Philippine horse racing could be back by the third weekend of July, without the usual crowd and fans at the racing clubs, provided the National Capital Region is already under a Modified General Community Quarantine.
This was the reply of the Kenneth Ronquillo, head of secretariat of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases to the letter of Philippine Racing Commission Chairman Andrew A. Sanchez, requesting the agency for the resumption of horse racing following the shutting down of all forms of sports and gaming in the country last March by the national government in an effort to curve the spread of COVID-19.
“The plan is to resume races, but only during the weekend for six straight weeks starting on July 19 or possibly 18 at the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite, before the two other racing clubs take their equal turns to host the weekend races,” said Sanchez.
The San Lazaro Leisure Park of the Manila Jockey Club hosts the races again on August 8 and 9, while the Saddle and Clubs Leisure Park of the Philippine Racing Club in Naic Cavite, holds the weekly races on July 24 and 25 and August 15 and 16. The Metro Manila Turf Club Inc. in Malvar, Batangas, takes its turn on August 1 and 2 and 22 and 23.
Horse-racing in the Philippines is a billion-peso industry. For the last decade, horse-racing has contributed an average of P1.3 billion to the national coffers, including P1,352,930,422 last year.
A maximum of 10 races from the usual 12, with priority on the Rating-Based races, are being planned by the Philracom for the Sunday schedule, which it calls Priority Day. If entries exceed the maximum number of 10, the excess entries will be bunched for another schedule of races a day before – a Saturday (Reserve Day), which will have a maximum of seven races.
The Philracom will guarantee a gross prize of P200,000, distributed from 1st to 4th places, subject to government taxes for Sunday races only. Owners of horses, which fail to land in the Top 4 of all races, including the Saturday schedule, will get an incentive prize of P1,000.
“We will start the races by 1 p.m. from the usual 3 p.m. on Sunday so that aficionados and those involved in the conduct of the races will be home early,” said Sanchez.
While horse racing slowly returns to normalcy, some aspects of it will, however, have drastic changes.
Fans won’t be allowed personally watch the races, with only the racing clubs’ employees, Philracom personnel, horse-owners, jockeys, trainers and special guests allowed at the venues, ensuring that only 25 percent of the usual crown will be present. Jockeys will be ordered to wear special face masks and eye gear, while trainers and other horse-racing personnel at the stables will be told to wear hazmats and other protective equipment. On the other hand, horse-racing bettors will be asked to strictly undergo social-distancing while queueing for their bets at the Off-Track Betting Stations.
“That six-week period will determine whether we will increase the frequency of races,” said Sanchez, who added that the Philracom plans to start holding its stakes races beginning on August 30 (3YO Maiden Stakes Race and Road to the Triple Crown Stakes Race) and every week thereafter until the end of the year.
The biggest of those stakes races are the P5 million Ambassador Eduardo “Danding” M. Cojuangco Jr. Cup tentatively slated on Dec. 20, the Triple Crown Series, slated on Sept. 20, Oct. 18 and Nov. 15, with a combined prize money of P9 million, the P2 million Sampaguita Stakes Race (Sept. 6), the P2.5 million Juvenile Championship (Dec. 27) and the P2 million Chairman’s Cup (Dec. 13).