THW: The Plot Thickens

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The Hoarse Whisperer

by Jenny Ortuoste

for 27 April 2007, Friday, BusinessWorld

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The Plot Thickens

Last week, fans at the Philippine Racing Club’s (PRC) Santa Ana Park were astounded when mere third favorite Stop Talking trounced track idols Real Spicy and Empire King in the Philippine Racing Commission’s (Philracom) Imported Stakes Series 2.

Thousands of fans saw that race live at the track and on nationwide cable TV. Many claimed that Empire King’s rider, Jeffrey Ladiana, clung stubbornly to the favorite Real Spicy (guided by Louie Balboa) for most of the race. At the first bend and home turn, Empire King was said to have shifted out, carrying Real Spicy outwards to race seven horses wide and thus lose valuable ground, allowing front runner Stop Talking to coast to an easy win.

After a massive outcry from fans and connections of Real Spicy, Philracom last Wednesday hauled in the PRC Board of Stewards (BOS) for a motu propio investigation into the conduct of the race.

The PRC BOS said that since in their opinion Real Spicy did not have that good a chance of winning, they did not bother to call up Empire King’s jockey. According to Philracom commissioner and former star jockey Eduardo “Boboc” C. Domingo Jr., “They should have investigated the jockey who was involved.” He added that the PRC BOS “will be reprimanded; they should look carefully to ensure that (all) is fair and square especially during stakes races.” The Philracom also sanctioned Ladiana for “slight interference” with Real Spicy in the stretch.

Race stewardship is not an easy job; despite having a thick handbook of rules and regulations (commonly called the “Blue Book”), a lot still depends on how the individuals who are viewing the races read the situations and apply the rules.

Regarding the Blue Book, an updated version of which has not been available for several years, Comm. Domingo said that starting May 8, Philracom will host weekly meetings with the BOS of both PRC and MJC (Manila Jockey Club) to discuss any proposed changes or amendments.

In line with its efforts to revamp and improve the conduct of races, Philracom should also look into other crucial matters, such as the quality of jockeys’ equipment.

Around ten years ago, jockeys pushed Philracom to make the wearing of safety vests mandatory. The first batch of vests that the New Philippine Jockeys’ Association ordered was from Tipperary of Canada, a well-known supplier to equestrians around the world.

Their vests were made of Spectra, an impact-proof material also used in bullet-proof body armor. Soon after these vests were introduced locally, many jockeys credited them with saving them from major injury – or worse.

The drawback is Tipperary and other branded vests are rather pricey. Knock-offs soon appeared – cheap, made of inferior materials like the rubber used for slipper soles and – the worst yet – thin mattress foam. Many jockeys insist on using these because they are lighter and more flexible, and in the process put their lives at risk.

Philracom should step in immediately and be stricter in inspecting the equipment of jockeys and ensuring that they meet the standards that Philracom itself has set. ***

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