THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 16 November 2011, Wednesday
San Miguel Beer-MARHO and ECJ Cup
Since 1996, the Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners has provided incentives to horseowners, breeders, other industry participants, and racegoers to come together and celebrate the sport of horseracing.
Six major stakes races and a host of trophy and special races give reason for the industry to get excited during the last Santa Ana Park raceweek in November. Over sixteen years, this event is now a much-anticipated annual tradition.
Since its establishment in 1974 by businessman and diplomat Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr. with fourteen other horsemen, MARHO has grown to be the oldest and largest such group and an industry leader.
Through the years, its officers, with the loyal support of its members, have laid a solid foundation of racing traditions that today are among of the most anticipated each year.
Foremost among these is the MARHO Cup program, established in 1996 by then-MARHO president Aristeo G. Puyat together with eminent breeder and fellow MARHO leader Leonardo Javier Jr. The championship races were meant to showcase the talent of local-bred horses and boost the growth of the Philippine Thoroughbred breeding industry.
From a low-key racing event, the program has grown into a yearly extravaganza. It brings together the best Philippine-bred horses in the land to compete for track supremacy and rich purses in the six championship races, while allowing island-born horses and imports a chance to shine in a whole slew of trophy races.
The MARHO Cup championship racing festival has gained so much popularity among racing fans that it is the most awaited event of the year. The 2004 edition broke all sales records when it was held at the now-defunct Santa Ana Park in Makati City.
Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos, who was elected MARHO president in 2005, arranged that year’s edition of the MBC, the tenth anniversary of the event. “A Decade of Champions” was the theme for that year, in celebration of ten glorious years of producing champions and rewarding excellence in the sport.
He also took charge of MARHO activities from 2006 to 2009, including the MARHO Founders’ Cup and the Jade MARHO Breeders’ Cup of 2009, commemorating MARHO’s 35th anniversary.
In 2010, MARHO’s newly-elected president, Eric Tagle, carried on the revered MARHO traditions by way of the 15th MARHO Cup Championships, tagged “MARHO Kinse”.
This year, MARHO’s directors, members, and staff proudly stage the MARHO Cup Swift Sixteen championships, with six major stakes races on November 20, Sunday: San Miguel Beer Classic, the San Miguel Colt Mile, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Filly Mile, the Philippine Racing Commission Juvenile Colts, the Philippine Racing Commission Juvenile Fillies, and the Santa Ana Park Sprint.
In addition to these, there are the PAGCOR Trophy Race, Norkis Trophy Race, Hygain Feeds Trophy Race, and Ciara Marie Foundation Trophy Race, as well as 30 special races with trophies to the winner and added prizes.
Considering that Amb. Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. is the the founder of both MARHO and Philracom, it is only fitting that the Philracom-backed Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr. Cup, one of the biggest races of the Philracom, will be also be held on Sunday, MARHO championship day.
The “ECJ Cup”, as it is known to racing fans, will be run over a distance of 2,000 meters and offers a purse of P2 million. It is open to local-bred horses and imports 4YO and above.
According to Philracom chairman Angel L. Castano Jr., who was appointed as the first chairman of the Philracom Board of Stewards in 1977 by Amb. Cojuangco during his stint as Philracom chairman, this race is significant as a tribute to the revered horseman and breeder who founded two of the racing industry’s most important and active entities.
“Philippine racing is fortunate to have Ambassador Cojuangco.” said Chairman Castano. “It was during his time in Philracom and MARHO that the sport was revitalized. He encouraged importation of thoroughbreds, leading to the improvement in local bloodstock that we enjoy today via more exciting races and better track times. He advocated stricter race control when he professionalized the Board of Stewards. Racing rules and regulations were overhauled.
“Through Ambassador Cojuangco’s efforts, Philippine racing became closer to international standards. Today, through his San Miguel Corporation, he still supports racing via the MARHO Cup.” ***