Harvey Clarke and Craig Robertson III's SOLDAT (War Front) had been slightly unlucky to run into two hot prospects in dirt maidens this summer, but when making his turf and two-turn debut in Friday's $100,000 With Anticipation S. (G3) at Saratoga, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee proved to be a hot prospect himself. After stalking the early leader, the dark bay juvenile shot clear in the stretch and won by three commanding lengths, becoming the first stakes winner for freshman sire War Front.
Most recently runner-up to Wine Police (Speightstown), a top contender in Monday's Hopeful S. (G1), Soldat was sent off as 8-1 sixth choice in the 10-horse field and paid $19.40, $7.40 and $5.90.
The With Anticipation got off to an eventful start when Typhoon Slew (Stormy Atlantic) lurched rightward from post 1, initiating a chain reaction that involved much of the field. Soldat, who was drawn wide enough in post 9 to avoid the trouble, flashed speed in the opening furlong for Alan Garcia. When Typhoon Slew was intent on having the lead, Soldat eased back into a tracking second through splits of :23, :47 4/5 and 1:12 1/5.
Once turned loose leaving the far turn, Soldat readily dismissed Typhoon Slew and opened up. The impressive winner passed the mile mark in 1:35 2/5 and completed 1 1/16 miles in a sharp 1:41 1/5, fractionally off the stakes record set by subsequent Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf hero Nownownow (Whywhywhy) in 2007.
"He really took to the grass -- very impressive," Garcia enthused. "I had a great trip today. When I asked him at the quarter-pole, whoosh! He really took off."
"It was very exciting," McLaughlin said. "He's run two excellent seconds on the dirt and we thought if he liked the turf, he'd be able to win a race like this. That's why we entered a maiden in here. There's only a couple of graded stakes for two-year-olds to go to the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile Turf [G2] on November 6 at Churchill Downs), so now he's probably in the Breeders' Cup. We thought (if he didn't win today) that we could always go back to win a maiden race.
"I'm happy that it's a War Front, too, and for Harvey Clarke and Craig Robertson. It's a great connection and War Front is a very nice freshman sire that I trained for a while (early in his racing career), so I'm happy that he has his first graded stakes winner.
"War Front was by Danzig, so there's a lot of turf there and (Soldat) worked well on it," McLaughlin added. "We've always liked him. This was a great result today; we're happy."
Powhatan County (Fusaichi Pegasus), the 2-1 favorite who was the first to get bumped by Typhoon Slew coming out of the gate, recovered to race in third for most of the way. Rallying past Typhoon Slew in deep stretch, Powhatan County finished a clear second by 3 1/4 lengths, returning $3.60 and $3.20. Typhoon Slew held third, and show was good for $6.30 at 7-1. The exotics totaled $71 (exacta), $383 (trifecta) and $2,938 (9-2-1-4 superfecta) with the 12-1 Air Support (Smart Strike) checking in another three-quarters of a length back in fourth.
Silver Medallion (Badge of Silver), Kid Curry (Posse), Grigio (Stormy Atlantic), Manchurian High (The Daddy), Sensational Slam (Grand Slam) and Lou Brissie (Limehouse) completed the order under the wire, while main-track-only hopefuls Madman Diaries (Bring the Heat) and Running Tap (Tapit) stayed in the barn.
Soldat's high-profile maiden win boosted his earnings to $80,000 from his 3-1-2-0 line. He made his debut at Belmont on June 10, in a five-furlong dash in the mud, and ultimately lost his duel with Bail Out the Cat (Tale of the Cat) by 2 1/4 lengths. Soldat was 10 1/2 lengths clear of next-out winner Pluck (More Than Ready). Bail Out the Cat has gone on to endorse the form, most recently finishing a distant second to Kantharos in the Saratoga Special S. (G2). In his second try, Soldat was no match for the highly-regarded Wine Police in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden at the Spa on July 24, but was again 5 3/4 lengths clear of third.
Bred by Brookfield Stud in Kentucky, Soldat brought $180,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He is the first registered foal from the unraced Le Relais (Coronado's Quest), who has since produced an unnamed yearling filly by Badge of Silver and a 2010 colt by Tiz Wonderful. Le Relais is herself a half-sister to Canadian Grade 3 winner Mulrainy (Star de Naskra), and she hails from the family of Grade 2 victor Pine Dance (Pine Bluff) and seven-time stakes queen and Grade 2-placed The Happy Hopper (El Prado [Ire]).
The October 3 Pilgrim S. (G3) at Belmont is "probably the right spot (for Soldat's next start), if we have enough time," McLaughlin said.