for HORSEMAN’S DIGEST 2nd issue (Jan 2007)
AMAZING HORSE Series
KITANA: IRON HORSE
She’s been called an “iron horse”, one whose endurance, fortitude, and stamina have become legendary. Always reliable as a track performer, Kitana, the “grey galloper”, has made a name for herself as one of the most remarkable animals in local racing.
Foaled in the Philippines in January 1999, her lineage is impeccable – by Barrantes [Mr. Prospector (USA) out of Altivante (ARG)] out of Go Annie [Kreisler (IRE) out of Ararat Note (NZ)]. At first she was owned by Mario K. Tan, but was later acquired by the man who has been her trainer since Day One – Ricardo “Jun” Paman Jr.
To know Kitana is to know Jun Paman, and vice versa. Paman has been in racing since 1980 as a horseowner, In 1987, he began training his own horses, and applied his own philosophy of conditioning which can be described as “survival of the fittest” or “tough love”. And Kitana is, indeed, one of the toughest.
“Sa pananaw ko,” says Paman, “daily training is important. I start training a horse at around one year and five months or so, depending on the horse, so that it can run as a two-year-old. Based on my research and experience, yung tumatakbo as a juvenile, they are the ones who go on to do well.”
Just like Kitana. Paman started racing her in 2001 (as part of Mario K. Tan’s stable). After a year, she developed tendon problems and was brought to Paman’s Magdalena Farm in Batangas and bred to his stallions. But she didn’t “catch”. “Parang tomboy siya nun, eh,” reminisces Paman. “So she continued her racing career.”
Kitana was stabled in Santa Ana Park and thrived there, running practically week after week in ordinary races, winning a good number of her starts and placing in others. Never a high-profile stakes contender, she was nonetheless a solid and dependable worker who could be counted on to bring home the bacon.
Paman pulls out his meticulously-kept and detailed records on Kitana. He points to her win-loss record – 13 wins, 16 seconds, 15 thirds, and “plenty of fourths” – to show her earnings of over P2.9 million gross, a respectable figure for a five-year racing career.
Paman describes her as good-natured and docile. “Mahilig siya sa tao. Di siya sipa ng sipa, di nangangagat, wala siyang bisyo.” He adds, “hindi siya maarte. Kung ano lang na pagkain na pangarera ang sa kanya tulad ng Derby Mix and oats.” Paman also gave her regular doses of corn oil to provide her diet with fat. Twenty cc daily, he swears, minimizes colic and gives a healthy sheen to the coat.
In 2005, her pesky tendon problem resurfaced so in April of that year, she was bred again, this time to Paman’s Zingaro (by Sunday Silence). Still it looked like the experiment was a failure. “Her tummy didn’t grow,” says Paman, “So in October we brought her back to the track.”
From October to December of 2005, she resumed her labors at the racing circuit, bringing home a paycheck of over P255,000 for that period. In December Mario K. Tan sold her to Jun Paman for P120,000, and on she went, running week after week, earning P215,000 more until March 2006.
Then, inexplicably, she went “off”. This puzzled Paman. “Hindi naman maindahin si Kitana. Patuloy ang ensayo niya, pero may kakaiba na sa kanya.” Paman points to the record of her daily workouts. A question mark is the comment for March 16. “Nag-trot pa siya noon,” he says, but adds that he was very worried.
He delved into his books on equine health, but couldn’t put a finger on what was wrong with Kitana. The mystery was solved at 6:00 that evening.
“The groom’s wife passed by Kitana’s stall and ran out screaming,” Paman recalls. “Sabi niya, lumalabas daw ang bituka ni Kitana. When we checked, it wasn’t her guts coming out. It was a foal!”
His iron horse, the industrious worker, was pregnant all the while and none of her handlers suspected it! Paman shakes his head at the wonder of it. “Hindi lumaki ang tiyan niya. Naitago niya ang kanyang pagbubuntis. Walang pagbabago halos sa pananakbo niya except nung last few weeks nga na may question mark na yung comments ko sa ensayo niya.”
The new mother and her filly, a grey like her dam, were taken to Paman’s farm after several hours. After a month of recuperation, Kitana was bred to Zingaro again. This time she caught readily, and no one could mistake the signs of pregnancy.
“But she didn’t do well,” muses Paman. “It seemed like she was missing something. So I had her sent back to my stables at Santa Ana Park. Doon nag-recover siya nang husto, at bumalik yung katawan niya. Tapos pinabalik ko na siya sa farm, this time for good.”
Pregnant but still racing and earning, with nary a whinny of complaint, Kitana is a proof of the success of Paman’s “tough love” conditioning philosophy and a tribute to his breeding and training skills.
Can she pass on her endurance to her offspring? Paman shrugs. “Hindi ko alam. Sana. Pero malakas ngayon ang anak niya. I hope to run her in 2008.”
Paman asserts that Kitana is one of his most unforgettable horses. “Madalas manalo siya ng longshot. Magaling lumaban. So far, lalo sa mga mare na dumaan sa akin, I’m proud of her. Ang pinakagusto ko kay Kitana? Yung fighting heart niya.”
He smiles. “Iron horse ko siya.” ***