THW: Racing Year in Review

THE HOARSE WHISPERER  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  31 December 2008, Wednesday

 Racing Year in Review

The year 2008 saw many significant occurrences in the world of Philippine horseracing, sports-wise and business-wise. Here’s a rundown of some that stood out:

The Good:

  • Early January – After a united multi-sectoral industry clamor which led to a four-day racing holiday, the unpopular sitting Philippine Racing Commission chairman was removed by Malacañang Palace. He was replaced by racing insider lawyer Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II. A former horseowner and breeder, he is deemed very knowledgeable on industry issues and culture, as well as more approachable and diplomatic.
  • June – Go Army (Mr. Sutter – J’Approve) begins his 2YO campaign, winning stakes race after stakes race in an undefeated streak, and graduating the year as juvenile valedictorian.
  • August – the Philippine College of Equine Practitioners holds its seventh scientific convention, attesting to the country’s growing expertise in this highly-specialized field.
  • September – Keeneland Association Inc.’s (USA) Chauncey Morris and Geoffrey Russell, and Magic Millions’ (Australia) David Chester sponsor eponymous stakes races and fly to Manila to personally hand out trophies, showing these thoroughbred auctioneers’ support for Philippine breeding and racing.
  • 7YO racemare La Tienne, an Australian import (Belong To Me – Tierani) proves “age does not matter” by winning the Philracom Peridot I and Peridot II stakes back-to-back. Moreover, she did so by rallying from last place in the field. This was a comeback feat that boggled the minds of racing fans.
  • October, November, December – despite the challenges of the global recession, horseowners’ organizations Klub Don Juan de Manila, Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners, and Philippine Thoroughbred Owners’ and Breeders’ Organization manage to hold their annual racing festivals, complete with prize money, trophies, and pretty muses.
  • November 23 and December 7 – another comebacking track star, 3YO island-born colt Ibarra (Yonaguska-Fire Down Under), owned by Mandaluyong mayor Benhur C. Abalos, wins the Philracom Amb. Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. Cup and the PCSO Presidential Gold Cup, both arduous 2,050-meter ordeals, in frisky wire-to-wire style.

The Not-So-Good:

  • May – MJC’s unresolved dispute with its totalizator service provider led to the cancellation of their raceweek at San Lazaro Leisure Park as they struggled to cope with the challenge of damage control and setting up their own in-house tote system.
  • The Shining Fame Case (May) and Diamond Magic Case (August) – long stories of Manila Jockey Club racing steward decisions gone awry.
  • August – cable television’s Makisig Network gives a month’s notice of its pull-out from the race coverage at SLLP after just a year despite a three-year contract, giving MJC another headache in setting up its own broadcast team.
  • MJC tellers threaten to strike, exposing complaints on pay cuts and a proposed redundancy scheme.
  • November - MJC shuts down its outer track for maintenance after complaints lodged by jockeys, trainers, and horseowners, resulting in the elimination of 1600-meter races from the card until the rehabilitation work is completed.

The Interesting:

  • March – MJC experiments with a seven-day racing schedule for three months. In May, Philracom declines to renew their application to extend the experiment.
  • September – MJC tries a five-day racing schedule, dropping Thursdays, which continues to the present.
  • Philracom commissions ska group Bandoska to compose a jingle, “Larga Na!”, to use in a cable television commercial to promote racing – the first time such a marketing effort has been done in this traditionally conservative milieu.
  • December 21 – Philippine Racing Club holds its last racing day at its historic Makati facility, and prepares to transfer operations to its new and bigger location at Trece Martirez, Cavite, not, however, without drawing the ire of some horseowners and other industry members who deplore the lack of a “transition period”.

To sum up: MJC had a tough year, but they weathered their crises well, managing to stay afloat in a maelstrom of formidable challenges. PRC faced fewer operational challenges at their Makati track, yet must cope with the problems of transferring to their new site in Cavite. The first race there is set for January 6.

