Monday, March 19, 2007

Night mare: Empire King upsets Real Spicy

Let’s get this out of the way first; there is nothing about Empire King that can make any of the horseracing public think that the six-year-old colt is a mare. But that Sunday night at the San Lazaro, Empire King was nothing but a night mare to the connections and supporters of two-time Horse of the Year Real Spicy.

The gates opened with the Hermie Esguarra-owned Real Spicy getting 80 percent of the daily double bets. He came to the race as an outstanding favorite, winning all of his 14 races with about six-length lead average and being billed in the mainstream media, where horseracing is not considered a sport (although that is not the case at the local sportswriters association), as the second coming of another Esguarra horse, the legendary Windblown.

Empire King, meanwhile, placed second in the betting, with a meager 10 percent of the pool going to him. With Real Spicy being noticed by even the non-betting public and Empire King’s poor showing in his loss last month to a rather surprise winner Master King, it wasn’t actually hard to get a glimpse of what Sunday night's Philaracom Commissioners Cup would be like.

As expected, entry no.1 Empire King led the pack at the early stages of the four-entrant race. Jockey Jaja Ladiana secured the rail for Empire King, which made it easier for the duo to hug the turns. On the first turn Native Land put up a challenge and rode neck-and-neck with Empire King. Real Spicy, expectedly, was at third watching the leaders bust their lungs out.

Into the back stretch rider Jesse Guce was readying for a push. As Empire King outpaced Native Land, Real Spicy went all guns a-blazing and cut the lead little by little. At the far turn it was already between the two impressive horses, with Manhattan at close third but not really given a chance to beat either of the two leaders. With Empire King coming off a brutal pace along side Native Land, it should be easy for Real Spicy to get the lead.

The 1,700m distance, however, turned out to be within the lung capacity of Empire King. Riding in spite of the rush of an acclaimed rematista, Empire King stood his ground and put to test the impressive reputation surrounding Real Spicy. Empire King reached the finish line with a neck lead over Real Spicy.

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