Archive of ‘Manila Standard-Today: The Hoarse Whisperer’ category

THW: Copper Dew Takes Pearl I


By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  4 June 2008, Wednesday

Copper Dew Takes Pearl I

“Freakishly fast.”

That’s the phrase that popped from my lips when speedster Copper Dew delivered the performance of her life so far to win the Philippine Racing Commission Pearl I stakes last Sunday at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park.

The 4YO racemare, steered by jockey Jonathan Hernandez, broke cleanly from the gate, took the lead, and never looked back, crafting a wire-to-wire win over 1,800 meters in 1:53.6.

Her feat is considered all the more remarkable since common wisdom expects speedsters to fade in the later stages of a long-distance race, allowing stayers to come from behind. Copper Dew is perceived to be better over shorter distances: she holds the national record for the mile (1,600 meters) at 1:38, and a 2,000-meter foray in the 2007 Don Juan Derby bagged her only third place.

But as a racing analyst confidently predicted, “If she gets the lead, and isn’t hounded, she’ll win.” Sure enough, Copper Dew’s ten other opponents – none of them sprinters of her caliber – couldn’t get close. This allowed her to cruise in front by as much as four lengths in the backstretch and avoid traffic snarls to still come in a length ahead of Traditional. Longshot Fierce Fighter managed third, while Sweet Xarah, who had chased the Ruben Clor-trained Copper Dew in second for most of the race, came in fourth.

Initially, the race was to have been run over 1,750 meters at the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park. But contractual disputes between MJC and totalizator (betting computer system) providers United Tote Company (based in the US) and local Global Versatech, Inc. led to the cancellation of races at SLLP on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Philracom chairman Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II then issued a directive last Wednesday to both MJC and PRC transferring the venue of last week’s remaining races to PRC. With no 1,750-meter chute at Santa Ana Park’s racetrack, the distance of the Pearl I stakes had to be changed to 1,800 meters.

Copper Dew (f. 2005, Stravinsky-Copper Eyes) has racing champions Deputy Minister and Nureyev in her lineage, giving her a heavy Northern Dancer influence on both sides, which could account for Copper Dew’s stamina.


Deputy Minister

The stocky little Canadian-bred Northern Dancer overcame cracked heels and other physical adversities to win various G1 stakes races including the 1964 Kentucky Derby, where he beat archfoe Hill Rise by a neck and set a time record. Northern Dancer also won that year’s Preakness stakes but faltered in the third leg of the US Triple Crown, coming in third in the Belmont. He went on to gain more prominence as a sire.

NorthernDancer wins 1964 Derby

Northern Dancer beating Hill Rise to win the 1964 Kentucky Derby

It has been claimed that “an estimated 75% of current racing thoroughbreds” can be traced back to Northern Dancer, who has been hailed as one of the foremost studs of the 20th century.

After Copper Dew’s Pearl I win, owner Jose Mari A. Franco commented, “I thought she was spectacular. She’s a very smart, cool-headed horse who knows what she’s doing.”

Franco, who is also a thoroughbred breeder, purchased Copper Dew at a horse auction in Kentucky, attracted by her pedigree. “It’s not easy to find a Stravinsky that is reasonably well-priced. In New Zealand, you can’t buy a Stravinsky today for less than $60,000. Stravinsky’s stud fee is about the same. I was fortunate to get Copper Dew at an affordable price.”

Franco adds, “I really wanted her for breeding; that’s the end result. Now that she’s winning stakes races, it drives up the value of her foals.”

Future plans? “I’ll get her into all the stakes races I can,” says Franco, “just as long as they’re not too close to each other. I want her well-rested.”  Showing versatility and endurance as she matures, this speedy imported racehorse is one to watch out for. ***

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THW: Pearl I Stakes – Anybody’s Race!


By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 28 May 2008, Wednesday

Pearl I Stakes – Anybody’s Race!

It’s going to be a free-for-all on Sunday, June 1, with imported and local horses signed up to fight it out in the 1750-meter Pearl I Stakes at the San Lazaro Leisure Park.

