THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 1 April 2009, Wednesday
Longshot Wins Aquamarine II
Last Sunday at San Lazaro Leisure Park is a day that few racing fans will forget, when a longshot filly came from eleven lengths off the leader to win the 2009 Philippine Racing Commission Aquamarine II stakes.
The 1,500-meter race was open only to local-bred 3YO. The list of entries was impressive. 2YO champion Go Army was heralded the heavy favorite. The Herma Farms-bred colt was smarting from a defeat to upstart Dream Supreme in the Philracom Chairman’s Cup last February at Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite, and this was his chance for redemption.
Heaven Sent, winner of the 2008 MARHO Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Stakes, was in contention, as were stakes runners Eternal Flame (coupled entry of Go Army), Batangas Baron, and Windbeneathmywings, along with Boni’s Gem, Primera Klasse, Creation, and Virgin Liberty.
Swift filly Eternal Flame took the early lead, followed by Batangas Baron, and Go Army, while the rest of the field strung out behind them, with Virgin Liberty and Boni’s Gem struggling to keep up. At the 5/8 mark, Heaven Sent had grabbed the lead, Eternal Flame dropping to second, Batangas Baron in third, Go Army biding his time in fourth. Virgin Liberty was still second to last, eleven lengths away from Heaven Sent.
At the far turn, the visibly wearied Heaven Sent dropped back to third as Go Army ran point, Batangas Baron in second. When the runners hit the top of the stretch, a mad scramble ensued for positions behind the two colts. But even as the formidable Go Army and Batangas Baron thundered down the stretch, the slim and wiry Virgin Liberty nudged her way in between them, going fleeter, faster, to hit the wire first by a length-and-a-half ahead of Batangas Baron. Go Army checked in third, Creation fourth.
Screenshot of jockey Fernando M. Raquel Jr. saluting the stewards after the race. Try to find the race on YouTube – it’s worth the trouble looking for it because it was that spectacular.
Virgin Liberty (Minsk-My Emancipation) did 1:35 over 1,500 meters. The 3YO roan filly was bred and is owned by former Philracom commissioner Dante “Sonny” Arevalo, trained by Dave de la Cruz, and was ridden by Fernando M. Raquel Jr. Virgin Liberty was such a longshot in the race that there was only one winner of the Winner Take All event, to the tune of P4.9 million pesos, the biggest single payoff on record.
Post-race analysis centers on the question: What happened to Go Army? The valedictorian of the 2008 juvenile batch has not been performing as well as he used to. First, the defeat to unknown Dream Supreme last February. And now, losing to a lightly-regarded filly with no major stakes to her credit, and running a time way off the 1:32 that he posted in December 2008 at the same track, SLLP.
With the highly prestigious Triple Crown races for local 3YO in the offing – the first leg is on May 17 at Santa Ana Park – it is apparent that Go Army won’t be the obvious choice in this series, and that other competitors should be seriously considered by bettors who are handicapping the race this early.
Meanwhile, Philracom celebrated its 35th anniversary last March 25 with a Mass and a simple handaan at their offices. Among those who attended were Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Sixto S. Esquivias IV, a former horseowner; Philippine Racing Club executive vice-president and Ateneo Law School professor Atty. Ramon P. Ereñeta Jr., along with other members of PRC upper management; and other horseowners and guests. They were welcomed by Philracom chairman Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II, who reminisced about law school experiences with fellow lawyers Esquivias and Ereñeta. ***
Horseowner and philanthropist Ben Legarda, PRC racing manager Dan Valmonte, PRC EVP-COO Atty. Mon Ereñeta, Philracom racing consultant Dr. Romeo Buencamino, horseowner and former Philracom commissioner Felizardo “Jun” Sevilla, BIR commissioner Atty. Sixto Esquivias, Philracom chairman Atty. Joy Rojas, and PRC’s SVP-Finance Allan Abesamis and VP-Communications Jessica Villanueva at the Philracom office for the agency’s 35th anniversary celebration, 25 March 2009.