(PHOTO ABOVE - Mountain Echo as photographed by equispace.blogspot.com)
She was called the Queen of Fort Erie racetrack and for a few of her 18 career wins, Mountain Echo was ridden by a young jockey from Innisfil, ON who was just beginning his career.
Cory Spataro, who led all Ajax Downs jockeys in 2014 with 31 wins, also rides Thoroughbreds and plays mean drums in a band, lets the superlatives loose when he talks about Mountain Echo.
“She was awesome and she had a turn of foot that I have never felt before,” said Spataro. “She gave me my first win as a jockey and my second win too.”
Mountain Echo came to Ontario by way of Kentucky where she was bought by the late Tony Mattine, a shrewd horseman who paid $30,000 for the Oregon-bred in 2006.
When Spataro met Mountain Echo, the large, brawny bay was racing for owner/trainer Richard Davis. It was her second race of 2010 and Spataro, a 10-pound apprentice, had been galloping the mare in the morning.
“She almost trained herself,” said Spataro. “She would go out to the track and jog nicely, stand there quietly. But when it was time to gallop, she would blast off.”
The daughter of Tempered Appeal would bomb around the track with Spataro in tow and at the same time, gave her young rider the confidence needed when the time came for the pair to race.
As an 8 to 1 longshot, Mountain Echo and Spataro won their first race together with a wide and bold stretch rally that got them in front in that six-furlong dash by a neck. Following a pair of second-place finishes, the pair won again at Woodbine and Mountain Echo was claimed.
Two years later, after being re-claimed by Davis, Mountain Echo was reunited with Spataro and then won another Woodbine sprint for good measure.
“She gave me a lot of confidence. She helped me get my career going.”
Spataro, who missed much of 2015 due to a broken hand but plans to be back in the saddle at Ajax and Woodbine in 2016, also has special thoughts for Country Boy Deluxe, a Quarter Horse owned and trained by Stan Webb. Spataro guided the classy chestnut to three consecutive wins in 2014 including the $133.050 Alex Picov Memorial Championship, the biggest win of the rider’s career so far.
“He was such a focused horse,” said Spataro. “He would strut along, throw out his front feet on the way to the gate, He was all class.”
(MONTAGE OF CORY SPATARO and COUNTRY BOY DELUXE by Laurie Overton)
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