THW: Stop Talking Shocks Racing World

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The Hoarse Whisperer

by Jenny Ortuoste

For 25 April 2007, Wednesday

BusinessWorld

Stop Talking Shocks Racing World

Imagine the nastiest shocks that you have ever faced or heard about – events that leave you astonished, in breathless disbelief, or stunned beyond comprehending.

All those pale in comparison to the upheaval that shook the racing world last Sunday, when not just one but two track icons ate the dust of an imported upstart.

The Imported Stakes Series 2 run at Santa Ana Park last April 22 will go down in racing history annals as one of the most unforgettable. For starters, what was supposed to be a race for imported horses was made open to local runners.

Alright, it happens, you can change the eligibility of a race to include whomever you want. But it confused racing fans no end when the sponsor, the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom) didn’t bother to at least change the race’s name to reflect the new conditions. So the “Imported” race ran with local-bred Empire King and island-born Real Spicy pitted against importeds Fairy Queen, Put Your Foot Down, Serious Susie, and Stop Talking.

Once punters had stopped scratching their heads over the weirdness of the unchanged name (or the incongruity of the revised eligibility, to look at it another way), the majority of them figured it was a no-brainer duel between thoroughbred darlings Real Spicy and Empire King. Between them their champion ways have copped nearly all the major stakes wins and earned a combined purse of P6 million, making them richer and more famous than their newcomer opponents.

It was just a mile race, and most thought Real Spicy would dominate. He’s the stayer, right? The distance is tailor-made for him. He’s the one who’ll run just off the pace and come from behind and win. No matter that he lost last time out to Empire King; his jockey just didn’t whip him enough coming down the stretch, a mistake the new rider won’t make this time. So how come this scenario didn’t pan out as expected?

As it happened, Real Spicy (the favorite in the sales), broke last out of the gate and trailed the field. Empire King hounded him particularly coming down the stretch when both of them raced wide.

Meanwhile, mere fourth choice Stop Talking had a clean break, took the early lead, was able to rest while the rest of the field was duking it out among themselves behind him, and coasted on solo aire to an easy wire-to-wire win two lengths ahead of the panting Real Spicy and Empire King.

Real Spicy and Empire King have been arch-rivals since their early years. It was this adversarial relationship that colored the tactics used in this race and led to their downfall.

Empire King seems to have clung too stubbornly to Real Spicy’s flank, distracting the latter who tried to shake off his relentless pursuer. Both of them concentrated too much on the other and overlooked the pacesetter. It was too late for them when they realized that Stop Talking was too far for them to catch.

One revelation, though, is that pedigree does matter and it will surface somehow. Both Real Quiet and Stop Talking are the progenies of American champion Real Quiet – a fact that many racing fans had overlooked when making their choices.

Fans have still not stopped talking about the upset victory of Stop Talking and now have him on their radar for the future, while the crushing defeat of two champions just goes to show that horseracing is, and always will be, an unpredictable, unknowable, and utterly lovable sport. ***

Photo shows Santa Ana Park by night. (2004)

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