In line with its regulatory powers under its mandate, the Philippine Racing Commission under chairman Andrew Sanchez requested the Japan Racing Association to conduct a survey of the racetracks of the three horseracing clubs.
Philracom’s charter, Presidential Decree No 420, gives the agency jurisdiction and control over the “safety” and “security” of racing, and Philippine racing rules and regulations require all clubs to provide an “adequate and well-maintained racetrack and grandstand.”
The clubs surveyed were the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite; Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite; and Metro Manila Turf Club’s racecourse in Malvar, Batangas.
The survey was conducted in June 2017 by Japan Racing Association’s JRA Facilities Co. Ltd. with the report submitted to Philracom a month after that.
JRAF’s survey method took two parts, a pre-survey and a field inspection. First, a pre-survey sheet was filled out by the clubs. Next, for the field survey, the hardness of each racecourse was measured and likewise the thickness of the cushion sand.
According to the report, the “underlying roadbed was excavated to confirm the condition of the roadbed…Also the fence, drainage situation, and maintenance control machine[s] of the racecourses were inspected” and the “persons in charge of maintenance work were interviewed.”
Samples of cushion sand surfacing the tracks were also collected and particle size tests made. “Photos of the particles were taken by the microscope and an ignition loss was tested to measure the amount of organic matter contained in the cushion sand.”
This was a thorough and rigorous inspection of the three tracks. It was crucial to conduct this survey because the safety of horses and jockeys depends on the quality of the track surface.
Tracks with rocks or pebbles on their surfaces can injure horses’ legs and cause particles to be sprayed into the faces of jockeys. Poor grading of the surfaces might cause horses to stumble and jockeys to fall, leading to injuries—in the case of horses, severe injuries would necessitate their being euthanized. Horse manure left to rot on the track attracts birds that can be a nuisance and poses a hazard to equine and human health. But a well-maintained track minimizes risk to life and limb.
As with any comparative survey, only one came out on top. Santa Ana Park received the best grade and praise from the surveyors: “This racecourse is very well-managed that there is no particular improvement to be made.”
JRAF suggested that PRCI compile a manual of track management methods “in order to hand down the maintenance skills.” They also asked the club to consider “that the first turf (grass) inner course in the Philippines should be made on the inner course there.”
The surveyors pointed out that “the climate in the Philippines is suitable to grow grass,” and recommended bermuda or zoysia grass “which grow fast in warmer climate, [so] creating a turf course can be done with low cost.”
JRAF also said that a turf course could be an attraction for bettors, and an increase in sales would offset the cost of maintaining the grass.
As for the two other clubs, the improvements recommended to them can easily be complied with. Moreover, JRAF cited MMTC’s “drainage system and its high functionality,” calling it “impressive,” while SLLP’s maintenance team was commended for its “bright atmosphere” and the working staff being “proud of their maintenance work” (meaning perhaps ‘high morale’).
The survey is valuable for the knowledge gained about the actual conditions of the three racetracks. Philracom is to be commended for taking this initiative to regulate industry stakeholders and protect the betting public.
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Dr. Ortuoste is a writer and communications consultant. Facebook: Gogirl Racing and @DrJennyO, Twitter: @hoarsewhsprr and @jennyortuoste