Sponsored by the Philippine Racing Commission, this race is the 3rd leg of the Open Challenge series and has attracted eleven combatants – Copper Dew, Dancing Polly, Fierce Fighter, La Tienne, Manhattan, Miss Fantastic, Mr. Victory, Regal Boom, Sweet Xarah, Traditional, and Ziraz.

The first leg of the series – the Garnet I stakes – was won by Aly Dancer, while the second leg – the Diamond II – went to longshot Mercurio. La Tienne was declared second place, Drama Belle third, and Sweet Xarah fourth.

Copper Dew is sure to be one of the favorites in the Pearl I on Sunday. Holder of the national record for the mile (1600 meters) at 1:38, she ran an excellent tuneup at Santa Ana Park last May 23. In that race for Group 7 and 8 imported horses, she won banderang tapos (wire-to-wire) and clocked an easy 1:33.6 for the 1500-meter journey. On top of that, she came in two lengths ahead of Midnight King (2007 British Cup victor) and bested fellow Pearl I participant Dancing Polly, who came in third.

A plus factor for the Jose Mari Franco-owned Copper Dew is that the horse is stabled at SLLP, giving her somewhat of a homecourt advantage. Not having to travel an hour in a trailer to the other track ensures she gets to the gate fresh.

On the minus side, it’s been observed that she performs better at Santa Ana Park (it’s where she set the time record), and over shorter distances. The Pearl I’s 1750-meter distance might prove too long for this speedster. But as analysts say, “Iba ‘yan kung maka-solo aire na walang lulucha,” meaning, if she takes the lead without being hounded by another runner, she could very well wrap up the race and bring it home in a bag.


Copper Dew with Jesse B. Guce, after winning the Santa Ana Park championship last 4 Nov 2007; trainer Ruben Clor, jockey Guce, and owner Jose Mari A. Franco with their trophies

Sweet Xarah has perhaps the best recent performance after Copper Dew, coming in second to a flaming hot Real Spicy in May 24′s 4th European Union Cup, also at Santa Ana Park. Coming six lengths off the leader, the veteran racemare showed stamina and form, which will stand her in good stead in the longer Pearl I.

In that same race (the EU Cup), stakes winners La Tienne came in third and Fierce Fighter fifth. Fierce Fighter, a young horse, performed erratically, languishing in last for most of the journey only to belatedly put on steam in the backstretch, too late to do herself any good. Put it down to immaturity, perhaps?


Fierce Fighter with Patty Dilema winning the Philracom 2YO Imported Stakes on 23 Sep 2007; Philracom commissioner Eduardo C. Domingo Jr. hands the trophy to owner Cesar Avila

Veterans La Tienne and Regal Boom are due to retire and have been granted extensions to race until the end of the year. So the Pearl I is among their last opportunities for fame and fortune. Mr. Victory won the third leg of the Triple Crown series back in 2006 but hasn’t performed as impressively since then. Still, against this wide-open field, he can show some flash.

Traditional, considered better over longer distances, is one of the dark horses here, as is Ziraz, who had a very good 2007 season. Stakes winner Manhattan can still surprise, and so can Miss Fantastic.

While I’m going with Copper Dew, I wouldn’t discount Sweet Xarah and La Tienne; their consistent placings in past stakes races show they’re in good condition. From a wider perspective – barring scratches – this is going to be a melee with eleven horses to tear up the track, making it anybody’s race! *** (Website:

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THW: “Incredible Ink” Get the Breaks


By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 21 May 2008, Wednesday

“Incredible Ink” Gets the Breaks

In a powerful comeback, 2007′s dominant juvenile, Indelible Ink, came from six lengths behind to win the first leg of the Philippine Racing Commission Triple Crown Championship series last Sunday at the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park.

The breaks all went her way as the other combatants tussled, leaving a clear path to victory for the chestnut filly. Aided by a stablemate and virtually unimpeded, Indelible Ink staged a spectacular rally in the at the far turn as excited fans cheered her home.