Philippine-bred horses continue to shine as breeders, horseowners, trainers, and jockeys seek excellence in their sport. While gross sales took a dip, compared to previous years – not unusual given the global financial crisis and similar woes faces by overseas racing clubs – the industry is still optimistic. 2009, all vow, will be better.

To all, a peaceful and prosperous New Year! ***

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1 Comment on THW: Racing Year in Review

  1. NiHAWmA
    3 January 2009 at 12:56 pm (3453 days ago)

    CURLIN’s seven length victory in the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup.

    BIG BROWN, steered by Kent Desormeaux, became the first horse since the filly Regret in 1915 to win the Kentucky Derby off just three career starts and the second to win from stall number 20.

    But the most talked about was EIGHT BELLES finishing second, who broke both ankles (front) while galloping out a quarter of a mile past the wire. She was euthanized.

    Does REAL SPICY have any chance of becoming the “Horse of the Year” ? (your guess is as good as mine).

    A lot of racing enthusiasts has been asking if REAL SPICY is still capable of winning big races. REAL SPICY, despite his age started the year with a bang by winning the Philracom sponsored Garnet II Stakes race against Manhattan, Native Land, Playmaker and Don Paolo.

    And then, he went on to beat his four other rivals, shall we say, past their prime against Chariot of Fire, Kayang Kaya, Alexis Magic, Lord of All and District Three. You see Real Spicy is competing against horses which is NOT in his same caliber. When you happen to see the racing program, you will ask yourself. IS THIS A STAKES RACE (Philracom Amethyst I) ? Or just a Special Invitation Race. Yung iba nga po ang sabi ay “hindi yan stakes race kundi barrier”. You will surely agree with me that his opponents were not in his class. Imagine, LORD OF ALL, was about to retire (10 years old plus). Alexis Magic and District Three, both of them has not been winning in their respective division (Imported). Real Spicy was carrying 60 kilos. Even if you will give him the toughest handicap weight (65 kilos), he will still win the race. The heaviest handicap he carried so far was 59 kilos during the 2007 Presidential Gold Cup.

    The Philracom Amethyst Stakes race was one of the most exciting stakes race ever since it was introduced. I still can recall horses like Pearl Tower, Regalberto and Dynamic Dynah. In fact there were two divisions. The Junior and Senior Division.

    The other “must see” stakes races (before) were the Pearl Stakes Race and the Diamond Stakes race.

    The racing enthusiasts deserves to see not just a stakes race BUT QUALITY STAKES RACE.

    Real Spicy won the 4th European Union Cup against Aly Dancer, Sweet Xarah, Fierce Fighter, La Tienne and Quiet Gal.

    Despite the heavy handicap weight, he won the 13th First Gentleman Silver Cup against Native Land, Manhattan, El Terrible and Vivere.

    Sad to say, he was unsuccessful in beating IBARRA twice (Amb. Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. Cup and the Presidential Gold Cup)

    Real Spicy closed out the curtain by winning the 2008 Philtobo Grand Championship Classic against his arch rival EMPIRE KING who just came in third behind IDIDITMYWAY.

    In fairness, the present board which is being headed by Hon. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II is a far better than the previous board.

    2009, Year of the Ox, should be a banner year for Philippine horse racing with the transfer of the historic Santa Ana Park to the Saddle and Clubs Leisure Park in Trece Martirez. Racing fans will be able to witness exciting races (Carmona horses running in Trece Martirez). So we expect each and every racing day to be full pack or full gate.
    But please come to think of changing the present handicapping system.
    And hopefully, betting machines will be added (off track betting stations) and will not be off-line even inside the race track.

    With both racing clubs having a world class facilities, it’s about time to think of an alternative on how to increase the sales. Telebet is not enough. The racing authorities including the Games and Amusement Board should start to think of introducing ON- LINE BETTING.

    Sa ikauunlad ng karera, ON-LINE BETTING ang kailangan.

    Goodluck and all the best in 2009.