THE first season at new horseracing club MetroTurf got off to a shaky start last week, but gained momentum over the weekend on the strength of strong support showed by horseowner Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos.
The Philippine Racing Commission, the sport’s governing body, gave MetroTurf a permit to operate this year, incorporating it into the 2013 official racing calendar along with decades-old Manila Jockey Club and Philippine Racing Club, both of which have racetracks in Cavite.
Because of technical constraints and other concerns, MetroTurf was unable to start its operations in January. Philracom gave them an entire raceweek starting Tuesday, Feb. 19.
MetroTurf’s races were sparsely populated at first. Only six races were held on Tuesday. The declaration of entries for the following day were extended until midnight, something previously unheard of.
Despite this move, no races were held on Wednesday. Only seven were formed for Thursday, and five on Friday.
There are usually eight races from Tuesday to Thursday and nine on Friday at MJC and PRC.
Weekends often see 12 to 13 races held; MetroTurf only managed seven on Saturday and 12 on Sunday, for total of 37 races for the raceweek. The average number of races for a week is 55 to 59.
To entice horseowners to declare their entries, the weekend races were lavishly gilded with guaranteed and additional prizes.
However, Mayor Abalos’s full support for the weekend races was the deciding factor that increased the momentum of MetroTurf’s first week. Abalos turned out his best horses, attracting racing fans’ attention.
On Sunday, Abalos’s Cat’s Silver won the Leopoldo Prieto II stakes race for 3YO fillies while his El Libertador triumphed in the Leopoldo Prieto III race for 3YO colts.
Both horses were guided by Philippine Sportswriters Association Jockey of the Year Jonathan Hernandez. They will see action in this year’s Triple Crown series for elite 3YO.
Despite having fewer races for the raceweek, sales at MetroTurf weren’t bad, grossing P99.9 million (the average is P146 million). Horse prizes were around P230,000, not too far from the average P240,000 to P260,000. Sunday sales were at P34.2 million, slightly better than the average P32 to 33 million.
However, jockeys deplored the “abnormally hard track conditions” as seen in faster-than-average track times at MetroTurf. Describing the outer parts of the track as “like asphalt,” one jockey opined that this may have contributed to the breakdown of at least two horses up to Friday.
In addition, some track lights failed on Thursday night, causing a thirty-minute delay.
Growing pains, or not ready to race? The jury’s still out on this. Let’s see what happens next.
Meanwhile, the races go to a “2-2-2” schedule this week, with each of the three racing clubs holding two days of racing, one after another, and in rotation.
This scheme hopes to maximize the number of racedays per track, and to fairly allot the racing days spread over the year.
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