02/26/2011 6:27PM

Soldat best in Fountain of Youth; To Honor and Serve weakens to third

Bob Coglianese
Soldat is all alone at the finish of the Fountain of Youth after turning back To Honor and Serve.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Soldat left little doubt he’s just as capable on a fast track as he is over slop or grass after leading from start to finish en route to a two-length victory over Gourmet Dinner in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.

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Despite breaking a couple of steps slow from his inside post, Soldat took control of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth entering the clubhouse turn. The son of War Front was allowed to relax on the lead while setting sensible fractions of 24.34 seconds, 47.99 and 1:12.43 for the opening six furlongs with longshot El Grayling pressing the issue from the outside.

To Honor and Serve, winner of both the Grade 2 Remsen and Nashua at 2, joined Soldat near the three-eighths pole and battled on even terms until nearing the stretch at which point he gradually began to fall back.

Gourmet Dinner sat a perfect trip while saving ground about three lengths off the lead, swung outside to launch his rally leaving the final turn but could not run down Soldat while switching leads a couple of times through the final furlong.

To Honor and Serve finished third, 4 3/4 lengths behind Gourmet Dinner and was followed by Bowman’s Causeway, Shackleford, Racing Aptitude, Casper’s Touch, and El Grayling.

Soldat, who took enough late money to go postward the somewhat surprising 7-5 favorite, paid $4.80 after completing a mile and one-eighth in 1:50.23 over the fast track.

“We have a very nice horse, I’m happy the way he ran and we’re headed to the Florida Derby,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “We might not have gone to the lead if we hadn’t drawn the one hole but with the short run to the first turn that’s what we planned. If we draw in the middle of the pack in the Florida Derby, we might take back.

“He’s a nice horse, he can do it all, and we knew he wanted a fast track.”

Trainer Bill Mott said he thought To Honor and Serve, who had not started since winning the Remsen on Nov. 27, might have needed the race.

“He liked his race,” Mott said referring to jockey John Velazquez. “He said he did everything he asked until he got to the quarter pole and then he said he got a little flat. If he did get beat I thought he might carry John a little more into the stretch.”