Santa Ana Park is the racetrack facility of the Philippine Racing Club and was built in 1937. PRC was founded by American and Filipino horsemen and entrepreneurs in the late 1920s as a counterpart to the Manila Jockey Club, enclave of Spanish and Filipino aristocrats at its foundation in 1867 until its heyday in the ’50s.
There are three main structures on the twenty-five hectare property, all in a simple Art Deco style – two grandstands and an office building. There is a single dirt (sand) track surrounded by many stables that, over time, have mushroomed to far more than the area can comfortably hold. Stalls are built right up against the cinder-block walls that line the track.
The facade of Santa Ana Park on AP Reyes Avenue on an early morning last April
Races have been held continuously at Santa Ana Park since it was built, with a brief hiatus during the war. It is named for St. Anne, patron saint of nearby Sta. Ana town, Manila, although the racetrack itself is part of Makati. It has been the scene of countless challenging races and has seen the rise – and fall – of champion racehorses and horsemen.
View of AP Reyes Avenue on the other side
It is also “home” to me and my children. We have lived on my father-in-law’s compound behind the track since my marriage to a jockey in 1991. A racehorse trainer and veterinarian, my father-in-law maintains his property as a racing stable with stalls for twelve. We live with the sounds of soft neighing and hoofbeats as the horses are hotwalked in the mornings after ensayo (workout), the clanking of the tin labangans as feeding time approaches. The muted thudding of horses’ hooves on the sawdust is like the hammering of my own heart.
The parking lot is used by the community for group calisthenics
That’s the office building on the left
The Art Deco main building. The second level houses the parquet-floored ballroom and murals of champion horses from the ’70s and ’80s, as well as the broadcast studio, owners’ boxes, and VIP lounges
The parade ring with the finish line in the background
The home turn is on the far left
The first bend; Makati office buildings in the background were built many years after the track was
View of the left-side grandstand
The Stewards’ Stand. The Board of Stewards watch the track with eagle eyes (aided by binoculars) from the top floor; below that is the racecallers’ perch; a viewing area; and on the ground level, the jockeys’ weighing scales
View of the grandstand from the parade ring
A horse trots past the finish line during morning workout
Exercise rider Kiko Dilema asks, “Kinukunan mo na naman kami, Tita Jen?”
A groom leans against the rail, waiting for his horse and its ensayador to finish. One trot, two canter, perhaps?
Alex and Ik, tunay na batang karera – apo ni Doc Alcasid at anak ni jockey Oyet at ni Ms. Jen sa TV
As a young mother, I took my babies here nearly every day to catch the morning sun. When they were older, they learned to walk on the grass beside their track as their father rode by, smiling indulgently.
As a beginning broadcaster in this industry, this is where we shot many episodes of various incarnations of horseracing shows. As a former employee of PRC and of a horseowner who had two racing stables here, I know nearly every inch of this place, from the air-conditioned executive offices to the dusty stables that hug the track walls to the cockpit at the corner where the sabungeros were more vociferous in cheering than kareristas.
And all this will be gone next year, to make way for malls, condominiums, and other towers of glass and steel. The racetrack will be moved to a new, and bigger, seventy-hectare facility in Trece Martirez City, Cavite. There it can accomodate the growing number of horses in a sport that is gaining in popularity among players. It’s for the best, really.
Yet a rich part of history will disappear. Have enough photographs been taken? Videos? Interviews of old-timers who remember the place when it was still “Sampiro”, San Pedro de Makati, when the air was cool and you could faintly see blue shadows of the mountains of Rizal in the distance, before the high-rises rose up to obscure them?
But it is the way of things, that the old make way for the new, for old memories to be remembered and cherished even as new ones are created.
Read more about Philippine horseracing at gogirlracing.jennyo.net