The Hoarse Whisperer
by Jenny Ortuoste
for 18 May 2007, Friday, BusinessWorld
Real Spicy, Empire King rematch on May 20
Racing overload! That’s what May 20 will be, a day of in-your-face thoroughbred action with the running of three major stakes races at Santa Ana Park (SAP) in Makati. From the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom) comes the Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr. Cup (first leg Triple Crown championship series) and the Hopeful Stakes, while the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) presents the First Gentleman’s Silver Cup.
The mile-long (1600-meter) 1st leg Triple Crown showcases the best local-bred 3-year-olds in the land. Expected to do well are Afternoon Delight, who won last April 15’s Colts Stakes at San Lazaro Leisure Park (SLLP), and Ibarra, who last SAP raceweek streaked past the rest of the field in a class-division race as if they were standing still.
Treasured Ack, who won the Filly Stakes at SAP last month, will give good competition, as will juvenile contender Es Twenty Six who performed brilliantly in a tuneup race last week at SLLP.
The Hopeful Stakes will see runners of the same caliber as the Triple Crown entrants but whose teams opted not to run them in the main event for one reason or another.
More interesting, though, is the PCSO Silver Cup, held annually in honor of the current president’s spouse, in this case First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo. A grueling 2050-meter battle, it pits archrivals Real Spicy and Empire King against each other in their third face-off this year.
The case for Real Spicy: he was the 2006 Horse of the Year and Silver Cup defending champion, having won it last year by 15 lengths with the same rider who’ll guide him this year, Louie Balboa.
Real Spicy holds the record for the 2050 meters – 2:09, set twice in December 2006 – the 1750-meters (1:48), and 1800-meters (1:52), both notched also in 2006. He has proven himself over long distances and is adept at both racetracks.
The case for Empire King: also a former Horse of the Year titlist, he has beaten Real Spicy before, most recently in March at SLLP at the Commissioner’s Cup, snapping Real Spicy’s 14-win streak.
Of all the major stakes races, Empire King has not won the Silver Cup yet and his team will be strategizing to add it to his formidable collection of trophies.
Both are multi-awarded champions, iconic track darlings, and both lost shamefully to Stop Talking last April at the Philracom Imported Stakes first leg. Empire King, concentrating too much on his archrival, was deemed by the Philracom to have shifted out and carried Real Spicy seven-wide, making the latter lose valuable ground in the stretch.
Empire King’s rider, Jeffrey Ladiana, suspended three racing weeks for that “slight interference”, was given permission to ride him again this time since he was already the declared jockey before the Philracom ruling was handed down.
Lessons having been learned, will Real Spicy finally claim vengeance against Empire King? Or will the latter show superiority in the stretch? Or could the other runners – stakes contenders Don Paolo, Don Exequiel, Native Land, and lone filly Jet Sutter – manage to do a “Stop Talking” and score an upset? ***
Photo: Another view of the Real Spicy-Empire King battle in the March 18 Philracom Commissioners’ Cup at SLLP. RS lost to EK by a heartbreaking half-length.