Originally expected to run in Saturday's $150,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) over the Gulfstream turf course, Soldat will be entered in Sunday's main-track attraction, the $100,000 Hal's Hope (G3) at one mile.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin called an audible after watching Soldat, a graded-stakes winner on both surfaces, work at Palm Meadows Training Center in preparation for this weekend's stakes.
“We worked him on the turf up here and then we worked him back on the dirt, and he just looked better on the dirt working to me,” said McLaughlin, whose 5-year-old turned in a 'bullet' five-furlong workout on dirt in late December. “He worked very well two times on the dirt here, and he's 2-for-3 on the main track at Gulfstream.”
Soldat's future appeared to be on turf when he broke his maiden in the With Anticipation Stakes (G3) at Saratoga and finished second in a pair of subsequent stakes, including the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2).
The lure of the Triple Crown prompted McLaughlin to try Soldat back on dirt at Gulfstream in 2011, and the son of War Front instantly became a major contender on the Road to the Triple Crown. After winning a stakes-quality allowance in a romp by nearly 11 lengths, Soldat posted a front-running victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2). Soldat finished fifth in the Florida Derby (G1) and went on to finish 11th in the Kentucky Derby.
On the shelf due to foot problems, Soldat returned to action on turf last March at Gulfstream with a three-length victory. A soft-tissue problem took him out of action until late November, when he finished sixth in an overnight turf stakes at Aqueduct.
“We're looking at the future. It's probably a good time to try him back on the dirt and see what happens,” McLaughlin said. “If he doesn't run well, we can put him back on the turf. But the races on the turf down here are going to be extremely difficult with Animal Kingdom and Point of Entry and others. We thought it would be a good time to switch to the dirt and see how it goes.”
Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, and Point of Entry, a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner, are being pointed to the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) on Feb. 9.
In the Hal's Hope, Soldat is expected to meet Csaba, who won the Harlan's Holiday at Gulfstream by nearly four lengths last month, and El Padrino, the Todd Pletcher-trained 4-year-old, the 2012 Risen Star (G2) winner at Fair Grounds who recently finished second at Gulfstream in his 2012 finale.
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