04/29/2011 2:18PM

Kentucky Derby: Soldat has McLaughlin beaming

Bob Coglianese
Soldat, with Alan Garcia riding, wins the Fountain of Youth.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When trainer Kiaran McLaughlin puts Soldat on the plane that will take his Kentucky Derby prospect to Louisville on Saturday, he will do so with the confidence that his horse couldn’t be doing any better coming into the biggest race of his young career.

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Soldat, the Fountain of Youth winner, completed his final serious preparations for the Derby on Friday in the seclusion of the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach, Fla., where he worked four furlongs in 49 seconds and galloped out five-eighths in 1:01.40, according to McLaughlin’s watch. There are currently no official clockers at the training center, which closed its racetrack for the season following the conclusion of training on Friday.

“There were nine people here watching him work,” McLaughlin said with a laugh, referring to the fact it was reported in Daily Racing Form that only nine spectators were present to watch Derby favorite Dialed In work at Palm Meadows the previous morning. “It just wasn’t the same nine as yesterday.”

McLaughlin can afford to be in good humor these days due to the way Soldat has trained the last several weeks following his poor performance in the Florida Derby. Friday was the second and last of his works before the Kentucky Derby. The first came eight days ago, when he zipped five-eighths in 59 seconds, the final furlong in 12 around the turn to the seven-eighths pole.

“He worked faster than I’d have liked last week, but did it properly,” said McLaughlin. “Today was perfect.”

McLaughlin had originally planned on working Soldat three times before the Derby but called an audible and breezed him only twice instead.

“I cut him back to only two works and slowed down his gallops to try to put a little weight on him, and I feel he’s put on a few pounds since the Florida Derby,” said McLaughlin. “I’m also glad we were able to keep him down here this late. The track has a great surface, and it certainly proved to be the right call considering the way the weather has been in Louisville.”

McLaughlin is also looking forward to getting Soldat, who washed out during the post parade before the Florida Derby, into the cooler climate at Churchill Downs.

“It was very hot at Gulfstream Park on Florida Derby day, but cool weather is like a vitamin shot for a horse and should especially be a big plus for us,” said McLaughlin. “He couldn’t be doing better and right now it’s more about the post position than anything else. Obviously he’ll be forwardly placed no matter what, but he could be first or fifth during the early stages of the race depending upon how we draw and how we break.”