Elite Power after his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
ELMONT, N.Y.— Nearly one year to the day after beginning a superb six-race win streak with a fourth-out graduation for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, Juddmonte’s Champion Sprinter Elite Power will look to continue his strong form in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 True North, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for older horses, at Belmont Park.
This time last year, the chestnut was relatively unknown, making the fourth outing of his career in a seven-furlong maiden tilt at Churchill Downs. He made a strong impression in his first victory, defeating 10 rivals by nine lengths in a final time of 1:21.06. It would not take long for Elite Power to become a household name, as his maiden victory began a win streak that would lead to him being named the 2022 Champion Male Sprinter and enjoying a successful overseas trip to capture the six-furlong Group 3, $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint last out on February 25 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
Elite Power will see a touch of added ground in the True North for his first start since his dominant victory in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint. There, he rallied from off the pace under Frankie Dettori and showed his usual devastating turn of foot in the stretch to take command 200 meters from the finish and draw off under a hand ride.
Mott had considered bringing Elite Power back off his four-month layoff in the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on the same day over Big Sandy, but opted to keep him sprinting after a long journey to Saudi Arabia and back.
“He seems to be doing well, but I wasn’t confident I had him ready to go a mile at this point in the Met Mile,” said Mott. “He’s traveled and had a bit of a layoff and we’re bringing him back. I feel better about the six and a half than I do the mile.”
After his maiden coup last June, Elite Power successfully took on winners in a one-mile allowance with a 3 1/4-length win in June, and followed three months later with a similar effort going six furlongs at Saratoga Race Course and landing a 3 1/2-length score.
Elite Power stepped up in class next out to make his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Vosburgh in October at Belmont at the Big A. He made easy work of his four rivals in the seven-furlong test with a 5 3/4-length win, which awarded him a berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland. He made his next start there and posted a visually impressive 1 1/4-length triumph when rallying five-wide from seventh-of-11 in a bunched up field. He followed with his successful trip to Riyadh.
Elite Power has been assigned a field-high 124 pounds and will emerge from post 4 in rein to Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Godolphin’s Kentucky homebred Strobe has never finished worse than second in six lifetime outings for two-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Brad Cox. The 4-year-old Into Mischief bay enters from a closing runner-up finish in his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on April 15 at Oaklawn Park, where he rallied from 3 1/2 lengths off the pace under regular pilot Florent Geroux and made to finish 2 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Skelly.
Three starts back, Strobe earned a 104 Beyer for a dominant pacesetting optional claiming coup in December at Fair Grounds Race Course and followed with a similar win in a third-level optional claimer in January that was awarded a 101 Beyer.
Cox said the bay colt has been a work in progress since making his first start last May.
“It’s taken us a little time to get to this. His last run was in a graded stakes and he performed very, very well,” said Cox. “He may have needed that race, he hadn’t run since January. I feel like he’s coming into this race very, very well. It’s obviously a very good race with Elite Power in there. I think he’s ready for a big effort.”
Geroux [118 pounds] retains the mount from post 5.
Repole Stables’ multiple graded stakes-winner Fearless [post 6, Luis Saez, 122 pounds] sees a significant cutback in distance from his last outing when a well-beaten seventh in the 12-furlong Grade 3 Greenwood Cup in September at Parx Racing. Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the consistent son of Ghostzapper will contest a sprint distance for the first time since a debut maiden score going six furlongs at Gulfstream Park in December 2019.
Pletcher said Fearless’ abilities at this distance are likely pace dependent.
“It may prove to be a bit short, but hopefully there is a favorable pace scenario,” said Pletcher.
Fearless won the 2021 Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday as part of a successful campaign that winter racing from one-mile to nine furlongs at Gulfstream Park, where he when on to win the nine-furlong Grade 3 Ghostzapper and finished second going one-mile in both the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile. He stretched out to win the 12-furlong Grade 2 Brooklyn here on the Belmont Stakes undercard before going even further in capturing the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone at Saratoga Race Course.
Reddam Racing’s New York-bred Today’s Flavor [post 1, Manny Franco, 118 pounds] makes another attempt at a graded sprint for conditioner George Weaver after finishing a pacesetting fourth, defeated 1 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets in April at Aqueduct.
“He’s maintained good form and trains well like he has for the last two months,” said Weaver. “We’re looking forward to taking on a tougher race.”
The gelded son of Laoban, bred in the Empire State by Joseph Calvo, has gone 5-for-6 since joining Weaver’s barn in November, including a strong four-race win streak that included a 6 1/2-length allowance coup against open company on February 18. He bounced back well from his Carter loss with a next-out win in the state-bred Affirmed Success on April 30 at the Big A, leading at each point of call to land a 3 1/2-length victory under returning rider Manny Franco.
Completing the field are trainer David Jacobson’s graded stakes-placed Synthesis [post 2, Javier Castellano, 118 pounds], a last-out winner of a local seven-furlong allowance on May 18 that garnered a 104 Beyer; and Ilium Stables’ Anarchist [post 3, Joel Rosario, 120 pounds], who enters from his first graded victory in the Grade 3 Jacques Cartier on May 14 at Woodbine.
The True North, carded as Race 3, is one of nine graded events slated for the June 10 card at Belmont Park, led by the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in Race 12. First post on the 13-race card is 11:20 a.m. Eastern.