THE HOARSE WHISPERER
By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 10 September 2008, Wednesday
Local Horse Auction Successful
Local thoroughbred breeding enjoyed a boost last Monday with the staging of the Herma Farms and Stud Mixed Sale at Dagatan, Lipa City, Batangas.
The “Horseman’s Lounge” used to be a simple hut and was the first rest structure on the property. Behind it is the Foaling Barn. This part of the ranch is to the left as you come up the entrance driveway.
Paddock scene at Herma Farms
Over 80 attendees – horse buyers, trainers, and spectators – thronged the new Mr. Sutter Hall, a multi-purpose covered court dedicated to a recently-deceased Herma Farms stallion.
Mr. Sutter Hall, completed last month. Its primary purpose is as a breeding shed. Located immediately to the left about twenty meters from the entrance gate, mares from other farms would be unloaded from their trailers here and the stallions brought to them. This will minimize exposure and contact with the outside, preventing contamination.
Herma Farms is owned by businessman and sportsman Herminio S. Esguerra, who has held the distinction of being the top-ranked horseowner in racing for many years. Established as a natural offshoot of his racing operations, Esguerra developed the facility from a small ranch formerly owned by another horseowner into the spectacular showplace that it is today.
All visitors, including foreign guests, upon visiting the ranch for the first time, always comment on how beautiful, clean, and organized the place is. Lush landscaping, well-constructed stables, and wide, sweeping paddocks never fail to impress. As a Japanese horseracing journalist said in 2006, “It is like a park. So clean. Not even in Japan is there a place like this.”
Lush tropical landscaping delights the eye in the visitors’ areas.
Annual sales have been held at the ranch since 2005. This year, the sale’s catalogue listed seventeen yearlings and several broodmares. Among those put up for auction were a magnificent chestnut colt sired by Mr. Sutter out of Beautiful Mind by Perfect Halo; a bay filly by Philippine champion Strong Material out of Bulakeña by Bite the Bullet; and a bay colt by Account of Grace out of Tumataginting by El Ragaas.
Hip #1: Chestnut colt (Mr. Sutter-Beautiful Mind by Perfect Halo). This is a highly desirable colt; his damsire, Perfect Halo, was the sire of acclaimed Philippine champion Empire King (out of Carta Nueve), who has won the two legs of the 2004 Triple Crown, 2004 PCSO Presidential Gold Cup, 2007 PCSO First Gentleman’s Silver Cup, and many other stakes races.
Hip #3: Bay filly (Strong Material-Bulakeña by Bite the Bullet). Strong Material (Unreal Zeal-Pain in the Neck by Match the Hatch) is a Philippine champion, winner of all three legs of the 1995 Triple Crown, PCSO Presidential Gold Cup, and more. He still stands at stud at Herma Farms.
Hip #9: Chestnut filly (Enjoyment-Real Slew by Ali Royal). This filly’s dam, Real Slew, was a stakes winner in 2004.
The yearlings, who have been broken in in the ranch’s own bullring, are ready to take down to the racetracks for training, to begin their racing careers as juveniles in the 2009 season. Well-nourished and in the best of health, as all Herma produce are guaranteed to be before being put up for sale, the horses were frisky, starting at the sound of applause that filled the hall upon their display, yet well-trained and used to being around people.
The farm’s in-house veterinarian, Dr. Mercy Porsuelo, makes sure that only the best feeds, supplements, and care are given to the animals, from the breeding process between stallion and mare to pregnancy, foaling, weaning, breaking-in, all the way until they leave the farm to go to other ranches or begin their racing career at the Santa Ana Park and San Lazaro Leisure Park racetracks.
Many industry people often comment what fine physical specimens Herma-breds are, so it is no surprise that they are in demand, especially since Herma Farms graduates have been blazing their names in the racing history books.
Horse and man wait their turn to enter the show ring. This is Hip #17: bay colt (Account of Grace-Wind Storm by El Ragaas). Note the Herma Stud sun-and-waves brand on the shoulder. “30″ and “7″ mean that this was the 30th foal born on the ranch in 2007.
Among the ranch’s most accomplished graduates are Don Exequiel (2006 3YO champion, 1st leg Triple Crown winner, other stakes), Afternoon Delight, Capretiosa, Tabako, and Macho Man (stakes winners), Don Enrico (2008 2nd leg Triple Crown winner, other stakes), Indelible Ink (2007 2YO champion, 2008 multiple stakes winner), and juveniles French Vanilla and Go Army who are winning their share of major races as well.
Collect ‘em all! Esguerra Racing’s trophies…
…and more trophies.
Much of the success of the farm is due to the vision of its owner, whose watchword in business and in breeding is “excellence”. Esguerra says, “What Herma is striving to do is raise the level of our thoroughbreds because I believe Filipinos can also produce top-quality horses that are at par with the world’s horses.”
Ranch hands share a joke as they wait with the next “hip”.
He added that the auction venue, Mr. Sutter Hall, was dedicated to the memory one of his prize stallions dubbed “the sire of champions” that had to be put down last month due to “wobbly hips” and other health concerns.
Esguerra offered the space to the industry for its events, adding, “I also invite the other breeders to have their horse auctions here. Herma Farms has 80 stables for visiting horses, and we can have one big sale.”
Philippine Racing Commission chairman lawyer Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II, who observed the sale along with commissioners veterinarian Reynaldo Fernando and lawyer Vergel Cruz, commented, “This auction is a boost for the local breeding industry. Not only does it produce thoroughbreds for racing, but also provides jobs and economic benefits for the local community and assists in agricultural development. Philracom supports endeavors like this as part of its overall mandate to promote and grow the industry.” ***