Indelible Ink owner and breeder Hermie Esguerra with trainer Nestor Manalang and Philracom chairman Atty. Joy Rojas at the awarding ceremony; a loyal fan with jockey Jeff Zarate and Mr. Esguerra in the stands after the race

The trilogy for 3YO is the most prestigious for their age group. This year’s edition attracted six stellar entries, among them Indelible Ink (sent off as the favorite in the sales), her archrival Don Enrico (close second choice), Shining Fame (far third favorite), Indelible Ink’s stablemate Queen Elena, the undefeated gray Hieroglyphics, and constant stakes contender Unopposed.

Racing analysts warned that a change of rider for Don Enrico (from regular jockey John Alvin Guce to veteran Jonathan Hernandez), who had defeated Indelible Ink in two stakes races earlier this year, would spell disaster for the colt’s chances. Word was out also that Queen Elena would be used as a “rabbit” to wear down the front-running Don Enrico, allowing Indelible Ink to rest for most of the race and come from behind.

The race was marred by an incident at the gate, when Shining Fame, in stall 4, was bumped outwards by Queen Elena (stall 3), who shifted out. This caused Shining Fame to stagger and knock into Hieroglyphics beside him in stall 5 who had also shifted in.


A screenshot of the race shows Shining Fame (yellow silks, stall 4) between Hieroglyphics and Queen Elena at the start

Don Enrico took the lead at the start, with Queen Elena matching him stride for stride rounding the 5/8 mile mark, too close for comfort, many say. Into the backstretch they galloped, Queen Elena wearing the colt down, until she faded close to the home turn, allowing well-rested stablemate Indelible Ink, who ran off the pace six lengths back, to rev up and grab second place.

Shining Fame ran an incredible race. Despite being bumped at the start, the plucky colt positioned himself just behind Indelible Ink, and moved up when she did, grabbing third at the far turn.

At the home bend, a still-fresh Indelible Ink pulled away from Don Enrico. Shining Fame passed in between them down the stretch to press the fast-stepping filly, but lost by a mere head in a photo-finish decision.

Questions arise: was jockey Hernandez’s ride the best for Don Enrico, given the circumstances? Knowing Queen Elena was out to get him, why didn’t he just let the speedster take the lead? Former rider Guce executed this strategy quite successfully in a previous race. Railbirds whisper that Don Enrico’s connections may get Guce’s services back for the second leg of the Triple Crown in June.

Could Shining Fame have won? It’s quite possible, if he had not had a bad start.

Why didn’t MJC Board of Stewards suspend anyone for the bumping incident? Shining Fame’s owner, Tony Tan, angrily declares the MJC-BOS remiss in their duties. The Steward Report states that “the BOS found no infraction committed” as the riders involved – including Shining Fame’s, Jesse Guce – admitted that their horses shifted ground at the jumpout.


Tony Tan; Shining Fame, Jesse B. Guce up, at the parade of the 1st leg Triple Crown

Will Indelible Ink win the second leg? Perhaps; she’s in very good condition now. But Don Enrico will come back with a vengeance, and Shining Fame’s terrific showing proves he’s one to look out for. Hopeful Stakes longshot winner Love Story may enter the ring as well.

Watch the race on Youtube, and see for yourself why racing is a sport like no other. ***

Photos by Roel Taripe; screenshot from at

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THW: 1st Leg Triple Crown: Match Race?


by Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 14 May 2008, Wednesday

1st Leg Triple Crown: Match Race?

“It’s a match race between Don Enrico and Indelible Ink!”

That’s what most analysts are saying about the first leg of this year’s Triple Crown Championship series, which kicks off on Sunday, May 18, at San Lazaro Leisure Park.

Sponsored by the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom), each leg has a total of P3 million in prizes , with P1.8 million going to the winner, and the rest allotted to the second to fourth placers.

Coming close on the heels of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness stakes – legs one and two of the US counterpart – the local Triple Crown will see another seismic battle between Don Enrico and Indelible Ink, currently the top 3YO in the land.

