'Echo' turns it on, wins handicap 5-year-old chases, catches 'Richie' in $75,000 race

February 23, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Western Echo ran a picture-perfect race yesterday to win the $75,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Handicap at Laurel Park.

The 5-year-old horse stalked the early leader, Richie The Coach, for most of the 1 3/16-mile race. But on the far turn Western Echo's jockey, Edgar Prado, urged him ahead, and the glistening chestnut charged to the lead and a 4 3/4 -length victory.

"He was just galloping along all the way around," said Prado, Maryland's leading jockey. "It was just a matter of when to go after Richie The Coach. When I did [ask him], my horse responded pretty good."

Trained by Grover G. Delp and owned by Harry C. and Tom O. Meyerhoff, Western Echo paid $4.20 to win. His time over a fast track was 1 minute, 57 1/5 seconds.

The long shot at 19-1, Meadow Lad rallied for second. Colonial Secretary, Beware The Quest and a tiring Richie The Coach completed the order of finish. The exacta paid $39.80.

The win was the eighth in 28 starts for the son of Eastern Echo. The $45,000 winner's purse swelled his earnings to $427,731. In six starts since November, Western Echo has won four and finished second twice.

"This horse is really getting good again," Delp said. "He was good as a 2-year-old, and he was good early as a 3-year-old. Then he had some problems for a year and a half."

Western Echo was laid up with sickness and racing injuries.

"They're all behind him," Delp said. "I think he's got a lot of good racing ahead of him."

Before yesterday's race, Delp conferred with Prado.

"I never give Edgar orders," Delp said. "I just told him to do whatever he had to do to win the race, whether it be going with Richie or taking off him."

Prado realized that the track on this day favored his mount. In the Hail Emperor four races back, Western Echo could not catch Richie The Coach.

"That was a different track," Prado said. "It was speed-favoring, and Richie The Coach likes that kind of track. Today, the track was dead. Nothing was holding on the front end.

"But when you have the horse, you don't have to worry about anybody."

NOTE: Yesterday's race was named in memory of Harrison E. Johnson, a Maryland trainer who died at the age of 45 in a plane crash in 1985.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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