THE HOARSE WHISPERER
By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 3 September 2008, Wednesday
Improving With Age
Some things improve with age - fruitcake, fine wines, friends. And as we go through life, we discover other things that get better as they mature – among them, racehorses.
In racing, there are runners termed “late maturing”, who, unlike the flashier type that show off talent in their juvenile years, tend to take longer to develop their style and diskarte. Others never really lose their flash – they’re just not quite consistent in displaying it.
How do we categorize La Tienne? An Australian import, she was a runner in her native land and in fact had to be retrained to run counter-clockwise when she arrived in the Philippines. After that, she won several stakes races, usually competing against other imports, but in the last year or two seemed to have lost her luster.
La Tienne proved her naysayers wrong last August by winning the two Philippine Racing Commission-sponsored stakes races for the month – the Peridot I and the Peridot II stakes – back-to-back in an unprecedented comeback feat all the more impressive for a 7YO racemare such as herself. While others of her ilk would have been consigned to breeding duties at a ranch, her owner, Batangas Mayor Eddie Dimacuha of Tierra Sagrada de Maria Farms, and trainer Raymundo Henson decided to rehabilitate La Tienne.
With Henson giving her steady workouts that developed her muscles and stamina without draining her strength, La Tienne was honed to a keen edge at the running of the 1750-meter Peridot I last August 24 at San Lazaro Leisure Park. Sent off as third favorite, and racing in last for most of the race, she put on an extraordinary burst of speed at the far turn to run six-wide past the frontrunners in the stretch, winning by two-and-a-half lengths with a time of 1:50.8. She was the oldest entry in the field.
Sparks flew as racing fans hotly debated the merits of her win. “Chamba lang yun,” said many. “She can’t pull it off again.” So in the mile August 31 Peridot II at Santa Ana Park, it was the fairly consistent performer Aly Dancer, a 4YO male, winner of January’s Philracom Garnet I Stakes, who was tipped as first choice. La Tienne ranked as far second pick. Both carried the heaviest handicap weight of 56kgs. Others in the race were Art and Soul, Dolbella, Fierce Fighter, and Sweet Xarah.
As in the Peridot I, Art and Soul took the lead by as much as eight until the backstretch. Lest the speedster win wire-to-wire (makabuo ng aire), Aly Dancer gave chase, and passed the fading Art and Soul in the stretch. But by then La Tienne was in high gear in her usual fashion, coming from the back of the pack, racing wide on the outside and passing Aly Dancer to win by two. She was the oldest entry in the field.
La Tienne’s jockey, Ernesto G. Reyes, lately upgraded to Class A status, deserves much of the credit for the racemare’s performance. Knowing his mount is a stayer, he opted to conserve her energy and let the others fight it out for the first three quarters of 24-24-24, letting her rip 26′ in the final quarter to clock a winning time of 1:39.6, just a second and a half off the 1:38 record held by another import, Copper Dew.
That’s not “chamba lang“.
By Belong to Me out of Tierani, La Tienne has generous doses of Northern Dancer blood on her sire side (a progeny of Danzig), and carries the Star Kingdom line on her dam side.
Northern Dancer (Nearctic-Natalma, by Native Dancer) was Canadian-bred and is hailed as “the most successful sire of the 20th century”. An Eclipse Award winner as a 3YO in 1964, he sired 146 stakes winners and his sons in turn sired other champions, making him one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history.
Star Kingdom (Stardust-Impromptu, by Concerto), foaled in Ireland in 1946, was brought to Australia in 1951 to stand at Barramul Stud. He went on to become a leading stallion there, siring the first five winners of the Golden Slipper Stakes.
Of his alaga‘s performances, trainer Ray Henson says, “We are very happy that we were able to bring back her old winning form despite her age.” La Tienne has it all – talent, genes, and style. With her latest triumphs, she has nothing more to prove. Whatever happens next, she has shown that as long as you’re willing to work for it, it’s never too late to make a comeback and win. ***