The road to the Triple Crown was once a fairly well defined path from a chronological standpoint, the prep races beginning in January in Florida and California, but in recent years the serious work on the road to Louisville and beyond has gotten off to a later start.
We won't see champion 2-year-old and No. 1 Paulick Derby Index horse Uncle Mo racing for another 10 days, but To Honor and Serve, the horse who has been ranked second on our list and nearly everyone else's made his debut at Gulfstream Park on Saturday in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes.
That race turned into a showcase for Soldat, the Kiaran McLaghlin-trained colt by War Front who went wire to wire as the surprising favorite, with an extremely game Gourmet Dinner second and second choice To Honor and Serve third.
Soldat had raced already this year and he was a fit horse who was ready for a top effort. Not to take anything away from him, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see their order of finish reversed the next time they face each other.
The other star on Saturday's card was Flashpoint, a Pomeroy colt who demolished a good field in the Hutcheson Stakes, a seven-furlong race as opposed to the mile and one-eighth Fountain of Youth. Trained by Rick Dutrow, who is due to go on at 90-suspension, Flashpoint won his mid-January racing debut at Aqueduct, and his repeat victory in the Hutcheson was every bit as impressive as that maiden-breaking win.
Still, it's hard to get too excited about a colt's chances of winning the Kentucky Derby at a mile and a quarter when all's done is win two sprints. There's only two months between now and the first Saturday in May, and Flashpoint would have to make a big jump up between now and then going a distance of ground to prove that he is a legitimate threat to win over the American classic distance.
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