.”

It turned out to be a brilliant buy. Soldat has earned over $550,000 and will be among the favorites in the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) on April 3.

A quick note on Soldat's name: Being by War Front out of a mare with a French name, soldat is French for "soldier." English-speaking race callers have yet to catch on that the t is silent. Click here for the proper pronunciation.

The cross of War Front and Mr. Prospector line mares has found immediate success, rating A++ with stakes winners Soldat, The Factor, and Tensas Punch from only 10 starters. This is an extension of Danzig/Mr. Prospector, a turf-oriented, TrueNicks A-rated combination responsible for gr. I sprinters Dayjur and Pas De Reponse, and nine-furlong Hollywood Derby (gr. I) winner Brahms. Danzig and sons have excelled with Forty Niner mares specifically, getting six stakes winners from 66 starters, rating A on TrueNicks. It’s no surprise to see this favorable trend continuing with War Front and Coronado’s Quest.

As the controlling speed in the Fountain of Youth, Soldat was allowed to set moderate fractions, and his 13-second final furlong doesn't exactly suggest a desire for more ground. But the Kentucky Derby is still 10 weeks away, giving Soldat time for further development. Consider that if Soldat can return with a Florida Derby victory, he'll have the impressive résumé of three consecutive wins at nine furlongs—something no other Kentucky Derby starter is likely to have.

Click here to view the TrueNicks Enhanced report for Soldat.

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