THW: Four Years of Racing at San Lazaro Leisure Park

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The Hoarse Whisperer

by Jenny Ortuoste for 4 April 2007, Wednesday, BusinessWorldLast April 1, the Manila Jockey Club (MJC) celebrated the fourth anniversary of its move from its old 16-hectare San Lazaro Hippodrome in Tayuman, Manila, to the San Lazaro Leisure Park (SLLP) in Carmona, Cavite.

Now sprawled over 77 prime hectares, the SLLP complex has room for 1,200 horses and boasts twin tracks designed by an affiliate of the Japan Racing Association. The four-level glass and steel Turf Club has gallery seats on the lower level where race viewers can almost reach out and touch the horses.

 

The second level houses air-conditioned viewing rooms and the Makati Skyline buffet. Above that are offices, restaurants, and kitchens under construction. The top floor houses a popular mini casino.

Also on site is the upscale Canyon Ranch residential development of Century Properties, featuring California-style ranch homes. Soon to be built are a Village Center, featuring chain shops and boutiques, as well as other amenities that will cater to the expected rise in population that follows such large real estate ventures.

MJC has done well to move its racing operations from its cramped premises in old Manila. In Cavite, the climate is cooler and has more space for the growing population of horses. Conditions have eased and are much better for the horses’ health.

But long-time race aficionados can’t help but feel a twinge of nostalgia when recalling the old track of the San Lazaro Hippodrome.

While MJC was established in 1867 (and is thus also celebrating another milestone this year, the 140th anniversary of its founding), it wasn’t until the 1930s that a permanent home was built for it at the Hippodrome.

The Main Building was one of the most elegant structures in Manila, constructed in the geometric Art Deco style. Countless balls and events were held in its halls, while its track featured the champions of past decades.

According to karera old-timers at http://www.phf.com.ph, the 1970s was the “golden age of throroughbred racing” in the Philippines. At the Hippodrome, races like the Gran Copa de Manila (established in 1899) attracted huge crowds. It was held every Araw ng Maynila, June 24, and its later editions was sponsored by San Miguel Beer.

Says member Viva La Vivi: “This was the decade of old icons like Cavite Starlet, Reporter, Ilocos King, Sun God, Red Annie, Little Morning, Gypsy Grey…”

It was also at there, he recalls, that Jamaican beef pies were sold for one peso, later on at 2.50 but still always sold out. Habitues could also grab Ma Mon Luk-style siopaos from Mang Jun or balut from vendors under the rickety wooden grandstands.

The ‘80s saw the dominance of Fair and Square (Belgrade Square-Fair Sea). Owned by the Mamon family, he set the record for the 2000 meters at the Hippodrome with a time of 2:10.6, during the Presidential Gold Cup of 1981. He lost just once during his career, and went on to sire other great track champions.

The ’90s saw the likes of Strong Material, Real Top, Crown Colony, and the magnificent mare Sun Dancer, who was undefeated in her entire career.

Though the Hippodrome has been torn down to make room for SM San Lazaro and other developments, the achievements made there by horses and riders will always shine in racing history and in the memories of racing fans, as new ones are made at SLLP and new champions rule its magnificent twin tracks. ***

Photo shows fans at the Horseman’s Box, 2nd level SLLP Turf Club.

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