Triple Crown nominee Western Echo lost in his first Maryland start of the year yesterday but did nothing to discourage his connections from running the horse in the April 22 $150,000 Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
Striking Lord, a little-known Pennsylvania-bred sprinter, was first out of the gate and ran five furlongs in near-track-record time to hold off 4-5 favored Western Echo by a head in Pimlico's $32,575 Harriman Stakes.
But Bud Delp, trainer of Western Echo, said he was encouraged by the race and that Harry and Tom Meyerhoff's horse is definitely Tesio-bound.
"I didn't want to run him five-eighths," Delp said of the horse who won the Laurel Futurity last fall and specializes in the longer distances. "But there was nothing else available. I liked the way he ran. He broke good but not great. He was last, but then moved right up. He was wide until the quarter pole, and considering there has been a bit of a rail bias lately, I think it was a good effort. Because he raced wide, he got a little tired at the end."
Overlooked at 11-1 odds, Striking Lord raced the five furlongs under Philadelphia Park rider Stewart Elliott in 57 3/5 seconds, three-fifths of a second slower than the Pimlico record set by Locust Hill Farm's Tyrant in 1971.
The distance perfectly suited Striking Lord, who had won a five-furlong stakes as a 2-year-old. He had tuned up for yesterday's event by narrowly losing to Ace's Orphan in a race against older horses at Laurel Park 10 days ago.
It was the first start for Western Echo in more than two months. He was struck by a virus when he was shipped south to prep for the Florida Derby and was pulled out of the series of races leading up to the Grade I race after turning in a disappointing effort in the Hutcheson Stakes on Jan. 28. Delp said Western Echo returned sound and scoped clean (for respiratory ailments) after yesterday's race. "I'll give him an easy mile breeze next weekend, and then we'll go for the big money in the Tesio," Delp said.
Striking Lord is the latest in a series of winning thoroughbreds campaigned by Charles Cuprill, a lawyer in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who owns a farm in Lewisville, Pa., and keeps 20 head of racing stock at the Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County. Cuprill's wife, Luisa, keeps an eye on the horse operation while her husband commutes from San Juan to take care of his business affairs.
Among the Maryland stakes winners raced over the years by the Cuprills have been Sentencia, Letrado and Lord Carlos, sire of Striking Lord.
Luisa Cuprill said Striking Lord will be kept in sprints and is being aimed for the Worthington Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds at Philadelphia Park.
NOTES: There is one less contender in the local older stakes ranks. Buckingham Farm's Forry Cow How has suffered a tear in a suspensory ligament and is being sent home for an extended rest, said trainer Ron Cartwright. The 7-year-old gelding, who won the 1993 Maryland Million Classic, had been attempting a comeback before he was sidetracked by this latest injury. . . . C. Mills & Co., the longtime Laurel horse-vanning service, is going out of business. Until last week, the company operated the shuttle service that moved horses between Laurel and Pimlico racetracks and the Bowie Training Center. The Alex Nichols Agency from Elmont, N.Y., was recently awarded the contract and has opened a Maryland office to service the local tracks.