Living the Legacy
Butch Mamon carries on the thoroughbred tradition of C & H Enterprises
Mention the phrase “C &H Enterprises” to most racegoers and recall will be immediate. The old-timers will say “Fair and Square”; the younger ones, “Cover Girl” or “West Bound”. C & H is known as a breeder of champions, with a reputation for excellence and achievement in the sport.
Established in the late 1960s, C & H was founded by Capt. Cesar Mamon and his wife Herminia. A valued and trusted employee of the horse-owning Yulo family for forty years, Capt. Mamon, by virtue of his association with the late Don Jose Yulo, caught the horse-loving bug and and happily indulged it. He rode horses, raced them, and bred them.
Capt. Mamon retired in the early ‘70s to a piece of virgin forest in the foothills of Makiling, in Pansol, where he set up a ranch. He raised both thoroughbreds and non-pedigreed horses.
In 1979, five thoroughbreds were imported from Australia by Alfonso Lacson. Other owners got first dibs on the five; the one they liked least, a broodmare named Fair Sea, went to Capt. Mamon. At that time Fair Sea was in foal to Fair and Square.
Fair and Square went on to become a champion whose name, to this day, is legend. Trained by Dr. Antonio C. Alcasid, he dominated the racing scene of his day, winning two PCSO Presidential Gold Cup races back-to-back in 1981 and 1982, and countless stakes races. (See related story in this issue)
Fair and Square went on to become a noted stallion. His most famous and accomplished offspring was undefeated racemare Sun Dancer (from an Ochie Santos-owned mare), who won two successive PCSO Gold Cup races, in 1989 and 1990. Fair and Square also sired Fair Start, 1993 PCSO Gold Cup winner, and stakes winners Fair Deal, Fair Lead, and Reckless Lover (bred by Jose “Bebo” Quiros and owned by Andrew Sanchez), among many others.
In 1985, Capt. Mamon passed away. By then, C & H was a respected and admired institution in racing. Among his sons – Mario, Pat, Butch, and Alex – the latter two were the most interested in horses, with Alex being perhaps slightly more so. But no one in the family really wanted to take on the responsibility of taking care of the horses, until, reluctantly, Butch stepped to the fore.
What is it that makes some men relinquish a legacy – and some men carry on no matter what? It is a tug of the heart, a pull of the soul, a fierce determination in the gut to keep a dream alive in the face of challenges. It is this undefinable something that Jose Ramon “Butch” Mamon possesses.
Butch, 49, is tall, quiet, and good-natured – but he is no pushover. Far from it. His strength and force of character is palpable as he tells the story of his involvement in racing.
He insists that he went into the sport only to support his father. “In the late ‘60s,” he says, “when I was in high school at UP (University of the Philippines) Rural, I would accompany him to Santa Ana Park. Our (viewing) box there was close to the track. That was the time of Ilocos King, Sea of Joy. I was just a kibitzer, and had no interest at all in racing, but I’d go out and mingle.”
Butch was in college by the time Fair and Square was making his mark. ”My interest sparked,” he recalls, “because my dad’s horses were constantly winning. But I just wanted the horses to win so my dad would be happy, not because I wanted to get into it. None of us did.”
He remembers travelling with his father from Pansol to Santa Ana Park to watch the trangko (workout gallops) of his runners. “Those days, wala pa masyadong traffic, the trip was just 30 to 45 minutes on the highway.” Hard to believe now in this age of snarled transport everywhere.
Capt. Mamon graduated BS Agriculture from UP in 1934. He served in World War II as a reserve officer in the Army, thus the title. He suffered on the infamous Bataan Death March. But his military style didn’t rub off on Butch, who attended UP-Diliman, where he played basketball for the UP Maroons from 1979 to 1982, and completed a degree in Landscape Architecture after shifting from the same course as his father’s in UP-Los Banos.
”I could have sold out (the horses) after my father died,” Butch says, “but I carried on as a tribute to my father, and to carry on the memory.” At that time many people were asking about Fair and Square’s stud services. Butch had a difficult time getting the paperwork in order as the pedigrees of Fair and Square and many other horses of the period where ordered burned by an official of the National Stud Farm.
