SOLDAT (War Front) was "happy and in great shape," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reported Sunday, following his dominant two-length victory in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The three-year-old colt led virtually every step of the way Saturday as the 7-5 betting favorite to finish ahead of GOURMET DINNER (Trippi) and TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini).
The Fountain of Youth was Soldat's first victory over a fast main track, an outcome that pleased McLaughlin but didn't surprise him in the least.
"Going into the race, I wasn't concerned about that at all," McLaughlin said. "He's always trained extremely well over a fast track, but it is nice to finally get it in print that he likes it fast."
While Soldat has won his last two races from the front end, McLaughlin says he has no concerns about his colt's ability to rate in the future.
"He absolutely could rate," McLaughlin remarked. "We have no worries about that."
The conditioner added that the April 3 Florida Derby (G1) back at Gulfstream has been penciled in for Soldat's next race, but there are no definitive plans for CROSSBOW (Bernardini), who was scratched after drawing the rail in Saturday's Hutcheson (G2).
"We were originally thinking of running him in the (March 5) Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct," McLaughlin explained. "But now it looks like we'll look at all options."
Fountain of Youth runner-up Gourmet Dinner came out of the race "very well" according to trainer Steve Standridge, who will chose between the Florida Derby (G1) and April 9 Santa Anita Derby (G1) for the colt's next start. (Photo Courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography)
"I'm very happy with the way he ran," Standridge said. "He switched leads down the stretch when Ramon (Dominguez) hit him right handed, then he changed back after a few strides, but you lose a little momentum."
Gourmet Dinner continues to prove himself as an "iron horse," having placed first, second or third in seven of eight career starts, having shipped back-and-forth to the West Coast twice, and having run at four different tracks.
"He's a warrior," Standridge said. "We're going to play it by ear as far as his next start. We're looking at the Florida Derby and Santa Anita Derby, but we're leaning a little toward Santa Anita. I know it will be easier in California than it is here, and it gives us another week."
No matter where Gourmet Dinner runs next, the colt has plenty of graded earnings to make it to the starting gate of the May 7 Kentucky Derby (G1) just off his victory November 20 in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).