MULTI-TITLED Dixie Gold struggled in the early going to finish a badly-beaten third in a field of six yesterday in the Challenge to Champions race, main event of the eighth Ramon D. Bagatsing, Sr. Memorial Racing Festival at the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite.
Never mind, his coupled entry Atomicseventynine was around to deliver the goods for his stable.
Ridden by Apoy Asuncion, Atomicseventynine, an imported runner from the United States, left second favourite Kanlaon behind deep in the stretch and won pulling away to give owner Joseph Dyhengco the top prize of P600,000 sponsored by Resorts World Manila.
Sharing the spotlight on a cloudy afternoon was Dewey Boulevard, who ran an explosive race under regular partner Jonathan Hernandez to capture the Centennial Classic and the P600,000 prize that went with it.
Dewey Boulevard, owned by businessman Hermie Esguerra and winner of the second leg of the last Triple Crown Series, pulled away from the Kelvin Abobo-ridden Radio Active with about 300 meters remaining in the 1750-m event to triumph by the proverbial mile in 1 minute and 50.2 seconds.
After trailing him from the start, Dewey Boulevard finally surged ahead of Radio Active as they were about to turn for home and quickly built a sizeable lead which he protected the rest of the way.
Reigning Presidential Gold Cup champ Dixie Gold, tipped to win the race by almost everyone as he set out as outstanding favourite along with the eventual winner, missed overcoming a poor start and came home third under jockey Jeff Zarate, some five lengths behind his stablemate.
Atomicseventynine stayed within striking distance of Kanlaon for most of the race, before unleashing a fiery charge down the stretch to cross the finish line a clear winner with a time of 1 minute and 49.2 seconds for the 1750-meter event.
Court of Honour placed fourth under John Alvin Guce, Love to Death (Jonathan Hernandez) wound up fifth and fast-starting Haley’s Rainbow (R. Base) came in sixth and last after leading by as many as 15 lengths in the first 800 meters.
Radio Active, TC’s first leg winner last May, came in second, some 10 lengths behind while Homonhon Island (Mark Alvarez), Space Needle (Jesse Guce) and Daiquiri Lass (Jeff Zarate) arrived third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
The two races were the main events of a 13-race program held in honor of the former Manila mayor, whose love and passion for horses was well-known to everyone.