Not to discount the other entries in this race, but these two are highly-regarded for very compelling reasons. First, Indelible Ink. The island-born filly by Best of Luck out of Seaquin was valedictorian of their juvenile batch and dominated most of the Philracom 2YO stakes races in 2007, also winning the Philtobo Juvenile Fillies stakes.

Don Enrico (Wind Blown-Kayumanggi), on the other hand, acquitted himself reasonably well last year. Although fewer runs earned him less in gross prizes than Indelible Ink, he still garnered his share of championships, notably the MARHO Breeders’ Cup and the Philtobo Juvenile Colts stakes.

This year so far has seen him mature considerably in skills and attitude, besting archrival Indelible Ink in two stakes races – Philracom’s Chairman’s Cup and the Aquamarine I stakes.

Indelible Ink’s supporters say that the first loss to Don Enrico was a fluke, when the latter won the Chairman’s Cup by a long nose. Her second defeat, however, was decisive, coming in a mere third in the Aquamarine I which Don Enrico won by three lengths, Imperial Ballet coming in second.

In this mile-long Triple Crown first leg, fans are concerned with the change of Don Enrico’s rider, from regular John Alvin Guce, to hotshot veteran Jonathan B. Hernandez. The young and talented Guce is deemed to know Don Enrico’s quirks and foibles better, having ridden the gutsy colt in all his sorties until late. Others claim that Hernandez will do a better job (“umentado sa hinete“), being a Class A jockey with dozens of stakes races under his belt.

Don Enrico has other foes to face in this race. Queen Elena, a stablemate of Indelible Ink, is expected to act as a “rabbit” to tire Don Enrico out during the journey, allowing a well-conditioned Indelible Ink to pace herself and come from behind. Hieroglyphics’ chances must not be discounted. Shining Fame came in fourth in the Aquamarine I and stands a good chance at scoring an upset, as does Unopposed.


Don Enrico, Indelible Ink, Shining Fame, and Unopposed at the parade of the Philracom Chairman’s Cup (24 Feb 2008, SLLP)

While this event is being touted as a match race – and it could well be – neither of the two main contenders can be said to have a sure chance. But if pressed to the mat, I’m going to say, “Don Enrico” for this one. With all the factors seemingly against him, this colt has the heart of a champion and the will to win. ***

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THW: Aussie Horse Sale Beckons


By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  7 May 2008, Wednesday

 Aussie Horse Sale Beckons

WITH THE local racehorse population at a perennial low due in part to the high cost and meager supply of locally-born thoroughbreds, racehorse owners and new players constantly look to importation as an affordable and quick solution to the problem of acquiring horses for the game.

While American pedigrees are considered covetable, the huge expenses involved not only in the purchase but also in the transport of horses from the United States prohibit heavy sourcing from that country.

Since the ‘70s, local buyers have been procuring quality bloodstock from Australia. There are so many positive factors for this – affordable cost, low freight, and good pedigrees. A runner can be bought for as low as Aus$5,000, with air freight rates at about US$1,500. (There is also an import tax of P50,000 per horse.)

Among the most well-attended auctions are that of the Magic Millions (, which will be having their annual National Sale from May 27 to June 13. Over 2,500 horses are in the catalogue – weanlings, broodmares, and yearlings.


Aerial view of the Magic Millions Gold Coast facility and environs.

Among the impeccable lineages on the block are of notable sires Choisir, Dehere,  Encosta de Lago, Exceed and Excel, Fasliyev, Flying Spur, Hussonet, King Cugat, Rock of Gibraltar, Royal Academy, Street Cry, Tale of the Cat, Zabeel, and many others.

Magic Millions managing director David Chester, in town to promote the sale, said at a networking function last Monday that the usual discounts and benefits extended to eligible Filipino buyers will be once more available – complimentary accommodations at the Gold Coast, Queensland, venue; ringside dining at the sale; all sale and airport transfers; and passes to a Magic Millions-hosted dinner, among others.

“We are sure,” said Mr. Chester, “that all those interested will find horses within their price range at this auction. We recommend the Broodmare Sale on June 5 to 6 and the Yearling Sale on June 15 to 16 as the most attractive for Philippine clients.”

