IN a homestretch battle that was not meant for the faint of heart, heavy pick Sepfourteen pipped stablemate Brilliance and longshot Hiway One to capture the second leg last Sunday afternoon and move on the cusp of becoming the 11th winner of the local Triple Crown series.
With all eyes on them, the three thoroughbreds practically raced as one going into the final 100 meters until Sepfourteen charged ahead in the closing strides under heavy whipping from jockey John Alvin Guce and emerged triumphant in the pulse-pounding three-horse race.
The 30-year-old Guce applied the whip as the tense, close battle began deep in the stretch, and Sepfourteen responded, taking the lead by a nose with around 120 meters remaining, increasing it by a head with 50 to go before winning by a long neck over Brilliance and half-a-length over Hiway One.
So it’s two down, one to go for Sepfourteen, owned by the SC Stockfarm Inc., who will return to the same Santa Ana Park track next month to go for a sweep of this annual event that’s fast losing its appeal and prestige as years go by.
If Sepfourteen wins the third leg set over a longer distance of 2,000 meters, he’ll go down as the 11th TC winner, joining greats like Fair and Square (1981), Skywalker (1983) and Hagdang Bato (2012) in the short list of champions of this race launched in 1978.
A chestnut colt sired by Consolidator and Regal Boom, Sepfourteen clocked 1 minute and 54.6 seconds for the 1800-meter race where he set out as overwhelming choice in the popular daily double sales along with coupled entry Brilliance.
What was expected to be an easy outing for Sepfourteen and Brilliance turned out to be a challenging one for the stablemates, no thanks to the Jeff Zarate-ridden Hiway One.
Running by the rail, Hiway One gave the eventual 1-2 finishers some fits for sometime during the mad, mad dash for home, before losing the close battle and settling for third place in the event among six horses.
So Sepfourteen delivered another fat check for P1,800,000 to his stable, as he became the biggest earner so far among the tenants inside the SC Stockfarm stable.
Brilliance, the only filly in the field who led most of the way under jockey Kelvin Abobo, won P675,000 as fighting runnerup as she showed she could deliver in a much-bigger stage.
Brilliance’s handlers decided to race her in the second leg after topping the Hopeful Stakes race on the same afternoon Sepfourteen topped the kickoff leg at the San Lazaro Leisure Park last month.
And Brilliance almost got Sepfourteen’s number.
Pangalusian Island (Mark Alvarez), Metamorphosis (Fernando Racquel, Jr.) and second choice Golden Kingdom (Jonathan Hernandez) came in fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, nearly 10 lengths behind the top three placers.
As expected, Brilliance set the pace, with Sepfourteen and Hiway One not far behind. The three kept their respective positions until Golden Kingdom made his move as the field left the backstretch and into the far turn.
As they turned for home, Sepfourteen finally pulled abreast of Brilliance, with Hiway One closing in on the two.
A few strides later, the interesting race for home had begun.
If Guce gets to ride Sepfourteen in the third jewel and guides him to a sweep, he’ll take his second TC crown in only four years. In 2014, he rode Kid Molave to the championship, something that put him alongside the icons like Jesus Guce, Hernandez and Eduardo Domingo, Jr.
In the other featured events, longshot Smoking Saturday, handled by Hernandez, pulled off a wire-to-wire victory in the Hopeful Stakes worth P600,000. Great Wall (Apoy Asuncion, P225,000) and Mount Pulag (Raquel, P125,000) came in second and third, respectively.