THW: Horseowners Demand Action on Handicapping

THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 23 January 2013, Wednesday

Horseowners Demand Action on Handicapping

Racehorse owners were stunned after being handed a new set of handicapping guidelines from the Philippine Racing Commission despite having asked for a consultative conference before the implementation of such rules.

On January 9,the “tri-org” – MARHO (Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners), Philtobo (Philippine Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Organization), and Klub Don Juan de Manila – wrote the Commission requesting that the matter of class-division handicapping rules for 3YO turning 4YO on January 2 “be held in abeyance” until after a meeting to discuss the proposed rules, and asked for a “schedule of the initial conference on the matter.”

The horseowners in particular referred to the “designation of the entry points of the runners…[into] their appropriate class divisions,” always a contentious topic.

Philracom responded on January 11, saying that the proposal “will be held in abeyance subject to the conference requested to clarify and evaluate such proposal.”

However, on January 18, the Philracom sent the tri-org a copy of its Board Resolution No. 02-13 s. 2013 of January 16, guidelines on the “class-division of 4YO horses by 2013 based on their 4YO handicap race groupings,” and “equivalent handicap race of 4YO handicap race by 2013 in the 5YO and above handicap race.”

The tri-org held a meeting last January 21 to discuss the matter, and on the spot collectively wrote a strongly-worded letter addressed to Philracom chairman Angel L. Castaño Jr. through Executive Director Jesus B. Cantos:

“We are surprised to receive your letter of 18 January 2013 outlining the new handicapping system for 4YO. This is not in line with our expectations based on your letter of January 11, where you said that those handicapping guidelines would be held in abeyance and that a conference on such would be held. No such conference was held nor were any horseowners consulted. Thus we reject your letter.

“The tri-org proposes that we use a handicapping system based on earnings to transition the 3YO to 4YO racing.

“So as not to prejudice the schedule of races for this week, and in order to protect the interests of our members who may not have been notified of this action, we are letting the declared horses run as scheduled, without prejudice to the outcome of our suggestions on the classification of horses which turned 4YO as of January 2. The races participated in by these runners shall be considered “no bearing.”

“The tri-org also requests the transfer of the handicapping function to the racing clubs, and any handicapping decision shall be made in consultation with horseowners.

“If our position is not heard, we will take drastic action.

“We demand immediate action on this request by January 25, Friday.”

The letter was signed by the presidents of the three horseowners’ organizations – Eric R. Tagle (MARHO), Bienvenido C. Niles Jr. (Philtobo), Antonio S. Eleazar (Klub Don Juan de Manila),  and by the following officer/member horseowners:

Herminio S. Esguerra, Lamberto C. Almeda Jr., John Joseph Lagasca, Alexis Sevidal, Leandro Naval Jr., Marlon C. Cunanan, Emmanuel A. Santos, Macario Asistio, Ferdinand Dimaisip, Antonio Coyco, Arleen Chua, Sixto S. Esquivias IV, Antonio G. de Ubago Jr., Nathaniel G. Velasco, Roberto A. Francisco, Perry Pimentel, Jeci A. Lapus, and Ramon S. Bagatsing Jr.

The “drastic action” refers to a “racing holiday,” a type of mass action where horseowners do not participate in races for a certain period. The more horseowners involved, the more forceful the impact. With less entries to make up races, the racing clubs might not be able to form racecards, leading to cancellation of race meetings and loss of revenue.

The Philracom will be discussing the matter at their Board meeting today.

There are many pressing issues facing the Philippine thoroughbred industry in these challenging times – not only the handicapping, always a touchy topic, but also the opening of the third racetrack, Metro Turf in Malvar, Batangas, and the resulting necessity to create a schedule that accomodates three tracks when there were only two for many decades.

Open communication through dialogue is to be seriously considered. As a social device, it enables people to share ideas, points-of-view, and experiences for conflict resolution and brainstorming of solutions.

As I’ve been saying for years – it’s time for an industry summit.

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