THW: PCSO Cements Partnership with Racing

THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 15 February 2012, Wednesday

PCSO Cements Partnership with Racing

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office has had a decades-long partnership with the sport of horseracing. Many punters of a certain age will recall how the sweepstakes races used to be held in conjunction with lottery draws, which were also named “sweepstakes draws”.

This was way before computers so lotteries were conducted differently from the way they are now. Printed paper tickets were sold by street vendors, providing them with a means of extra income. A one-million-peso prize was already a big deal, even into the late ‘80s. The numbers of the winning ticket were taken from the numbers of the winning horses, thus upping the excitement ante across both types of events.

Hence the local association of the word “sweepstakes” with lotteries instead of horse races, even if the definitions of the word include “a form of gambling, especially on horse races, in which all the stakes are divided among the winners,” and “a race on which money is bet in this way.”

With the advent of computerized lotteries and the spread of lotto outlets came the big money prizes, like the yet-unwon P246 million Grand Lotto 6/55 jackpot (buy your tickets, if you haven’t yet, for tonight’s draw); no longer were the winning lottery numbers dependent on the events at the track, although PCSO continued to support horseracing as provided for in its founding charter.

After a recent Congress hearing in which the matter was brought up, and upon further discussion spearheaded by the Metropolitan Association Race Horse Owners as represented by its vice-president lawyer Ramon S. Bagatsing Jr., PCSO agreed to strengthen its support of racing this year with P30 million in prizes.

PCSO and the racing stakeholders – MARHO, Philippine Racing Commission, the racing clubs, and other horseowners organizations – have yet to meet to finalize details, although the PCSO Draw & Races department has drawn up a tentative schedule. But whatever is finally worked out, it’s sure to be a fantastic year for racing, with the proposed nine maiden races and the major cup races – Freedom, Silver, Gold, and Anniversary.

The Freedom Cup will be held on February 25 at Santa Ana Park as part of the regular schedule. The PCSO Silver Cup is usually held during the first half of the year, while this year’s Presidential Gold Cup is the landmark 40th episode.

I can’t wait to see what PCSO will come up with by way of pageantry to celebrate this highly significant sporting event. Perhaps the President of the Republic himself, as the race honoree, may grace the occasion? Racing aficionados are bound to eagerly await developments on that front.

The PCSO Presidential Gold Cup is a very big deal indeed, not only for its longevity and pride of place in the sport’s mythos, but for being the highest graded stakes race in the country.

As Manila Jockey Club racing manager Jose Ramon “Ding” Magboo reminded me, it is about the only Philippine race recognized internationally as our version of a “G1” (Grade 1) stakes race.

Meanwhile, racing is grateful to PCSO chairperson Margarita P. Juico and general manager lawyer Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II for their support, a continuation of the long and glorious tradition of the PCSO’s partnership with the sport of kings. ***

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