Though the race was never without a few anxious moments, Frank C. Calabrese’s Where’s Sterling proved too good for a field of overmatched foes on Saturday when a convincing 3 ¼-length winner of the $55,000 Mecke Stakes at Calder Casino & Race Course, covering the nine-furlong trip over a sloppy track in 1:52.85 to claim his second straight stakes victory at the meet.
Forwardly placed when winning the Memorial Day Handicap by 7 ½ lengths in his last start, Where’s Sterling was somewhat reserved through the opening stages of the Mecke, settling in sixth place while Oligarch made all the early running through splits of :24.18, :48.72, and 1:13.19.
“He broke a few steps slow today and I had to ride a very different race than last time,” winning rider John Delgado said of Where’s Sterling. “I tried putting him in the race behind horses, but he didn’t really like the way the track was coming up and hitting him, and he started to stop a little bit. So I stayed back and stayed clear.”
As the field moved through the second turn, Delgado asked Where’s Sterling to advance while outside of horses, and after appearing to labor for just a bit, the 5-year-old found a proper stride and began passing horses with ease, collaring pacesetter Oligarch in mid-stretch and then edging clear of that rival inside the final yards.
“When I asked him to run at the three-eighths, he started to come on a bit,” Delgado said. “And then when he entered the stretch, he was just flying.”
Where’s Sterling returned $3.00, $2.40, and $2.10 for his overwhelmingly popular victory. Oligarch paid $10.00 and $2.40 for second, while Numb Lips, beaten another 1 ¼ lengths in third, returned $2.40.
Completing the order of finish was Liberty Cap, Imperial Czar, Navy Wings, and Wingedlie.
Bred in Kentucky by Cynthia Knight, Where’s Sterling is now a five-time winner in 14 starts, with career earnings of $440,045. The son of Northern Afleet won the Grade 3 Philip Iselin at Monmouth Park last year, and also boasts a second-place finish in last year’s Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup and a troubled fourth in this season’s Grade 1 Donn Handicap.