09/03/2007 11:00PM

Elite Squadron speeds to victory


Elite Squadron survived a speed duel to win the $100,000 Tom Ridge Labor Day Stakes at Presque Isle Downs on Monday. Elite Squadron and jockey Dana Whitney dueled with Natural Speed through a quarter-mile in 22.36 seconds and a half in 45.57 in the six-furlong race for 3-year-olds. Elite Squadron shook off Natural Speed in midstretch and held off favored Cherokee Country to win by a half-length. Front Court closed for third. Elite Squadron, a son of Officer, returned $12.20 and ran the six furlongs over the new Tapeta surface in 1.10.69.

"I knew I was going to be the speed in the race, and my main objective was not to go too fast too early," Whitney said. "The horse took a liking to this track, and I just let him do his thing, and turning for home I did what I needed to do with him to finish it off."

It was the third win for Elite Squadron in his six-race career. In his first race this year, Elite Squadron won a maiden race against older horses at Churchill Downs on June 6. He came back to win an allowance race against older horses July 5 there, and then trainer James Baker took Elite Squadron to Saratoga for the Amsterdam, where he finished up the track.

Baker said he and owner Tom Walters are pointing Elite Squadron to the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint on Sept. 29 at Turfway Park, and if he runs well, perhaps the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 27 at Monmouth.