THW: The Three Racing Club Schedule

THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 16 January 2013, Wednesday

The Three Racing Club Schedule

How do you solve a problem like a three-racing club schedule?

The thoroughbred racing industry is still puzzling over the conundrum of fairly apportioning the number of racedays among three racetracks without undue loss or disadvantage occurring to any.

For seven decades, the Manila Jockey Club and Philippine Racing Club had dominated the scene, crushing any short-lived competitors and co-existing peacefully, racing on alternate weeks and often collaborating on events and activities of mutual interest.

Racing fans of several generations had made it a habit to visit each track to watch important stakes races and festivals, making the trip to either Tayuman (MJC) or Sta. Ana (PRC), many having their favorite eateries and hang-out places at both.

This changed when both racing clubs moved to Cavite, MJC to Carmona in 2003 and PRC to Naic in 2009. The majority of racing fans now get their fix via television at home or at off-track betting stations.

Now, there is a third track on the scene – the Metro Manila Turf Club in Malvar, Batangas. Its entry into the picture prompted the simulcasting experiment early this month that ended after only three days, as I explained in my last column.

MJC Chairman and CEO lawyer Alfonso R. Reyno Jr., at a meeting last week at the Philippine Racing Commission, suggested a nine-day cycle – Day 1, 4, and 5, racing club number 1; Day 2, 5, and 8, club 2; and Day 3, 6, and 9, club 3 – on a rotation basis.

In an exclusive interview, he clarified that assuming there are 360 available days in a year to race, this schedule would “resolve to 120 solo racing days per club, which is better than 220 days of simulcast.”

At the moment, he said, unless the betting infrastructure – mobile, online, etc. – is developed to fully support it, “simulcasting cannot work for the Philippines.”

Atty. Reyno suggested also that given the shortfall of runners, that races per day be limited to a maximum of 10 or 11 on Sunday, 9 on Friday and Saturday, and 8 on weekdays.

In his opinion, he says that had more consultation been done with all three racing clubs, the simulcasting experiment could have been avoided and a more feasible racing scheduled devised.

During simulcasting, sales were roughly about the same as the average but for double the number of races.

This was favorable for the jockeys, said New Philippine Jockeys Association president Antonio B. Alcasid Jr.,  “because where there were around 30 jockeys riding per day during solo racing, there were around 50 getting rides during simulcasting.”

However, he said that prize money for second to fourth places was reduced by half. “Prizes for first remained about the same as average,” said Alcasid, “but this was only because the clubs gave guaranteed prize money for first, something that they cannot continue forever.”

The horseowners questioned MMTC’s readiness to host races, said lawyer Ramon Bagatsing Jr., vice-president of the Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners.

At the Philracom meeting last week, the horseowners of the “tri-org” – MARHO, Philtobo (Philippine Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Organization), and Klub Don Juan de Manila – pointed out that simulated betting and broadcast of races should have been performed at Malvar before including them in the racing schedule.

“Malvar says they have 20 betting terminals,” said Bagatsing, “but were these tested in a dry run? The racing coverage? They cannot just run all of this technical equipment only on the first day of actual racing. There could be connectivity issues, other glitches. How about their handicapping?”

He added that fellow horseowner Herminio Esguerra noticed the lack of markings for the tres octavo, mile, and other distance points around the Malvar track, while former Philracom chairman Andrew Sanchez said that 400 horses a week are needed for a week’s racing, but Malvar has stables for only 200 or so, and those stabled there are mostly novatos.

The management of MMTC assured the attendees at the meeting that Malvar was building 200 more stables and would be ready to race by the third week of next month.

Philracom has informed industry stakeholders that Malvar will run a test simulation on Saturday during the MJC races.

For the meantime, MJC and PRC are back to the former alternate solo racing week schedule.

Everyone is awaiting the release of the official racing schedule that includes Malvar; meanwhile, the entire industry has put its wise and experienced heads together to come up with a solution that is fair and acceptable to all.

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