THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 13 January 2010, Wednesday
Racing Looks Forward
Overall, last year was a moderately challenging one for the Philippine horseracing industry. A steady dip in sales, operational glitches, and Acts of God were speed bumps along the track; yet, as always, racetrackers and racing fans pulled together and made it through another year.
Among this year’s highlights:
January marked a historic event – the move of the Philippine Racing Club from its 72 year old racetrack in Makati to new facilities in Naic, also called Santa Ana Park. An entire community was uprooted as all horses and the majority of trainers, jockeys, grooms, other racetrack workers, and their families moved south en masse.
In May, Manila Jockey Club had persistent problems with its broadcast transmission of their live races because of equipment problems. Over at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite, heavy rains wrought havoc on the months-old track, causing injuries to some horses. The problem was smoothed over by the following raceweek.
In the same month, a landmark bill was passed by the Lower House – the racing taxes bill (HB 4176). Authored by Palawan representative Abraham Mitra, son of the late Speaker of the House and prominent horseowner Ramon V. Mitra Jr., the bill seeks the rationalization of onerous racing taxes in order to make the activity more sustainable and viable as a business. The passage of this law by the Senate would ensure the survival of a hundreds-year-old tradition and industry that provides thousands with their livelihoods and generates income for the government.
August saw long-overdue recognition bestowed on one of the most influential figures in the sport – the late Manila Mayor Ramon D. Bagatsing. The Bagatsing family and racing and corporate friends staged a week-long celebration at PRC’s Santa Ana Park that recalled the contributions of the late Mayor. Held during his birthday week, the festival saw cash prizes and sacks of rice awarded to an unsung yet vital sector of the industry – the grooms.
Typhoon Ondoy hit the country hard in the last week of September. Several racedays at both MJC and PRC were cancelled as people struggled to rebuild in the wake of the raging flash floods that inundated many parts of the city.
In the early part of October, racing fans were treated to the Klub Don Juan de Manila’s Don Juan Derby Festival at MJC’s San Lazaro Leisure Park. This event emphasized fun and frolic and a good time was had by all.
The end of October unleashed the first wave of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s Diamond Anniversary celebrations at Santa Ana Park in commemoration of the agency’s 75th year. Followed by more special races and the culminating Diamond Cup in November, the events proved so popular with racing fans, becoming one of the highest grossing events of the year, that the PCSO Committee on Races is proposing that a similar festival – the Anniversary Races – be held yearly, bringing the agency’s annual major racing events to three, the other two being the First Spouse Silver Cup and the Presidential Gold Cup.
Traditionally held in the last PRC raceweek of November, the Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners’ Jade Anniversary Breeders’ Cup event proved one of the year’s strongest draws, with the betting turnover grossing over P42 million on that raceweek’s Sunday. Six championship races with hefty prize money from corporate sponsors San Miguel Beer (through San Miguel Corporation chairman Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr., one of MARHO’s founders) and Philracom attracted elite runners whose stellar performances elicited raves from aficionados.
The Philippine Thoroughbred Owners’ and Breeders’ Association closed the year at Santa Ana Park with their 10th Grand Championship Day, another much-awaited annual tradition.
The sport was dominated by 2YOs Azcarraga and Carriedo, 3YO Heaven Sent, and older horse Don Enrico. More on last year’s racing – and the Horse of the Year – next week.
A joyous new year to all as racing prepares for more interesting times in 2010. *** (Web: http://jennyo.net)