THW: Mayor Ramon Bagatsing Cup

THE HOARSE WHISPERER  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 3 August 2011, Wednesday

Mayor Ramon Bagatsing Cup

There are horseracing events that are staged as a matter of course, are there are those that grab the fancy and become an annual tradition, kept up in the face of economic challenges purely for the love of the sport. One such is the Bagatsing Cup, to be run in its third edition on August 19 at the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park.

The event was first staged in 2009 at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite, organized by the Bagatsing family of Manila city politics in honor of the clan patriarch, the late Manila mayor Ramon D. Bagatsing.

The racing festival was conceived as an hommage to their father by present fifth district Manila congressman Amado Bagatsing and former congressman lawyer Ramon D. Bagatsing Jr. Both, like their father, are also horseowners and have been since their 20s, encouraged by their father who enjoyed spending weekends watching the races at the old San Lazaro Hippodrome in Tayuman or puttering around his thoroughbred farm, watching mares and foals at play.

Atty. Bagatsing says of those times that his father would, after work at City Hall, “…put on his cowboy hat. That was a signal that he was off to the farm in Batangas for some peace and quiet with the horses.”

In part, the event was also conceived as a modest revival of the Gran Copa de Manila races of the MJC. Initiated in 1896, it had its glory days in the 1970s to ‘90s, held in conjunction with the Araw ng Maynila celebrations with big-name sponsors such as San Miguel Beer backing the prize money and freebies for racing patrons. In addition to trophy races, two major races were held as the culminating events – the Division I and the Division II.

When MJC moved to Carmona, Cavite, in 2003, the event was held only once more there before being halted because, management said, the racing club was no longer in Manila.  Fans mourned the passing of a tradition.

But with the institution of the Bagatsing Memorial Racing Festival in 2009, the Division I and II races were revived, without, however, the huge prize money. Still, the sentiment was there and it was warmly welcomed by fans, making the first event one of the most successful on the calendar that year.

This year, on August 19, the late mayor’s birthday, in addition to the Division I (for 3YO) and Division II (for imported and local horses) races, there will be seven other trophy races on the day.

Also instituted as a tradition was the giving of cash prizes to the grooms of the winning horses, a gesture that is not commonly done as grooms already receive a percentage of the gross prize money. The extra cash of P3,000 along with a sack of rice were welcome incentives, prompting some grooms to dub this the “Grooms’ Racing Festival”, which pleases the Bagatsing brothers.

“We started the event to honor not only our father, but also the people who work behind the scenes of the sport yet play a huge part in it,” said Atty. Bagatsing.

Added Congressman Bagatsing, “Grooms are overlooked and unrecognized. My late father always had a special place in his heart for the marginalized. In this way, we honor his memory by giving recognition and prizes that are long overdue.”

The Bagatsing family thanks the Philippine Racing Commission, the major sponsor of the event, for the support given since the racefest’s inception. We’ll bring you more details as they firm up.   ***

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