It was under Butch’s wing that Fair and Square continued his career as a successful sire. He became so famous, that Butch says “there even was a Fair and Square Awards, something like the Eclipse Awards (for racing achievement).”
When Fair and Square died, it was the end of an era. Butch, along with fellow horseowners Sonny Arevalo, Al Gamutero, and Atty. Alex Carandang, acquired another stallion, Ringerman, “on the rebound,” states Butch. “It’s hard to take care of a stallion. I thought he would be a success because suerte kami kay Fair and Square, but not really. Kaya bilib ako sa mga may-ari ng stallions.”
As Butch got more involved with breeding and racing on his own, he had help from his wife, Dr. Jean Mamon. She started out studying veterinary medicine at UP Los Banos but later finished a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of the East. “My wife Jean is a big influence,” Butch declares. “Being a rider herself, she taught us a lot about breaking young horses. She also helped a lot with Cover Girl and West Bound, regarding the feeding program, diet of mares, and drip-feeding of foals. She brought TLC into the way we take care of horses.”
In the past years Butch has concentrated more on breeding rather than racing. “I now have around 15 mares,” he says, “many of them former racehorses like Fair Maiden, Fair Lead, Alynative. I had lots of yearlings in our last crop, most of which I sold. On my farm, I also have a lot of boarders and syndicated runners like Sound Offer, California Lady, and Trieste, who are now broodmares.”
He reckons his most successful line springs from broodmare Gallant Native. “I got her from (trainer) Jojie Panlilio. (Stakes winners) Fair Native, Alynative, Gallant Quest, Tigra, and Cover Girl are from her but from different sires.”
Butch muses, “You need patience in this business. I have a lot. Like our long-time trainer Dr. (Antonio) Alcasid says, ‘The horse will tell you when he’s ready.’ That’s what he taught me which is true naman. Nowadays, breeding is good. I went through hard times in racing when the prize for first place was just P15,000. When Fair and Square won the Gold Cup the prize was only P300,000 instead of the over P1 million it is today!”
On the racing side of his operations, he still keeps a 12-stall stable at Santa Ana Park, shared with (fellow horseowners) Jing Javier and Alvin Ferrer. After the campaigns of Cover Girl and West Bound (both multiple stakes and Triple Crown leg winners) ended some years back, the presence of C & H in racing has somewhat diminished. “Pero babalik din ako sa racing,” Butch vows. “Maririnig din nila uli ang pangalang C & H.”
Being in the industry for three decades gives Butch a deep wellspring of information and experience to draw on to assess the industry as it is today. “With the trending of the sales on a downswing, there is definitely a problem,” he states. “It’s not moving the way it should be, compared to before, despite the bigger prizes allotted by Philracom for stakes races.”
Other industry concerns? “Handicapping is in disarray,” Butch says. “On the breeding aspect, there is big potential to ship horses out (to other countries); the only problem is that we don’t have quarantine protocols yet. But kulang din ang population dito for racing, so that’s something to think about.”
Butch also feels, along with many other horseowners, that there are too many racing days in the calendar. “They should reduce the number of racing days to program better races and so that horses can rest. No more double declarations within one raceweek. Horses are not mechanical. Bettors get sawa with too many races. Baka mas lumakas pa ang karera kung bawasan ang araw.”
His Christmas wish for the industry? “I wish for an honest-to-goodness racetrack run by racehorse owners. (It’s difficult with) private individuals or corporations owning tracks because they are not horsepeople.”
In spite of the challenges facing racing and breeding today, does Butch believe there is still hope for it to regain lost ground and reach its full potential? “Ah, oo naman. Kung hindi, wala ako dito.” But the most compelling reason for his continued presence is this: “May legacy kasi, eh. You have to continue.”
The torch was passed on to him, and he is keeping the flame burning, against all odds. It is men like Butch who keep the thoroughbred industry in the Philippines alive. May he be blessed with the strength and courage to carry on. ***