He added that Magic Millions will sponsor a million-peso race in late September or early October to show support for Philippine racing.


David Chester and Senior Australian Trade Commissioner Ross Bray; horseowners Raymund Puyat, Ramon Balatbat, David Lee, and Manny Santos at the Magic Millions networking function, 5 May 2008, Makati

Magic Millions is highly respected as a source for champions. Sebring, the winner of this year’s Golden Slipper stakes in Australia, the world’s richest juvenile race, is a Magic Millions graduate. Purchased for $130,000, he has earned over $2.1 million in prize money. Undefeated after four runs, this juvenile’s successes have boosted his value to an estimated $15 million.

According to Philippine Racing Commission records, 108 thoroughbred horses were imported from Australia last year, 21 from the United States, and three from New Zealand. In contrast, a total of 582 thoroughbreds were born on local ranches in 2007.

Attrition and accidents ensure that not all of those horses foaled will make it to the racetrack, much less embark upon a career. With a working racehorse population hovering at 900 to 1,200 at any given time and with races held year-round, six days a week, horses are urgently needed to fill the racecards, draw spectators, and sustain the industry.

As the breeding industry slowly gets into gear, importation is the fastest and most cost-effective way for new players to enter the game and for present owners to augment their stables. Racing officials would do well to support importation while at the same time boosting local breeding efforts. Incentives such as stakes races for imports with generous prize money would encourage more people to enter the sport, ensuring the continuous growth of local horseracing. ***

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THW: 2008 Triple Crown, Not a Sure Bet


By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  30 April 2008, Wednesday

 2008 Triple Crown: Not a Sure Bet

 AS THE heat of summer intensifies, so does the preparation for this year’s Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom) Triple Crown championships series. Patterned after the prestigious campaign in the United States, the local version is also for home-bred three-year-olds and is acknowledged as the breeding ground for emerging track champions. The first leg is set for May 18 at San Lazaro Leisure Park (SLLP), while the other two legs, in June and July at Santa Ana Park.

Considered this season’s top contenders are colt Don Enrico and filly Indelible Ink, arch-rivals since their juvenile days. Owned by Herminio Esguerra, Indelible Ink was born on his Herma Farm and Stud to Seaquin, an imported mare who was in foal to stallion Best of Luck. Last year, Indelible Ink dominated the two-year-old stakes races, establishing a race record of eleven wins and one third place finish out of twelve starts, with total earnings of P5.65 million.

Don Enrico, on the other hand, is a true Filipino thoroughbred, likewise a product of Herma Farm, and sold to Lee Uy Wi and former congressman Gerry Espina.  A son of accomplished champion Wind Blown out of racemare Kayumanggi, Don Enrico earned P2.57 million by winning six and placing second twice in eight runs.


Don Enrico (with John Alvin A. Guce up) and Indelible Ink (Jeffril T. Zarate up) at the parade for the Philracom Aquamarine 1 Stakes. (SLLP, 9 Mar 2008 )

This year, however, belongs to Don Enrico. The bay colt’s skills have matured and it shows in the victories he has racked up so far: The Philippine Racing Commission-sponsored Chairman’s Cup, Aquamarine I Stakes, and Diamond I Stakes. Don Enrico beat Indelible Ink in the two former races, which perhaps was the reason for the chestnut filly’s non-participation in the Diamond I.

Indelible Ink’s recent tuneup in a class-division race two weeks ago at San Lazaro Leisure Park did not impress. Almost unerasable last year, she has been faltering this season. Can she stage a comeback in the first leg of the Triple Crown?

Philracom has put up a reward of P500,000 and a commemorative trophy for the owner of the horse that can sweep the Triple Crown this year. The last one to do so was Silver Story in 2001. Last year, the talented Ibarra, owned by Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos, almost made it, winning the first two two legs before being struck down by injury before the third leg.


“The Great Gray”, Silver Story, traversing a muddy track.


