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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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! ***