THW: US and HK Racing

THE HOARSE WHISPERER  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today.  22 July 2009, Wednesday

US and HK Racing

Two big tracks for thoroughbred racing remain in the Los Angeles, California area – Hollywood Park in Inglewood and Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. I visited the latter a couple of weeks ago and was fortunate enough to be toured around the facilities by Santa Anita Park president Ron Charles.

Mr. Charles has visited the Philippines many times, and is often consulted by local industry members on best practices relating to track operations, maintenance, and sales.

He showed me around his racetrack on a sunny morning. Though there was no race meeting there as yet – their season won’t start again until September – they were simulcasting races from other tracks around the country, including Hollywood Park, which ended their season last Sunday.

As early as 11 am on the day of my visit, there were already a sprinkling of patrons on the premises, hunched over their Daily Racing Forms and busy picking winners.

Santa Anita Park was established in 1934 and its buildings, original to the period, are well-maintained. Its Frontrunner restaurant, with 400 square feet of space that can accommodate 500 guests, is famed among aficionados for the California cuisine. Patrons enjoy drinks at a 215-foot long bar. The park also has a VIP room that celebrities frequent. In times gone by, Frank Sinatra and Doris Day have been guests there.

 But the most important part of any racing facility is the track itself. We inspected the Pro-Ride all-weather surface, crumbling the surface material in our fingers. It’s made of sand mixed with rubber and fibers bound with wax.

Unlike ordinary dirt surfaces, which are composed of layers of sand, a synthetic surface does not retain imprints and bounces back from impact. Sand surfaces are marred by divots and hoofprints which remain and may cause injuries when another horse steps in them. For this reason they require frequent harrowing to level the surface.

According to Mr. Charles, they have received good reviews for this surface, as compared to the Cushion-Track brand of synthetic surface they used in 2007, which had to be taken up after drainage problems. Santa Anita Park also has turf and dirt tracks, but the latter is not used often.  

I returned to Manila last week, in time to help entertain a group of 15 racing journalists from Hong Kong, along with two public relations officers of the HK Jockey Club – Priscilla Chan and Joseph Yip.

Philippine Racing Commission chairman lawyer Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas, veterinarian Jojo Cambay, staffers Rhed Sarmiento and Icon Calivara, and I took them for a day tour last Sunday of racing facilities.

The first stop was the thoroughbred breeding ranch of former Batangas governor Armand Sanchez. His ACS Farm has 28 broodmares from Australia, all in foal, and a stallion imported from the US – Jazz Club (Dixieland Band – Hidden Garden, by Mr. Prospector).

Apart from horses, ostriches are also raised on the farm, for their flavorful meat, feathers, and shells which are made into lamps and other handicrafts.

The delegates enjoyed the roast wild boar and turkey served for lunch, which 2010 presidentiable senator Manny Villar attended, along with senator Allan Peter Cayetano and lawyer Adel Tamano, who revealed plans to run for public office under the Nacionalista ticket next year.

From the ranch, the delegates proceeded to watch the third leg of the Philippine Triple Crown at the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite. Tough gray filly Heaven Sent (Heza Gone West-Kiss and Run) trounced the classy 3YO field, winning by three lengths. Congratulations to owner Rita Pilapil, trainer Willy Fernandez, and rider Rodeo Fernandez.

The HK racing journalists were all praises for the track, where they had an excellent afternoon of races and food with warm Filipino hospitality.

From LA to HK to the Philippines, the sport binds the various horseracing communities of the world as one.   *** (Web:

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