03/21/2003 1:00AM

Drums beating loudly for sire Eastern Echo

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Will lightning strike two years in a row?

Thunder is already rolling for the recently acquired Maryland stallion Eastern Echo, who has a 3-year-old making rapid progress on the Triple Crown trail.

The cause of all the commotion is Eastern Echo's son Buddy Gil, winner of back-to-back graded stakes in California. Buddy Gil's most recent victory came in last week's Grade 2, 1-1/16-mile San Felipe, in which he overcame a number of serious roadblocks

to score by a nose over Atswhatimtalknbout, who was in receipt of three pounds.

Eastern Echo, a 15-year-old proven sire who moved to Shamrock Farms in Woodbine, Md., for the 2002 breeding season, recalls the exploits of Our Emblem, who moved to Maryland from Kentucky shortly before his Kentucky Derby- and Preakness-winning son War Emblem burst upon the scene last season. At this stage of the Triple Crown march, Buddy Gil has accomplished more than War Emblem.

Times couldn't be more exciting for Don Litz, a longtime horseman and bloodstock agent who is spokesman for the recently established Maryland Stallion Station, a group of local investors looking for high-class stallions to stand in Maryland. Maryland Stallion Station and Kentucky's Lane's End, where Eastern Echo previously resided, own a controlling interest in Eastern Echo, whose feet are now firmly planted in Maryland.

"We are lucky to have him here," said Litz, who in addition to managing Eastern Echo's stud career also oversees the young stallion Jazz Club, who is standing his second season this year at Shamrock. Litz, a director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, said that Eastern Echo is exactly the kind of stallion the majority owners were looking for.

A Grade 1-winning juvenile, Eastern Echo is a son of Damascus out of the wonderful producer Wild Applause, a graded-stakes-winning daughter of Northern Dancer. Eastern Echo's second dam is broodmare of the year Glowing Tribute. The same day that Buddy Gil won his first graded stakes race, the Grade 3 Baldwin on Feb. 23, Eastern Echo's half-sister Yell won the

Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Wild Applause is also the dam of graded winners Roar and Blare of Trumpets.

Phones started ringing on Monday, the day after Buddy Gil's most recent score, and 14 new contracts were put in the mail. Eastern Echo, who stands for $3,000, has nearly as many bookings for 2003 as he had for the entire 2002 breeding season, in which he covered 57 mares.

"He is a very fertile stallion - 98 percent of the mares he bred got in foal last year," says Litz. "He can handle a big book."

Eastern Echo has 10 crops of racing age, counting his current juveniles. In addition to Buddy Gil, he is the sire of 17 stakes winners, topped by Swiss Yodeler, a Grade 1 winner as a juvenile who earned $761,442. Last year Swiss Yodeler ranked among the nation's top 10 freshmen sires. Another Eastern Echo son, multiple graded stakes winner and $608,714-earner Western Echo, was the leading freshman sire in Pennsylvania in 2002.

Jazz Club, an 8-year-old son of Dixieland Band, has his first foals on the ground. A filly out of Victress (by Flying Pidgeon), bred by Giles and Barbara Cook, was his first born, delivered on Feb. 22. Jazz Club is from the family of Grade 1 winners Tomisue's Delight and Runup the Colors, and recent graded stakes winner Mineshaft.

Maryland Stallion Station recently mailed nearly 1,000 videotapes to promote the stallion. The tape, sent to breeders in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, highlights Jazz Club's racing career, in which he won four stakes, including two graded, and earned $417,687.

Jazz Club, who covered 60 mares last year after getting a late start in the breeding season, is also on pace to surpass that total this year. He stands for $3,500.