Ibarra, at the parade for the 2007 Triple Crown 2nd leg; at his stable

Don Enrico and Indelible Ink will not be the only participants of the Triple Crown. There are other 3YO runners who stand a good chance as well. The nomination of entries was held yesterday; the full slate won’t be revealed till Friday, and the final lineup the week after upon declaration of entries on May 6.

Until then, speculation is rife among racing fans, who pore over past racing programs or Google videos of the races to analyze who has the best chance at victory.

But as track pundits have said, time and again – “Apat ang paa nilang lahat. Ang mananalo diyan, ay kung sino ang ituro ng Itaas.”  (“They all have four legs. The winner will be whichever Heaven chooses.”)

In this batch of 3YO likely dominated by two runners, anything can still happen, and, as usual every year, each leg of the Triple Crown is a revelation, and there is no such thing as a “sure bet”.

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THW: (Maiden Column in MST) Philippine Horseracing, Alive and Running

My sincerest thanks Manila Standard-Today for giving my English column, “The Hoarse Whisperer”, a home in their Sports Page. My salaams to Mr. Victor Agustin (Chairman of the Editorial Board), Mr. Riera “Rey” Mallari (Sports Editor), and my friend Ms. Adelle Chua (Opinion Editor), for giving me this opportunity to write for one of the most respected broadsheets in the country. This column will appear every Wednesday.

To my readers, I appreciate your continued support of my writing and this blog. Please patronize the publications I write for – and help keep quality and responsible racing journalism alive. Thank you very much for your trust.


My maiden column in MST. Headturner doesn’t seem to mind being the backdrop for this shot.


By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  23 April 2008, Wednesday

 Philippine Horseracing is Alive and Running

HELLO, Sports Fan. New to the game? Through this column, I’ll be here to take you to the races.

Horseracing  is like no other sport. It is a partnership of man and beast. Man must control beast, but at the same time they must work together, and be as one on the track as they seek victory.

The terms and rules, the horses and jockeys, the people and places, these may be unfamiliar to you. Don’t worry, you’ll catch on. Come, take my hand. We’ll go up into the stands, right in front of the finish line, and watch the horses run.       


A backgrounder: Racing in this country has been around since the mid-1800s, when casual “fun-runs” were held nearly every year by members of elite society along main roads. Schools and businesses were closed so everyone could watch. In a bid to formalize the conduct of races, the first racing club in Southeast Asia – the Manila Jockey Club (MJC) – was established in 1867 by prominent Spanish and Filipino families of the day. In the 1930s, American and Filipino investors set up the Philippine Racing Club (PRC).

Both racing clubs are still around today. That tells you something about the longevity and sustained popularity of this admittedly low-key sport. With a minimum of publicity and marketing hype, it has grown into a multi-billion peso business that generates jobs, economic growth, and revenue for investors and the government. However, no third racing club has survived for any appreciable length of time. That also tells you how insurmountable are the barriers to entry in this small industry.

In 2003, MJC moved from the historic San Lazaro Hippodrome in Manila to the sprawling San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite. PRC is packing up to transfer from Santa Ana Park in Makati City to their new facility at Saddle and Clubs in Trece Martires, Cavite, by the third quarter of this year.  These wider areas are needed to accomodate the stables of the growing number of new players coming into the sport, who are buying horses locally and abroad (Australia, New Zealand, and the United States are the preferred sources) on a scale that old-timers say are unprecedented.

Thanks to our balmy, tropical weather, races are held year-round, every week. The bulk of the races on the racing calendar are ordinary or regular races; stakes races are scheduled on Sundays. The greatest number of stakes races are sponsored by the government agency tasked to regulate and oversee the sport – the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom). It is this agency that closely controls all aspects of the sport – handicapping, licensing, monitoring – except for betting, which is under the purview of the Games and Amusements Board.


Look, the race is ready to run. The horses? They’re thoroughbreds, a special type bred and trained to do one thing well – to run very fast. See how they snort, shake their heads, and paw the dirt with their hooves. The jockeys, clad in colorful silks, tighten the reins and pull goggles over their eyes. One by one, the horses enter the starting gate. The bell rings… the gates fly back…and they’re off! ***

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