Sky Soldier couldn't have laid down a better bridge for the crossing from Laurel Park to Pimlico.
The undefeated colt from Pennsylvania captured the $60,000 Private Terms Stakes yesterday at Laurel Park. The Private Terms was the final stakes at Laurel; Pimlico will open Wednesday.
And where might we see Sky Soldier next? At Pimlico on May 17 in the Preakness Stakes.
The chestnut colt still learning how to run devoured a five-horse field with a four-length win, skipping through the mud over 1 1/16 miles in 1 minute, 45.37 seconds. This was Sky Soldier's third win in three races, and it was impressive enough for Todd Beattie, his trainer from Penn National, to begin thinking spring classics.
"If he steps up and does this again, then we will be looking at the Preakness," said Beattie, 40, a trainer for 21 years who has never saddled a horse in a Triple Crown race or even won a graded stakes.
Beattie, who trains 60 horses at Penn National, said Sky Soldier would probably run April 19 in the Lexington Stakes in Keeneland, Ky. That's where he could earn his way into the Preakness.
Sky Soldier was the longest price in the short Private Terms field - 9 to 2 for an $11 payoff. Bettors looked askance at his limited experience - two easy six-furlong wins at Philadelphia Park - and the 10 1/2 weeks since his last race.
Beattie said the brutal winter prevented him from training Sky Soldier adequately, and then when he did enter the colt in a race last month, the colt got sick.
All along, though, Beattie and Sky Soldier's owner, Arthur Vickers of Cherry Hill, N.J., looked forward to unleashing Sky Soldier around two turns. Rodrigo Madrigal Jr., the colt's jockey, pronounced the journey a success.
"I had plenty left at the end," Madrigal said. "I thought he could go around there again."
Penobscot Bay, the 3-5 favorite, labored in the mud and finished fourth, ahead of Intensive Dancer, but behind the winner, Skycrossing and Moses Jerome.
"We were slipping and sliding the entire race," said Mario Pino, Penobscot Bay's jockey. "It was like running down a beach."