THW: Ibarra Favored in 2nd leg Triple Crown



by Jenny Ortuoste for BusinessWorld

Friday, 22 June 2007

Suggested heading: Ibarra favored in 2nd leg Triple Crown

All eyes will be on 3-year-old colt Ibarra on Sunday, June 24, as he seeks the the second jewel of the Triple Crown championship series – the 1750-meter Jaime V. Ongpin Cup – at San Lazaro Leisure Park (SLLP).

Named after the government financial officer who negotiated tax breaks and other incentives to boost the sport, the race pits the “superhorse” by Yonaguska out of Fire Down Under against ten other top-caliber contenders.

Ibarra easily won the 1st leg of the Triple Crown last May 20 at Santa Ana Park with a speedy stretch run to beat his rivals by six. The island-born colt also aced a tuneup race last June 10 at SLLP. He clocked 1:25-2/5, almost shattering champion imported mare Wild Orchid’s 1:25 record for 1400 meters.

Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos, Ibarra’s owner, had not seen the latter race but was very pleased to learn that the pride of his stable had almost broken the record. He had acquired Ibarra’s dam Fire Down Under (when in foal to Ibarra) from fellow horseowner Mar Tirona, who had carefully chosen her and several other pregnant mares from a mixed bag at the the January 2004 Keeneland Sale in Kentucky.

Ridden to victory by newcomer Kelvin B. Abobo in the 1st leg, Abalos has retained the services of veteran jockey Antonio B. Alcasid Jr. for the lengthier 2nd leg. Alcasid had steered Ibarra in the tuneup and was responsible for much of his early training, boosting fans’ and connections’ confidence in the new tandem.

Ibarra carries the hopes of many who want to see a new champion sweep the Triple Crown series. However, his past performances, run over shorter distances and characterized by swift finishing kicks, mark him as a natural sprinter. Many wonder how he will fare over the classic distances longer than a mile (1600 meters).

Skeptics concede his supremacy for the 2nd leg’s 1750-meters – a distance still within Ibarra’s comfort zone – but predict that he may have difficulty negotiating the 3rd leg’s 2000 meters (roughly a mile and a quarter) on July 22 at SLLP. This means that a sweep is still debatable at this point. Be that as it may, the talented and handsome Ibarra is the current darling of the track.

June 24 is a banner day for racing since it will also see the running of the mile 2nd leg Hopeful Stakes. Several who ran in the Triple Crown 1st leg and came up against the lightning-swift Ibarra have bowed out of the 2nd leg. Among them is Superamerica, whose owner Victor S. Martinez ruefully admits his entry cannot hope to match Ibarra’s speed, thus his decision to race him in the Hopeful instead also under the guidance of jockey Alcasid.

Superamerica ran disappointingly last May 20 and in a tuneup at SLLP last June 9 where he finished a mere third to Legendary and Maglev, with whom he will tangle once more on Sunday. Martinez worries that “Superamerica has a problem with halting at SLLP especially when he sees track lights,” not much of an issue though since the race will probably run late afternoon.

But both Ibarra and Superamerica, though touted to be the most likely to succeed, are up against other strong contenders and upsets may be in the offing. Also in the Triple Crown 2nd leg are Best Kept Secret, Es Twenty Six, Golden Sutter, Lord Boni, Passing Though, and Treasured Ack. The Hopeful also stars Afternoon Delight, Bravely Bold, Flyboy, Ididtmyway, Lovely Bid, Macho Man, and Miguelito. ***

Photo: Superamerica stares inquisitively into the camera. Will he finally score in the Hopeful on Sunday?

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