By Katie Petrunyak
From clipping Curlin's stallion tag onto Broadway's Alibi's halter before the mare went into the breeding shed to celebrating in the winner's circle at Santa Anita six years later for the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint, Aaron West has been along for the ride almost every step of the way as the foal that resulted from that mating back in 2017 came to be known as Elite Power, a two-time Breeders Cup champion and the newest addition at Juddmonte Farm.
West was working at Lane's End Farm when Broadway's Alibi (Vindication), a two-time graded stakes winner and runner-up in the 2012 GI Kentucky Oaks, was sent to visit Curlin. He accompanied the mare to Hill 'n' Dale to oversee the breeding and a year later, was there to watch a strapping chestnut colt bred by Alpha Delta Stables take his first steps on wobbly legs adorned with flashy white socks.
West's acceptance of the position as Nominations Manager at Juddmonte USA was announced last year on Oct. 6. Two days later Elite Power, who was purchased as a yearling by Juddmonte for $900,000, announced his presence in his stakes debut in the GII Vosburgh S., where he was geared down to win by almost six lengths. After winning four of his next five starts at the top level, Elite Power's career culminated two weeks ago with a repeat victory in the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint. From there he was on to Juddmonte, where the champ will stand for an initial stud fee of $50,000 in 2024.
For West, whose path just seems to be aligned with this impressive son of Curlin, having the opportunity to now show Elite Power off to breeders has been the best part of the journey yet.
“I think that's what makes this business so exciting for those of us that are working in it,” he said. “You get to see these horses go from the day they were born to becoming a champion and that's the most rewarding thing. When he won the Sprint this year, I felt confident pretty early in the race that he was looking like he was going to really fire a big one and sure enough, he did. The emotions get to you a bit when you see one hit the line like that and to see him go out on top and finish his career the way he did, it was very rewarding for all of us here at Juddmonte.”
Elite Power's career over the past two years has been a model of consistency. His win in the Vosburgh was the fourth score in the middle of an eight-race win streak and when he then closed out his 4-year-old campaign with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint over the likes of champion sprinter Jackie's Warrior (Maclean's Music) and MGSW C Z Rocket (City Zip), he stamped his status as the 2022 Eclipse Champion Male Sprinter.
The Bill Mott trainee picked up where he left off this year in the G3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint, which he won by 3 1/4 lengths at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
That 5-year-old debut marked the start of a year-long rivalry with GISW Gunite (Gun Runner). Elite Power claimed the GII True North S. before facing off with Gunite for the remainder of the season. Elite Power scored in the GI Vanderbilt H. by a head and Gunite turned the tables in the GI Forego S., but then Elite Power returned to the winner's circle in their final match-up in the Sprint.
“He ran a 111 Beyer Speed Figure and a 0 Ragozin, which is the fastest number they've given any horse this year,” reported West. “That cemented his place in my mind as the fastest horse of the year and a deserving candidate to be in the conversation for Horse of the Year.”
“I think Elite Power's consistency is what made him a great racehorse,” he continued. “For any horse to win eight in a row and nine of ten, and to be competing at the level he was at, it takes a very special horse. I think that's even more complimentary to a sprinter because there's no easy part of a six-furlong race. You've got to be involved early and then you've got to be able to finish. He was able to do that consistently and he showed up with the same race every time.”
West said that while the Juddmonte team could not have drawn up a better racing campaign for Elite Power, when the operation first purchased the son of Curlin their initial vision for his career was different than what came to fruition. While the colt showed every sign of being a precocious 2-year-old in his early training, a few minor setbacks kept him from racing as a juvenile. When the colt made it to the starting gate at three, his connections believed that stretching out in distance would be his forte.
“But he had other ideas and his ideas were pretty good,” said West with a laugh. “When we bought him he looked like a two-turn horse. He looked like a Derby kind of horse. His pedigree has that two-turn, dirt stamina.”
And so, West said, Elite Power has all the credentials to be a stallion that can produce Classic-type runners. Plus, he boasts a resume that stands out from most other sons of Curlin.
“He's a unique version of arguably one of the best sires in America right now,” West explained. “He is by Curlin and won at the sprint level, but he also showed that he can stretch that speed out to win over a mile earlier in his career. Obviously Elite Power hails from an immaculate pedigree. It's generation after generation of top-level runners particularly on the dirt, going all the way back to his fourth dam Eliza (Mt. Livermore), who was a champion 2-year-old.”
As visitors have stopped by Juddmonte over the past few weeks to see the new arrival, West said that breeders have been thrilled by what they've seen and that Elite Power has taken in all the activity in stride.
“Conformationally he's just perfectly put together–a very strong horse, good size, just a shade under 16'1,” explained West. “He's well-balanced and very athletic. He has just a phenomenal mind on him. He's quiet as can be, shows beautifully, walks out and does his job. I think he not only has the physical, but he's also got the mental aspect to show why he was such a good racehorse and why he has all the potential in the world to be a phenomenal stallion.”
Elite Power's new barnmate Mandaloun saw a successful debut season last year when he bred 211 mares. This year the Grade I-winning son of Into Mischief will stand for $20,000.
“It's a great time to be at Juddmonte,” said West. “To have two horses of this caliber, one being a homebred for us and the other being a yearling that we bought, shows Juddmonte's continuation of investment and participation in Thoroughbred racing at the highest level.”