THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 24 December 2008, Wednesday
Farewell, Santa Ana Park
It dawned bright and clear on December 21, Sunday, the last day of racing at Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Makati City. The air was cool and nippy, perfect weather for racing. Fans thronged the stands, longing to be part of a historic event.
Fans at the grandstands remained till the last race at 830pm.
The day’s card featured thirteen races, five of them major championships of the Philippine Thoroughbred Owners’ and Breeders’ Organization. Horseowner Hermie Esguerra cemented his number-one status by winning four of them – the Classic with Real Spicy, Juvenile Colts with Go Army, Juvenile Fillies with Queen of Queens, and 3YO Fillies with Indelible Ink. The winner of the 3YO Colts championship was Don Enrico (Wind Blown-Kayumanggi), owned by Lorraine Uy Wi, which was bred by Esguerra.
Competitors in the Philtobo Classic – the last race on the card – are a blur of motion as they round the first bend on their 2,050-meter journey. The race was won by the favorite, 6YO veteran Real Spicy.
Esguerra, through his Herma Farms and Stud, was also the breeder of Go Army (Mr. Sutter – J’Approve) and Queen of Queens (Mr. Sutter-Arriba Queen). Indelible Ink (Best of Luck-Seaquin) and Real Spicy (Real Quiet-Spicy Tale) were both island-born (born to a mare imported in foal) and thus not considered local-breds.
Esguerra showed up at the track with American lightweight boxer and former World Boxing Council champ David Diaz and former World Boxing Association junior lightweight victor Edwin Valero. The fans went wild over the two athletes, who graciously waved to them and contributed to the day’s festive atmosphere.
At the awarding ceremony for Indelible Ink’s win, US boxing champion David Diaz (left, black shirt) applauds; beside him, fellow champion pugilist Edwin Valero bears the owner’s trophy; horseowner Esguerra (in striped shirt) walks off stage with the breeders’ trophy; jockey Hernandez, trainer Manalang, Philtobo president Niles, and Viva Hot Babes are present as well.
The Philtobo event also featured a gift basket raffle and Viva Hot Babes singing, dancing, awarding trophies, and kissing jockeys.
With all the celebrations, hardly anyone shed a tear over the proposed transfer of the track to new facilities at Trece Martirez, Cavite City. Perhaps it’s because Filipinos are a forward-looking people. Sentiment over the past is, in general, hardly part of our psyche; have we not been criticized as lacking a sense of history?
Yet there are many who will miss the racing community once it pulls out of the area it has occupied since 1937. Horseowners, trainers, jockeys, grooms, helper, saddle makers, boot cobblers, tailors of silks and riding breeches, and others who have made their living from racing will be uprooted.
Thus the contention of some owners and other industry members that PRC provide them with a “disturbance compensation”. They also pointed out the lack of a transition period and advance official notice of the transfer.
An official announcement about the move was made by PRC’s executive vice-president and COO Atty. Ramon P. Ereñeta Jr. in a dialogue with concerned industry members only last December 20, although the industry has been aware of the proposed move for the past five years.
“The first day of racing at Trece is on January 6,” Ereñeta said. “I invite you all to transfer there with us…Whatever is fair, just, and equitable, we will do to assist.”
View from the driveway of the new PRC Santa Ana Park grandstand building at Trece Martirez, Cavite City. (Photo taken Oct. 2008, courtesy of PRC)
He also assured the assembled group of owners and trainers that there is enough room at Trece to house the active racing population, with 1,000 stalls in 78 stables ready for occupancy.
The Philippine Racing Commission has, upon rigorous inspection and exhaustive evaluation based on international standards, granted a permit to PRC to conduct races at Trece. Some owners and trainers raised fears about their horses’ safety at an untried track. Atty. Ereñeta pointed out that without a racing permit, they cannot hold even dry runs or trial races on their new twin tracks. “The permit is not irrevocable,” said Ereñeta, who is also a professor at the Ateneo de Manila Law School. “Should anything untoward happen, Philracom can revoke the license.” Barrier trials and exhibition and novato runs will be held at Trece on January 4.
The first bend at Trece, as seen from an upper floor of the grandstand building (Photo taken Oct. 2008, courtesy of PRC)
Racing is at a historical crossroads now, looking back at the 71 years at Santa Ana Park, and at the same time looking forward to a better, brighter future at a modern and spacious facility.
To all, a very Merry Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year! ***