THE HOARSE WHISPERER
By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 11 June 2008, Wednesday
MJC Races Resume
After the cancellation of Manila Jockey Club races during its last raceweek (May 27 to June 1), at their San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite, races there resume this week, according to MJC vice-president for racing R/Adm Juan A de Leon (Ret).
“It’s business as usual,” he said cheerfully.
Races at SLLP last May 27 were cancelled when the totalizator (betting machine) data was not sent to the MJC servers by the local tote service provider, Global Versatech Inc. It was later learned that the agreement between totalizator software system provider United Tote Company (based in the US), and GVI had expired last March. Other contractual disputes also figured in the matter.
MJC lawyers then slapped a temporary restraining order against GVI, compelling the latter to continue operating the tote system for MJC. However, a Pasig City judge recently found that GVI was no longer obligated to provide services, and threw out an injunction filed by MJC.
Thus vindicated by the courts, GVI, well within its rights to cease providing services after the TRO had lapsed, still offered to continue operating the totalizator system for MJC for at least two more months until the latter could find other options. “The MJC races last May 27,” says an insider, “need not have been cancelled if negotiations had worked out. Sadly, they did not.”
MJC management decided on May 28 to run the totalizator system on their own and do away with third-party operators such as GVI. Philippine Racing Commission chairman lawyer Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II then stepped in and issued a directive to both MJC and Philippine Racing Club transferring the venue of that week’s races, for Thursday to Sunday, to PRC’s Santa Ana Park in Makati City.
With MJC’s decision to run the totalizator system on their own, their Computer department had to step up and in just two weeks, accomplished the adjustment of their systems and the installation of 110 newly-arrived betting terminals, the latter activity supervised and certified by the Games and Amusements Board.
This week, MJC’s Admiral de Leon assures racing fans that it’s all systems go for them. Despite, he says, PRC’s refusal to allow this week the use of their betting terminals inside Santa Ana Park to accept bets for MJC races, he believes that sales levels can be maintained, “even if we have slightly fewer machines than they do.”
MJC’s response, says the Admiral, “is to deploy more terminals at off-track betting stations near Makati, in areas that permit the operation of OTB’s, Mandaluyong and Pasig City among them.” The Makati local government does not allow the operation of OTBs within its jurisdiction, save for Santa Ana Park.
But Santa Ana Park is historically the top-grossing OTB for MJC during SLLP races. With its facilities now unavailable for MJC use, won’t MJC gross sales suffer? Will Makati-based fans used to hanging out at the Main Track and Laguinto restaurants inside Santa Ana Park bother to go all the way to Mandaluyong or Pasig to bet? Wouldn’t they just sit out this week’s races rather than be inconvenienced?
In addition, Santa Ana-based participants are wary of entering this week’s races at SLLP. “Last raceweek,” says a trainer, “I paid for trailer fees and other expenses, only for the races to be cancelled. What a waste of effort and money. Bugbog pa sa biyahe ang mga kabayo ko.” This week, he says, he will not enter for Tuesday and Wednesday’s races “to see what will happen first.” If races proceed without a hitch, he says, “then I might declare my horses for Friday to Sunday.”
Just like any other business, horse racing has its ups and downs. For now, it’s MJC in the rough. PRC, though, is not without its own share of problems. But that’s a story for another day.
Meanwhile, fans shrug and cross their fingers that races this week will run without further drama. The only excitement they want is from the horses, manes flying and hooves pounding, as they gallop around the track. ***