03/21/2011 2:39PM

Soldat gets down and dirty in workout

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Bob Coglianese
Fountain of Youth winner Soldat had his final Kentucky Derby work at Palm Meadows.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Soldat pretty much had everything his own way on the front end in each of his two victories here this winter, including the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. But trainer Kiaran McLaughlin knows things are going to be different as Soldat moves further along the Kentucky Derby trail, and especially if he’s fortunate to make it into the Derby itself.

With that in mind, McLaughlin designed a workout on Sunday morning for Soldat at Palm Meadows in which he would be in behind horses and “take dirt,” as his trainer described it. Soldat passed the test with flying colors.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

“The track was wet when he worked after the renovation break, and as a result he really took an abundance of dirt and ran into it very well,” said McLaughlin.

The pre-orchestrated workout ended with Soldat earning the bullet for the day after completing five furlongs in 1:00.60.

“He worked well and we’re right on schedule for the Florida Derby,” said McLaughlin. “He’ll come back and work a half-mile on Sunday.”

A field of from six to eight 3-year-olds appears to be shaping up for the Grade 1 Florida Derby on April  3. Among the others expected to run are Holy Bull winner Dialed In; Gotham winner Stay Thirsty; To Honor and Serve, who finished third behind Soldat in the Fountain of Youth; and Arch Traveler. Other possible starters include the undefeated and untested speedball Flashpoint, Tampa Bay Derby winner Watch Me Go and multiple stakes winner Reprized Halo.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens all but confirmed Arch Traveler as a definite Florida Derby starter after the steadily improving colt worked seven furlongs in 1:27.40 on Monday morning at Palm Meadows.

“He’s doing real well, and unless something crazy happens, we’re going for the Florida Derby,” said Jerkens.

Jerkens said he is still unsure how to assess Arch Traveler’s most recent victory, a nine-furlong allowance win here Feb. 26 in which the final time was a dawdling 1:52.36.

“That last one was such a weird race, the pace was so slow I don’t know what to make of it,” said Jerkens. “He also worked faster than I wanted last week, so I decided to put a little stamina in him today.”

Trainer Kathleen O’Connell said Monday the Florida Derby remains under consideration for Watch Me Go along with the Illinois Derby on April 9.

“Mr. Campbell wants to see how these races shape up, and then we’ll make a decision,” said O’Connell, referring to Watch Me Go’s owner-breeder Gil Campbell. “When you get to this level you know all these races will be tough but we’d like to make it as easy for the horse as we can and I don’t want to run him on Polytrack. The Illinois Derby is only $250,000, but it might be the best option because it will allow us a little more time from his last start plus the opportunity to get one more race under him before the Derby.”

Stay Thirsty had his first work since winning the Gotham on March  5, breezing an easy half-mile in 50:40 seconds Sunday at Palm Meadows. Like Soldat, he’ll have his final Florida Derby tuneup next Sunday at the training center.

To Honor and Serve also worked Sunday further north at Payson Park, breezing five furlongs in 1:02.40 for trainer Bill Mott.

McLaughlin said he is uncertain what will be next for his lightly raced but promising 3-year-old prospect Rattlesnake Bridge following his second-place finish behind division leader Uncle Mo in the Timely Writer Stakes. The Timely Writer was only the second career start for Rattlesnake Bridge, a son of Tapit, and first at a mile.

“I thought he ran an excellent race but just ran into a buzzsaw,” said McLaughlin. “He went from being real green and doing everything wrong in his first start to doing everything right the second time. We have no plans for him at the moment.”

Pletcher has big weekend

Trainer Todd Pletcher had a huge weekend, winning three races on Saturday, including the Grade 2 Inside Information with Hilda’s Passion, and a fourth on Sunday with another of his up-and-coming 3-year-olds, the Claiborne Farm-owned Escort, who had his hands full before ultimately outgaming the Panama invader Indiano in an entry-level allowance race in which the winner completed six furlongs in 1:09.28.

The loss was the first in six career starts for Indiano, who won a pair of graded stakes in Panama before shipping to the United States earlier this winter.

Pletcher said he would see how Escort came out of Sunday’s race and consult with Seth Hancock, owner of Claiborne Farm.

“We think he’s a stakes quality horse, and now that he’s won a preliminary condition that’s probably where he’ll end up next.”

Erin Rose looks sharp

Another impressive allowance winner here this weekend was Erin Rose, a 4-year-old daughter of Purge trained by Christophe Clement for the Waterford Stable. Erin Rose was a sensational debut winner last summer at Monmouth Park but was a beaten favorite in two subsequent starts before opening her 2011 campaign by overcoming a tough trip to defeat entry-level allowance competition on Saturday.

“She had some issues, but she seems to be over them now and she ran very well to win this race,” said Clement. “She has so much natural speed I’m not sure where or when is the proper time to stretch her out. But I’m hopeful she’ll develop into a stakes filly this season.”

Mott barn in full swing

Monday was a busy one for Mott at Payson Park, where he worked three of his top horses, including the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner, Unrivaled Belle, who went five furlongs in 1:02.20. Mott also worked 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer five-eighths in 1:02.40 and Grade 2 winner Al Khali the same distance in 1:02. Al Khali is among the nominees for Saturday’s Grade 3 Pan American.

◗ The 10-cent Rainbow Pick 6 carryover will be $463,818 entering Wednesday’s card. To win the Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot, a bettor must have the only winning ticket on any given day. If the pick six jackpot is not hit entering the final day of the meet on April 24, the entire pool will be dispersed equally among all wining ticket-holders that day.