01/19/2011 2:55PM

Soldat gets another shot on dirt in Gulfstream allowance

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Barbara D. Livingston
Soldat will get another shot on dirt in an entry-level allowance race Friday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Most first-level allowance races are ordinary affairs, rarely eliciting more than passing interest other than from handicappers trying to find a winner to bet on. But first-level allowance races for 3-year-olds during the first two months of the Gulfstream Park meet are anything but blase, usually producing one or more contenders for the major Kentucky Derby preps to be decided later in the session.

Friday’s $51,500 main event is a case in point, the 1 1/8-mile, entry-level allowance race attracted a field of eight 3-year-olds, including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Soldat and a trio of well-bred undefeated colts topped by trainer Nick Zito’s Dialed In.

Soldat will likely be favored, despite having had the bulk of his success on grass. Aside from his big performance behind Pluck in the Breeders’ Cup, Soldat also won Saratoga’s Grade 2 With Anticipation and was second in Belmont’s Grade 3 Pilgrim.

“He ran very well in the Breeders’ Cup,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “I thought he was going to win when he got through on the inside before [Pluck] ran by us. His first two races on dirt were good, and he works extremely well on the dirt, so we just thought let’s give it a try early and see how he does on the dirt. You’d hate to wait until the fall to find out he loves the dirt. This way, there’s no pressure. He needs to run very well with no excuses, but if he does, we’ll probably look at the Fountain of Youth next.”

Dialed In gave every indication that he wants more ground when overcoming a slow start, rough trip, and his own relative inexperience to win his only start going 6 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12. The son of Mineshaft has trained forwardly for his 3-year-old debut at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Financial Empire and Ashado’s baby brother Lauburu, both of whom also won their only starts at 2. Financial Empire rallied from near the rear of the pack to capture his debut going a mile at Calder, while Lauburu overcame a little trouble at the start to post a game nose decision in a seven-furlong maiden special weight dash at Aqueduct.

The remainder of the field includes Cool Blue Red Hot, Beamer, Halo’s Thunder, and Mas Trueno.

Halo’s Thunder, like Soldat, is stakes tested, having finished fourth in both the Grade 3 Iroquois and Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He’ll race in blinkers for the first time Friday.