The Hoarse Whisperer
by Jenny Ortuoste
for 23 May 2007, Wednesday, BusinessWorld
Suggested Heading: Ibarra, the next “superhorse”?
Highly-regarded Ibarra showed his patented supersonic streak at the straight to win the 1st leg of the mile-long Philracom (Philippine Racing Commission) Triple Crown championship series, held May 20 at Santa Ana Park.Ibarra, who came off a fantastic finish in a class-division race two weeks ago at the same track, came from behind at the half-mile and took the lead at the far turn. He then lengthened his lead to six and never looked back from there, reaching the wire with plenty to spare under the reinsmanship of newcomer Kelvin Abobo.Ibarra’s owner, Benhur Abalos (who won in last May 14′s elections as Mandaluyong city mayor) was also the proud breeder of this magnificent colt. His comments? “Ang sarap pala ng feeling!”
Anyone would feel the same to own what is now being touted as the country’s next “superhorse”, who for this race netted his owner a cool P1.8 million purse; Abalos also took home a P150,000 prize for being the breeder of this magnificent colt. Can you say “Wind Blown”?
May 20 was a day of champions. It also saw the running of the 2007 PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) First Gentleman’s Silver Cup, which pitted arch-rivals Real Spicy and Empire King in their third face-off this year.
Empire King ruled the 2,050-meter ordeal, totally dominating the field of six by coming from behind with plenty to spare, with a time of 2:11 (two seconds off the record set by Real Spicy twice last December at the same track).
Sent off as the favorite, with rival Real Spicy a close second choice, Empire King enjoyed a weight advantage over Real Spicy, carrying 56.5 kg compared to the other’s 59 kg burden. Despite Real Spicy’s being a year younger (at five) and owning the national record for this distance, these proved to be no pluses for The Spice Horse as the King convincingly showed superior form and condition.
Jockey Jeffrey Ladiana again showed that he is the one who can read Empire King’s mind, brandishing his whip in victory meters before reaching the wire (for which he was fined P1,000 by the Philippine Racing Club Board of Stewards for “grandstanding before crossing the finish line”).
Empire King’s owner, David Lee, was ecstatic at having finally copped the only major stakes trophy that has eluded him all these years, as well as the P1.1 million first prize check. He says we’ll be seeing Empire King at the PCSO Presidential Gold Cup at San Lazaro Leisure Park in December. However, according to PCSO PR rep Carlo Mendez, the tables will be turned then as Empire King will be handicapped with 59 kg while Real Spicy will carry 56.5 kg.
In the Philracom Hopeful Stakes also that day, longshot My Neneng (ridden by DH Borbe Jr. and owned by FS Diño Jr) scored an upset, adding another trophy to the mantel of her trainer, number-one ranked Ruben Tupas, who is also the trainer of Ibarra.
Such championship days are eagerly attended by fans. Santa Ana Park’s total gross sales for Sunday was over P38. 5 million, well above the average for a Sunday. Million-peso prizes such as those offered by Philracom and PCSO are sure to bring out the big guns of racing, who feel it not worth the risk of injury to run in ordinary or lesser-prize races. The industry needs generous corporate sponsors other than the two mentioned to fully realize its potential as a spectator magnet. ***
Photo: The three stakes races played to packed grandstands at Santa Ana Park, May 20.