Elite Power, Gunite Rivalry Continues in G1 Forego

August 23, 2023

Only a head separates Elite Power (outside) and Gunite in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (NYRA/Coglianese)

NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Grade 1-winning millionaires Elite Power, the reigning Champion Male Sprinter, and his worthy adversary, Gunite, that were separated by a head during their epic battle four weeks ago, will meet for the second time this summer in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Forego at Saratoga Race Course.

The 44th running of the seven-furlong Forego for 4-year-olds and up is one of five Grade 1 stakes worth $3.5 million in purses on a spectacular 13-race program highlighted by the 154th renewal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers. First race post time is 11:40 a.m. Eastern with the Forego carded as Race 7.

Juddmonte’s Elite Power, a 5-year-old son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin, enters the Forego on an eight-race win streak dating to a nine-length maiden triumph last June at Churchill Downs, his fourth career start. The closest he’s been to losing since came in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 29 at Saratoga, trailing all but one horse early before coming with a steady drive over the sloppy and sealed track to nail Gunite at the wire.

“I was very impressed with him last time. I thought he showed a lot of courage,” Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. “He beat a good horse by a head. The same horse is in there again, so things have to go right. If you stub your toe, that horse is a good horse.”

Elite Power hadn’t run over an off track prior to the Vanderbilt, but he has had success both going the distance and racing at Saratoga, winning each of his two prior attempts. He captured a six-furlong allowance sprint last September at the Spa, the last time he faced non-stakes company, and won the Grade 2 Vosburgh last fall at Aqueduct in his most recent try at seven-eighths.

“He handled the mud last time and that was something that was somewhat new for him,” Mott said. “He’s already won at seven furlongs, so he’s been there and done that. We just hope he maintains his form and he can do it again.”

A $900,000 yearling purchase in September 2019, Elite Power went unraced at 2 and had just two starts at 3 before embarking on a 4-year-old campaign that would see him win 5-of-6 starts and follow the Vosburgh with a victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint to clinch the division title. This year, he won the Group 3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint in Saudi Arabia and the Grade 2 True North June 10 at Belmont Park prior to the Vanderbilt.

Elite Power victorious in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)

“Even though he was a 3-year-old he had some baby issues, just things young horses go through, and I think once he got to be a 4-year-old everything got solid and he got hardened up for the job that was ahead of him,” Mott said. “We got a couple races in him at 3 and then needed to give him a good amount of time. By the time we brought him back he was getting ready for the job at hand.

“He’s a big, good-looking horse, but I don’t think he’s a horse that wowed you in the mornings from the first work. I think he kind of gradually got better and better and he was able to show it,” he added. “He was an expensive, well-bred horse so obviously there was hope for him, but it wasn’t until he got a little older and a little more mature that he was able to start putting it together.”

Overall, Elite Power owns eight wins and more than $2.6 million in purse earnings from 11 starts. Mott famously guided Hall of Famer Cigar through 16 consecutive victories – 10 of them Grade 1 – from 1994-96.

“If you keep taking them over there every time, you risk getting them beat,” Mott said. “So, if you’re worried about getting them beat, wrap them up in bubble wrap and send them the farm and say, ‘That’s enough.’”

Irad Ortiz Jr. gets the return call on Elite Power, who is assigned a field-high 124 pounds from post 3.

Mott also entered LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s 4-year-old High Oak, who beat Gunite by 4 1/4 lengths in the 2021 Grade 2 Saratoga Special before running fourth to that rival in their rematch, the Grade 1 Hopeful. High Oak would race just once at 3 and is 0-for-5 this year, most recently finishing second in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance July 29 at Saratoga under jockey Katie Davis, who rides back from post 1.

Gunite takes the Aristides June 3 at Churchill Downs (Jenny Photo/Past The Wire)

Gunite, bred and owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, will be looking to play spoiler again after nearly ending Elite Power’s streak in the Vanderbilt. By Gun Runner, who was also campaigned by Winchell and trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the 4-year-old Gunite had to settle for second, more than six lengths ahead of third-place finisher Dean Delivers.

“At the eighth pole I think a lot of people thought he was going to get home, but Elite Power is the Champion and to be the champ you’ve got to beat the champ,” Winchell’s racing manager David Fiske said. “He’s not like some counterfeit horse. It wasn’t like we got beat by some surprise that shouldn’t have been there. It was like, ‘Oh, it’s the Champion again.’ We’ll see how we can do on Saturday.”

It was a much shorter gap than the previous time Gunite met Elite Power in February in Saudi Arabia, beaten 3 1/4 lengths when second. From there, Gunite stayed in the Middle East and was third by a half-length in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen before winning the June 3 Aristides at Churchill.

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Like Elite Power, Gunite will be stretching out to seven furlongs for the first time since last fall, a distance where he has four wins and two seconds in six tries. Gunite has also shown an affinity for Saratoga with two wins and three seconds from five starts, also capturing the Grade 2 Amsterdam in 2022.

“He may be even better this year,” Fiske said. “He’s been doing great. He likes Saratoga, which you can figure out from his record. He always runs well and he likes to train up there. He’s a real solid citizen. He kind of shows up every time and he’s pretty straightforward. Hopefully at some point in the near future we’ll turn the tables on Elite Power.”

Gunite will have regular rider Tyler Gaffalione back aboard from post 2.

John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock’s Pipeline, a 5-year-old son of Champion Sprinter Speightstown, finished third behind Cody’s Wish in last year’s Forego at odds of 15-1. From the barn of Saratoga’s leading trainer, Chad Brown, Pipeline has raced just once this year, finishing sixth in a one-mile optional claiming allowance August 3 at Saratoga.

Luis Saez has the assignment on Pipeline from post 4.

Synthesis, a 7-year-old gelding owned and trained by David Jacobson, ran fifth in the Vanderbilt and is a 10-time career winner from 48 starts but is still seeking his first stakes success. He was third in the Grade 2 Best Pal in 2018 and second in the Grade 2 John A. Nerud July 1 at Belmont Park in his Vanderbilt prep.

Manuel Franco has the riding assignment on Synthesis from post 5.

An expanded edition of Saratoga Live will begin at 11:30 a.m. on FS2 with continuing coverage on FS1 at 1:30 p.m. FOX SARATOGA SATURDAY will then present live coverage and analysis of the Travers Day stakes action beginning at 3 p.m.

This article is a must read. 1st ballot Hall of Fame horseplayer, generous teacher and heralded writer! Thanks John. twitter.com/jonathanstetti…

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