THW: 5 or 6-Day Racing Week?

THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 29 February 2012, Wednesday

5 or 6-Day Racing Week?

Why does Philippine racing conduct racemeets nearly every day?

That’s one of the several differences our sort of racing has compared to the international kind.

In other racing nations, especially in temperate countries that experience snow, there are racing “seasons”. Racing takes place for a few days a week, several months at a time.

In the Philippines, the balmy weather allows racing year-round. Decades ago, say old-timers, because of logistical challenges and an inadequate horse population, there were three days of racing a week. That became four, then in the ‘90s, when I first entered the racing world, they upped that to five days.

In the first decade of the millennium, it was decided to try a six-day racing week, in order to drive up sales. And that’s the way it’s been ever since, with racemeets held from Tuesday to Sunday, with the venue alternating weekly between the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park and the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park.

There was even a time that a seven-day raceweek was tried – around five years ago, at MJC – but this was dropped after a while after it proved that operational costs were higher than the additional revenue could cover.

Over the past several years, horseowners have been wondering whether a reduction in the number of race days might prove beneficial for the sport. They said it would give a chance for horses to rest (because many are run twice a week – “double run”); it would allow the racing clubs an opportunity to perform maintenance on their tracks in the middle of the week; it would encourage larger field sizes per race; and it would make bettors more excited for the resumption of races after a break.

This experiment was tried last month, and upon the request of the horseowners’ groups MARHO, Philtobo, and Klub Don Juan de Manila, implemented by the Philippine Racing Commission. For a period of four weeks, Thursday was dropped from the racing week.

The findings? Sales per week showed a decline of about a day’s worth of revenue – P20 million. So bettors weren’t saving up their money to pour into the weekend races. Perhaps they were patronizing “substitute products” instead – other forms of entertainment.

That’s the reason for the return to the six-day raceweek two weeks ago.

* * * * *

Track icons Yes Pogi and Barkley seem to be past their heyday, given their dismal performance in last Saturday’s Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office 2012 Freedom Cup at Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite.

PCSO’s first race of the year, in celebration of the 26th anniversary of the People Power revolution, was held over a mile with an exciting cast of runners.

Francis Lim’s Yes Pogi, winner of the 2011 MARHO Cup Classic last November, was sent off as the favorite. Barkley, another stellar champion, was third pick. Lawyer Sixto Esquvias IV’s entries – colt Arvindugo, coupled with filly Cheese Mosa (winner of the previous week’s Philracom Amethyst II stakes) – were sent off as second choices.

An early scratch was Wind Turbulence. Joshua’s Laughter was scratched at the gate after he reared inside his stall while waiting for The Rock to be led inside. Jockey John Alvin Guce, on Joshua’s Laughter, was injured slightly but was deemed unfit to ride after the incident, leading to the scratching.

At the jumpout, speedy racemare Heaven Sent (winner of the 2011 MARHO Sprint), took the lead, while Arvindugo paced comfortably behind in second.

The son of Quaker Ridge by Reprise took the lead before the far turn and never looked back, winning by three-and-a-half lengths.

Nathaniel Velasco’s The Rock made a brave rally and came in second, followed by Mayor Benhur Abalos’s Barkley in third and Emmanuel King Jr.’s Money Queen rounding up the cast of placers.

Race quarters were 25’-23’-23’-27 for a total time of 1:39.6.

Present at the awarding ceremony were PCSO general manager lawyer Jose Ferdinand Rojas II, Philracom chairman Angel L. Castaño Jr. and executive director Jesus Cantos, and PRC executive vice-president and COO lawyer Ramon P. Ereñeta Jr. They were accompanied by other PCSO, Philracom, and PRC officials.

Congratulations to the winning connections of Arvindugo – the owner, Atty. Esquivias, and trainer Renato Yamco, jockey Jonathan Hernandez, and breeder Eric Tagle.  ***

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