THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 29 April 2009, Wednesday
Triple Crown Preview
What thoroughbred racing fans saw last Sunday at the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite was a look into the future – the likely outcome of this year’s Triple Crown series. And it’s a sure bet that it’s anybody’s race.
Two 1,500-meter Philippine Racing Commission-sponsored stakes races gave a taste of what the coming tripartite series for elite 3YO local-breds might look like.
Philracom Diamond II and Diamond III Stakes trophies.
In the Diamond III stakes for fillies, it was Rita Pilapil’s Heaven Sent (Heza Gone West – Kiss and Run), steered by John Alvin Guce and bred by Jose Mari Franco, who won over a slate of classy contenders. These included April Rose, coupled entries Blue Ocean and Eternal Flame, Boudica, La Huerta, Primera Klasse, and State Witness. It was truly an even-steven fight.
It was the Diamond II stakes for colts that afforded a revelation.
Sent off as outstanding favorite – to no one’s surprise – was juvenile champion Go Army. Despite having suffered two defeats under the guidance of recently-suspended jockey Jonathan Hernandez, which marred Go Army’s hitherto undefeated status, the son of Mr. Sutter out of broodmare J’Approve was expected to redeem himself in this race.
But nothing is for certain, and that’s what racing fans saw.
The far second choice in the sales was Batangas Baron, with Boni’s Gem an even farther third pick. The other entries were Action Sailor, Creation, Dancing Storm, Go Army’s stablemate Go Navy, Lively Dude, and Oko Boy.
Batangas Baron with Jesse Guce being led to the track.
As it happened, drama delayed the action. Batangas Baron broke through and had to be led back to the aparato. Dancing Storm would not settle in his stall and acted up, at one point even resting his hooves on Go Army for about a minute, who was in the stall beside him. All this caused a slight delay in the start of the race and sharpened the suspense, while Club and Philracom veterinarians inspected Dancing Storm, who was eventually scratched from the race.
Dancing Storm warming up.
At the jumpout, a slight lead was taken by Oko Boy, with Go Army running near the pace, Batangas Baron in third. At the 5/8, Boni’s Gem was pacing them in fourth at about four lengths off the leader. At the backstretch, Go Army, under Patricio Dilema, started moving up to take the lead, running head to head against the fleet Oko Boy. Batangas Baron also shifted gear and kept pace.
But what made fans stand up and cheer was the sight of Boni’s Gem (Strong Material – Heir Apparent) passing all three at the far turn like they were standing still. Young journeyman Christopher Tamano proved that he had the skills to beat the veterans as he rode his mount out to wire, using his stick only down the homestretch to ensure a three-length victory.
Tamano and Boni’s Gem at the parade.
Go Army checked in second, Batangas Baron third, and Go Navy fourth. Quarters for the race were 18-24′-24′-27′, for a total time of 1:34.8.
A source said that Go Army’s loss this time around could be attributed to the trauma he suffered in the gate due to Dancing Storm’s acting up and accidentally hitting him in the back, causing light scratches.
Another railbird whispered that initially, Boni’s Gem’s owner, Bonifacio Montilla, was looking to run the colt only in ordinary races, until star jockey Antonio Alcasid Jr., who had ridden Boni’s Gem, told the owner, “Sir, you have a horse.” The rider encouraged Montilla to set his sights higher.
Now, the horse that would have been run only in daily-double races, or at the most in the Hopeful Stakes (auxiliary to the Triple Crown), has a shot at the top honors himself.
An interesting observation: three of the four placers in the Diamond II – Boni’s Gem, Go Army, and Go Navy – were all bred at businessman Herminio Esguerra’s Herma Farms and Stud, the showcase of thoroughbred breeding in “racehorse country” – Lipa, Batangas.
Patty Dilema and Go Army at the parade.
Railbirds say that the 2009 Philracom Triple Crown championships look to be the most interesting in several years. Open only to the best local 3YO, the first leg is set for May 17 at Santa Ana Park. It’s a race that fans should mark on their calendar. ***
Photo credit: All photos by Benjie Papa, courtesy of the Manila Jockey Club.