THW: Five-Day Racing: Good or Bad?

THE HOARSE WHISPERER  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  8 October 2008, Wednesday

Five-Day Racing – Good or Bad?

After a couple of racing weeks’ of Manila Jockey Club’s foray into five-day racing, betting turnover has shown a slight improvement, sowing joy and happiness around the racing scene.

For the past several years, horse races have been conducted year round, six days a week (Monday the exception), with the two existing racing clubs – MJC and Philippine Racing Club – operating on alternate weeks.

With the decline in local gross racing revenue, linked to the global economic crisis, MJC sought a way to boost flagging bettor interest and meager field size, and cut Thursday from their schedule, hoping that the reduction would result in better lineups.

Their experiment seems to have worked. Just as an illustration – in the final weeks of their six-day schedule, the gross horseowner’s prize-of-the-day (HOP) for first place was around P96,000, a drastic drop from their previous HOP of around P125,000 to 130,000. A mere two weeks into the reduced schedule, HOP has climbed up to around P109,000.

Prize money is computed as a percentage of total betting handle and the higher the gross revenue, the higher the HOP will be.

However, from the gross HOP amounts mentioned above, from which winner’s tax, jockeys’ fund, and trainers’ fund contributions have already been deducted, further cuts will be made – 12% jockey’s prize, 9% trainer’s prize, 5% groom’s share, 1.5% exercise rider’s share, and 1.5% helper’s share.

So from the P109,000 HOP, the net amount that is left for the horseowner is around P77,000. From this the horseowner pays for feeds, stable rent, medicines and supplements, tack, veterinary care, inscription and declaration fees, groom’s and other stablehand’s salaries, and other expenses.

Not much is left over for acquiring new horses and other capital investments, so any boost to the overall total sales helps keep the sport alive and running.

The relative success of the shortened raceweek vindicates the opinion of industry people who advocate a return to “the old days”, the times when races were run three days (Friday to Sunday) or four days a week (Wednesday and Friday to Sunday). Even just five days, they say, is still too long.

Why was the six-day raceweek introduced, then? Some sources claim that it was successful in boosting gross revenue, dividends, and government taxes. But as pointed out by both local and foreign racing experts, such a schedule could not be maintained in the long run as horses’ health would suffer and track conditions would deteriorate due to lack of time for maintenance, leading to even more problems.

In fact, of all the world’s racing nations, only the Philippines conducts races six days a week year-round.

Shall we then see a permanent return to a reduced schedule?

Time will show how to properly evaluate the situation. What works now for MJC might not work for PRC, which is struggling but able to maintain higher revenues and consequently HOPs. PRC, in fact, still maintains a six-day schedule.

And what’s this we hear about a third racing club that plans to put up a racetrack in Batangas? As in any industry, a new entrant will pose challenges to the present racing clubs as well as face its own in a business that never runs out of crises.  

Yet, for all its concerns, racing, having lasted for nearly 200 years, will always be around. Once the gates open and the horses race, tails streaming in the wind, thoughts of prizes fade as hearts beat faster, in time to the pounding of hoofbeats. *** (Web: http://jennyo.net)

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