Triple Crown winner Hagdang Bato runs away with Horse of Year plum

FOR making 2012 a season to remember in horse racing, horse Hagdang Bato and jockey Jonathan Hernandez emerged unanimous choices to receive the highest honor in their sport during the PSA-Milo Annual Awards Night on March 16 at the Manila Hotel grand ballroom.

In a performance acknowledged as the greatest of his time, Hagdang Bato won 10 big stakes races including a sweep of the Triple Crown Series, went unbeaten in 11 appearances, and delivered almost P15 million in prizes to his stable as he raced to prominence practically unchallenged.

The three-year-old pride and joy of Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos achieved this amazing run of victories under the reins of Hernandez, a product of the jockeys academy who described Hagdang Bato as the finest horse he has ridden in almost two decades.

“It was no-brainer (selection of Hagdang Bato and Hernandez). The board had an easy time making the choice. What the horse and the jockey did was simply amazing,” said PSA president Rey Bancod of Tempo after the PSA board meeting recently.

Along with other heroes and heroines who made the past year a big one for local sports, Hagdang Bato and Hernandez will be honored with major awards during a two-hour rites backed by ICTSI at Philippine Golf Tour, Philippine Sports Commission, Harbour Centre, Senator Chiz Escudero, Smart, LBC, and the Philippine Basketball Association.

At the head of the honor roll are pro boxer Nonito Donaire Jr., amateur fighter Josie Gabuco, the Manila women’s softball team, and the Ateneo Blue Eagles, who will go up the stage as co-winners of the prestigious Athlete of the Year award.

In a stint that recalled similar great exploits by Wind Blown and Fair and Square, Hagdang Bato swept the Triple Crown in a breeze as he became only the ninth runner - and the first since 2001 - to complete the hat-trick.

His conquest of the ‘biggies’ did not end there.

A few months later, Hagdang Bato easily captured the 40th Presidential Gold Cup, beating eight others led by Magna Carta and eventually becoming only the fifth horse to clinch the Triple Crown and PGC on the same year.

Hernandez came in only third with 149 victories in 630 rides behind Jesse Guce (258 in 1,211 rides) and Patricio Dilema (166 in 834 rides) last year, but the impact of his wondrous performance on top of Hagdang Bato was simply too big to ignore.

Hagdang Bato also made his owner close to P15 million in prizes, including P4.5 million for the Triple Crown sweep and P4 million in winning the Presidential Gold Cup.

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