01/23/2003 12:00AM

The always capricious 'Warrior'


Which Ultimate Warrior will show up? That is the question handicappers must answer when he enters the gate as the likely favorite in Saturday's $50,000 Forego Stakes at Turfway Park, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for older horses.

Ultimate Warrior is a tough horse to figure out. On his best day, he's as fast as any sprinter in Kentucky. He is prone, however, to letting chalk players down and fans have been witness to both the good and bad Ultimate Warrior just in the last six weeks.

A tiring fourth as the odds-on favorite in a conditioned allowance at Turfway on Dec. 15, Ultimate Warrior came back two weeks later and scored a comfortable 1 3/4-length win in the Holiday Cheer Stakes, earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure, an improvement of nearly 30 points from his allowance figure.

Ultimate Warrior's speed is reliable. He has been in front at the first call in seven of his last 10 starts, and he failed to win any of the three races where he tried to rally from behind.

There is no shortage of upset possibilities in the Forego. The second- and third-place finishers from the Holiday Cheer, Gallatin Kid and Slider, both appear to have a chance. Gallatin Kid was making the jump from the two-other-than allowance level when he raced in the Holiday Cheer. The 99 Beyer he earned for his finish was a personal best.

Slider placed in several stakes during the latter half of 2002, including the Grade 3 Hanshin at Arlington and the 6 1/2-furlong Marfa Stakes at Turfway in September. A middle- distance runner when trained by Richard Lundy, Slider has competed mostly in sprints since moving to the barn of Joe Woodard last fall.

The most intriguing threat is Private Horde, who crushed three-other-than allowance foes by more than five lengths at Turfway Jan. 5. He earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort, one of the fastest earned in a sprint at the meet.

Golden Oldie lost the 2002 Forego Stakes by a neck. He was most recently second, beaten less than a length, in the six-furlong Christmas Handicap at Mountaineer Park.

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