A couple of years ago, Storm Tower was the talk of Maryland racing, a locally based 3-year-old who invaded New York, won the Grade I Wood Memorial and then set the pace for the first mile in the 1993 Kentucky Derby before fading to finish 16th.
A lot of things have changed since then. Storm Tower's trainer, Ben Perkins Jr., is now headquartered in New Jersey, and the horse has failed to live up to his early potential.
"He just doesn't seem to have that mental grit, which probably happens to a lot of those horses that are raced hard early in their 3-year-old careers," Perkins said.
"But he still has a lot of ability, is very sound and we think sprinting might sharpen him up."
That explains why Storm Tower will be at Laurel Park today to take on such local hard-knockers as Who Wouldn't and Marry Me Do in the six-furlong Northern Wolf Stakes.
"If he wins, or runs well, we have an eye on bringing him back for the General George Stakes [on Feb. 20]," Perkins said. "There was some debate about taking him to Florida, where my dad has 30 horses. But if he ran at Gulfstream, he'd most likely have to meet Holy Bull in his first race of the year [the Olympic Handicap on Jan. 22] and who wants to do that? So we kept him here with me at Garden State Park."
Though Storm Tower has been beaten by a total of 35 1/2 lengths in his past three starts at Aqueduct, Perkins said he should fare better today when he can run on Lasix.
It was intended that Storm Tower would be reunited with Rick Wilson, his former regular rider who campaigns at Laurel. But Wilson took the week off, so Carlos Lopez will ride him.
Perkins said that even though Storm Tower is a Grade I winner and has earned $752,423, owners Rita Tornetta and Charlie Hess have no immediate plans to retire him.
Local owners and trainers on the board of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association met again with track owner Joe De Francis yesterday, but have still not agreed on several racing-related issues, such as how to allocate purse money for the 1995 stakes schedule. The horsemen again agreed not to approve current simulcast contracts. but so far that has not hindered Maryland's simulcast program. Sam Houston Park in Texas is the only outlet refusing to take the Laurel signal until the horsemen send their written approval. . . . Call Devise was destroyed by veterinarians on the track yesterday after a two-horse spill during the fourth race. The 4-year-old colt fractured his right ankle at the top of the stretch. Deacon's Lane fell over him but was not injured. The two #F jockeys, Larry Reynolds and Tim Marchant, also escaped serious injury.