Soldat solidified himself as a Kentucky Derby contender on Saturday by romping to victory in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Alan Garcia, Soldat led virtually throughout Gulfstream's final major prep for the $1 million Florida Derby on April 3. The 7-5 favorite in the field of eight 3-year-olds returned $4.80, $3 and $2.20.
The final time for the 11⁄8 miles on the fast main track was 1:50.23.
"It's on to the Florida Derby now," McLaughlin said. "He's done everything right, and today we got the fast track we wanted."
Gourmet Dinner finished 2 lengths behind Soldat and returned $3.80 and $2.60, and To Honor and Serve made a bold move for the lead before tiring. He returned $2.20 in third.
"He liked his race," said To Honor and Serve trainer Bill Mott of jockey John Velazquez, who was trying to guide the colt to his first win since the Remsen on Nov. 27. "He said (the horse) did everything he asked until he got to the quarter pole, and then he said he got a little flat."
Soldat has three wins and four second-place finishes in seven career starts. The 3-year-old son of War Front increased his lifetime earnings to $554,300.
In earlier stakes action, Flashpoint drew off from heavily favored pacesetter Travelin Man to register a 7¼-length victory in the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes.
Trained by Rick Dutrow Jr., the son of Pomeroy covered the 7 furlongs in 1:22.03 after sitting close to fast early fractions.
"The only other horse I was concerned about was (Travelin Man)," said winning rider Cornelio Velasquez. "We broke good, had a good trip. I didn't want to move too soon because this horse likes company. In the stretch, I didn't really hit him. He was very good today."
Flashpoint paid $15.80, $5.60 and $4.20 as the 6-1 third choice in the field of nine 3-year-olds. He improved to 2-for-2 in his career with earnings of $115,200.
In the $250,000 Davona Dale, a Kentucky Oaks prep race, E. Paul Robsham Stables' R Heat Lightning bounced back from a sub-par effort in last month's Forward Gal Stakes to win by 7½ lengths.
The 3-year-old daughter of Trippi, who won last year's Frizette and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, paid $7, $3.20 and $2.40. Dancinginherdreams held on for second, paying $2.60 and $2.10, and Pomeroy's Pistol finished third and paid $3.
R Heat Lightning ran fourth behind one-two finishers Pomeroys Pistol and Dancinginherdreams in the Forward Gal. That was the bay filly's first start in three months, and she looked much better Saturday under jockey John Velazquez.
"She had a much smoother trip today. Last time, she got bumped pretty hard at the start and never settled down in the backstretch," trainer Todd Pletcher told Brisnet.com. "Today, she had a clean trip, relaxed, and then went on with it."
R Heat Lightning made a move on the inside of Pomeroys Pistol, grabbed the lead and didn't look back under a strong hand ride from Velazquez.
"She settled really well today. Maybe she learned something from her last race when she was a little rank," he told the site. "We were between horses today, and she relaxed. And when I asked her at the quarter-pole, she responded."