THW: Stakes-travaganza!


By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  2 July 2008, Wednesday 

Stakes-travaganza! (published with the head “Racing extravaganza”)

Racing fans are looking forward to a weekend packed with four Philippine Racing Commission-sponsored stakes races at Santa Ana Park, with the running of the Pearl II on Friday, the 2YO Stakes on Saturday, and the Triple Crown second leg and Hopeful Stakes on Sunday.

With the postponement of the Pearl II, TC, and Hopeful from June 22 because of Typhoon Frank’s fury, the fields of these races must be raring to go, and sports fans have been brought to a keener edge of suspense with the enforced wait.

In the Pearl II: it’s a mixed bag of sprinters and stayers, open as to age, competing over a mile. Filly Slingshot Effect tuned up last Sunday – her only run in June – and won, making this her second victory since February.

Pentagon, a tough 4YO horse, last won May 20, and last placed in April. Spanish Drums has a better record with three wins, a second place, and third in five runs over shorter distances since March. Blue Sheikh has placed consistently in April, while Mes Monique comes off two consecutive victories. Yoshiwara had two wins in May, and a 1:36 for 1500 meters, the best time posted recently by anyone  the field for that distance. None of them have competed in the 1600 recently.

But it’s veteran racemare Showtime Lady, with four wins and one third out of the last five starts, who attracts. However, as a sprinter she seems better over shorter distances. Can she go the distance?

In the 900-meter 2YO Stakes: anything can happen in juvenile races. Go Army won the last such contest, but give Key Boy a chance here. So Real and Ask Leikey can pull off upsets. Newbies French Vanilla and Kudos will be strutting their stuff; but punters had better stick to the more experienced runners.

The 1800-meter Hopeful will see the clash of a baker’s dozen of 3YO. Sauvignon comes off two successive wins, as does Will of Destiny. Sprinter Capretiosa beat Tabako last June 4. Speed Almighty has seen better days, but could make a comeback; sprinter Luna Rossa could place; Bohemian Dave, Prime Zone, Arithmetic, Security Queen, and Victorian Stones will try their best.

For many, it will be their first time to run 1800 meters. A mile is the longest most of them have gone, and it’s stayer Hieroglyphics who has the best time for that distance. At 1:39, that’s one entire second better than the next best.  Anonymous’ chances are also good given she has four wins and a third out of five starts, and is flexible (can sprint or stay).      

Triple Crown second leg: again, a toss-up between Indelible Ink, TC first leg victress, and dogged archrival Don Enrico, who seeks to avenge the past humiliation. What could improve Don Enrico’s chances this time around is a return to his regular rider, John Alvin Guce.

A strategic use of racing rabbits is also in evidence in this field. A rabbit, according to NY Times writer Joseph Durso, “is the speedball who breaks out of the gate and runs like the wind with one mission in life: to set up the race for a stablemate who does his best running late in the race. The rabbit does this by firing a burst of early pace that forces the other speed horses in the race to run faster and longer than they’d like, thereby setting the stage for his pal to execute his customary finishing kick with drama and effect and with dwindling opposition.”

Indelible Ink has Queen Elena, who wore down Don Enrico in the first leg and paved the way for his ignominious defeat. Team Don Enrico retaliates by fielding friendly Super Crezee this time out. Rabbit-less Champion of Show, Shining Fame, and Love Story have to run their own races, using the rabbits to their own advantage if possible.

What if one of the rabbits should win the Triple Crown instead of the “designated winner”? We can only hope for the tables to turn, because every good horse deserves a chance to win – or lose – on its own merits. ***

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