If the 10-year-old race horse Soi Phet were human, he’d have a home in San Diego and a summer condo in Maui.
Partial to warm weather, he’d be a senior citizen who displayed a breezy spirit at times, but could turn grumpy in the blink of an eye.
“He’s a bit like a Jekyll and Hyde,” Soi Phet’s trainer, Leonard Powell, explained this week at Del Mar. “He can be really strong in the morning, and at other times he can be really laid back.
“He’s the same in the barn. Sometimes, he can be a bit aggressive, and sometimes he’s laid back.”
The Cal-bred gelding has earned the right to act any way he chooses, because few horses in history have been so consistently good for so long.
After winning back-to-back stakes races in his last two starts to eclipse the $1 million mark in earnings, Soi Phet is entered in Saturday’s $150,000 California Dreamin’ Stakes at Del Mar.
It would mark the 60th start of his career, and he’d be looking for his 16th lifetime victory, though at midweek Powell was placing the chances of him competing at “50-50.”
“I’m not sure if he’s going to run,” said Powell, who also has mentioned possibly entering Soi Phet in the Harry F. Brubaker on Aug. 22.
Soi Phet won the Brubaker in 2016 and finished third last year, when he also ran in the California Dreamin’ and placed third.
“I’m going to look at the nominations and see how the horse is doing over the last couple of days, and then make a last-minute decision,” said Powell, who is American-born but grew up in France and sports a thick accent.
There are 11 horses entered in the California Dreamin’, and Soi Phet is six years older than six of them.
The son of Tizbud was born in April 2008, in the final months of President George W. Bush’s second administration. Powell claimed him for $16,000 five years ago at Hollywood Park, and they have been a formidable combination ever since for the Benowitz Family Trust, Mathilde Powell (Leonard’s wife) and Paul Viskovich.
“He has such a big heart,” Powell said after Soi Phet beat favorite B Squared by a nose in the Bertrando Stakes on July 4 at Los Alamitos.
Fittingly, Soi Phet captured the inaugural Bertrando in 2014.
“Financially, it means a lot,” Powell said of getting to $1 million in earnings. “But, honestly, for the horse it doesn’t mean anything, because to me he has always been worth a million dollars and more.
“I’m very proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. There’s been a lot of hours spent with him, and the fact that he’s responded the way he has is very satisfying.”
The summer of ’13 at Del Mar was a memorable meet for Soi Phet. He won three allowance races over a 44-day span. He’d later struggle during stretches, and after a number of bad starts in the winter through 2016, Powell realized the horse wanted nothing to do with cold-weather running.
In nine spring and summer races since then, Soi Phet, with regular rider Alonso Quinonez, has four wins and seven finishes in the money.
“It’s all him. It’s nothing special I did,” Powell said. “He’s just a special individual. He’s got a lot of class.”
Powell prescribes to the thought that Soi Phet is a shrewd judge of his own ability. He noted that in the Grade II Californian Stakes in April at Santa Anita, Dr. Dorr blew by him, and Soi Phet seemed to noticeably ease up against the “tougher company.”
“He didn’t fight til the end,” Powell said. “He knew how to preserve himself.”
Few horses have done that better.
- With a victory by first-time starter Eighty Proof ($7) in the eighth race Thursday, San Diego native trainer Mick Ruis snapped a 0-for-31 race slump. He had won 3 of 73 races this year — the last coming by Bolt d’Oro in the San Felipe Stakes on March 10 at Santa Anita.
- Trainer Peter Miller won the first (Boujie Girl, $2.80) and third (Worthy Turk, $28.20) to bring his meet win total to six — third behind Jerry Hollendorfer (eight) and Doug O’Neill (seven), who were blanked on the day.
- Trainer Val Brinkerhoff won the fifth with Arch Prince ($8.60) to give him three victories with seven total starters.