THE HOARSE WHISPERER
by Jenny Ortuoste for BusinessWorld
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
Suggested heading: Ibarra set to sweep Triple Crown
After six years, the wait for a new Triple Crown champion may be over. Ibarra, a mighty 3-year-old bay colt, won the Triple Crown’s 2nd leg last June 24 at the San Lazaro Leisure Park.
The 1750-meter Jaime V. Ongpin Cup, sponsored by Philracom, starred 7 high-quality entries. Ibarra’s uncomplicated win in the Triple Crown’s 1st leg last May 20 at Santa Ana Park (Juanito Macaraig Memorial Cup) sent him off as the outstanding favorite.
Seeming to float over the dirt track, Ibarra launched clean out of the gate and grabbed the lead right away, guided by jockey Antonio B. Alcasid Jr. Fleet filly Es Twenty Six, steered by Dominador H. Borbe Jr., clung stubbornly to the lanky colt’s flank on the outside as they swept around the track. The others – colts Best Kept Secret, Golden Sutter, Lord Boni, and Passing Through, and filly Treasured Ack – struggled to keep up with the blistering pace.
On and on they raced, flashing past the grandstand to the adoring howls of the crowds that cheered them on. They rounded the first bend. Alcasid was chilly on Ibarra, almost motionless, his hands keeping a tight hold on the reins as the brave colt’s legs pumped fluidly. Still Es Twenty Six maintained a mere half length between them.
They rounded the 5/8. Spectators stared, each second almost an eternity of suspense. Would Ibarra be able to sustain the momentum? Would one of the others overtake? The colt and the filly surged on into the backstretch, their rivals forgotten, the crowds’ shouts a dim roar in their ears. Both riders were in the zone.
Now the far turn. Yet no move from Ibarra’s jockey, who was still racing with reins “in double wrap”. Es Twenty Six’s jockey started to scrub, pushing her to step on it. At the home turn, Alcasid drew his whip and gave a single stroke to the colt, who stretched mightily and started to pull away from the visibly tiring Es Twenty Six. He lengthened his lead to one, then two, then more as they raced down the stretch.
A couple more flicks with the whip ensured a straight course for the colt. Alcasid did not ease up, no, not until he was sure the finish line was passed. They had won. Effortlessly. Gracefully. And still, humbly. There was no grandstanding from Alcasid, who did a masterful job of steering what is now perhaps the most valuable runner in Philippine racing.
Ibarra won by four over Es Twenty Six, who came in second. Ibarra tied Real Spicy’s record for the 1750 meters with a time of 1:48 flat, with splits of 10’-22’-24’-24’-26 for his wire-to-wire run.
After the race, Alcasid drew in huge sighs of relief. “I was a nervous wreck,” he admitted. The pressure on him to win was tremendous, more so because another rider – Kelvin B. Abobo – had piloted Ibarra to victory in the 1st leg. “I didn’t know I could have broken the record,” Alcasid said. “All I was going for was the win. I didn’t want to push Ibarra too hard.”
Victorious trainer Ruben Tupas’ nut-brown face was wreathed with smiles. Even more ecstatic was owner Mayor Benhur Abalos, who whispered, “One more to go”.
No doubt about it after that amazing performance – Ibarra will win the last leg on July 22. He will sweep the Triple Crown. And he will bring back racing’s glory days each time he runs, nostrils flaring, legs pumping, searching for the turn home. ***
Photo: Jockey Antonio B. Alcasid and Ibarra at the parade. 24 June 2007, SLLP. (Roel Taripe)