No discussion on local horseracing can begin without mentioning the Manila Jockey Club (MJC), more popularly known as the ‘San Lazaro’ racetrack. Founded in 1867, the Manila Jockey Club, according to its website, http://www.manilajockey.com, was established by the Spanish Governor-General Jose dela Gandara y Navarro to conduct horse races in the country.
The Club started out with 100 exclusive members, known as “socio fundadores” or ‘charter members’, who came from affluent families in the country. These include old Filipino Spanish families such as the Ayalas, Zobels, Prietos, Tuasons, and Elizaldes, among others, who today are still recognized as pillars of Philippine economy and local social circles. These sportsmen conducted recreational races for the enjoyment of the Philippine social elite. Horses raced at the time were mostly locally-bred Philippine ponies from Sulu, Indian and Chinese stock.
In 1880, a new racing oval was built in Sta Mesa, Manila — the ‘hippodromo de Sta Mesa’. English-style racing were held twice a year for four successive days in 1881, during the time of Governor General Eulogio Despujol. At the outbreak of the Philippine revolution in 1896, horseracing continued but was stopped at the beginning of the Spanish-American war in 1898. When the Spaniards handed over the Philippines to the Americans in 1899, horseracing at the Sta Mesa Hippodrome resumed. By 1900, at the start of the American occupation of the Philippines, the Manila Jockey Club transferred its racing facility from Sta Mesa to a new location — the San Lazaro racetrack in the Sta Cruz district of Manila, where the best of Philippine horseracing will be held for more than a 100 years.
During this period, horseracing was opened to all classes of people, and formal betting was introduced and allowed by 1903. By 1912, the San Lazaro racetrack and grandstand occupied a 16-hectare property in Sta Cruz. The MJC was incorporated as a business entity on 22 March 1937. In the 1950s, the club was publicly listed with the Manila Stock Exchange and granted a franchise on 23 October 1972, through Republic Act No 6631, to operate and maintain a racetrack and conduct horse races.
Under the leadership of Atty Alfonso Reyno Jr, a group of investors acquired the controlling interest of the MJC from the Prieto family in 1995. By 2003, a world class racing facility was constructed by the MJC on a 77-hectare property in Carmona, Cavite.
Until its transfer in 2003 to Cavite, the Manila Jockey Club held major championship races for local thoroughbreds, including the San Lazaro Founder’s Cup, Presidential Gold Cup and Asian Racing Circuit championships, at the San Lazaro racetrack.
Today, the MJC conducts all its racing operations in its horse racing facility in Carmona, Cavite. It operates off-track betting stations (OTBs) and is expanding its OTB network in Metro Manila, as well as in provincial areas. As of 31 December 2008, the company had a total of 263 OTB stations, 23 of which are located in provincial areas.
In line with the MJC’s vision to expand its business operations and enhance the value of the shareholders’ investment, the company is also engaged in the development of its real estate assets through joint venture agreements with leading property developers. These include joint partnership agreements with Century Communities Incorporated for the development of the Canyon Ranch Residences in Tagaytay City, and with the Ayala Land for the Celadon Residences, Celadon and Avida Towers, and the Vertex One residential-commercial complex at the former San Lazaro racetrack.
The MJC recently ventured into gaming operations with the establishment of a casino, known as the Pagcor Club San Lazaro, located at the third floor of the Turf Club of the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite.
Over the next ten years, the MJC plans to spend at least PhP 15 billion for three huge township development projects, with casino developments. According to MJC executive vice president and chief operating officer Alfonso Victorio Reyno III, these projects include the construction of a 250-room hotel to be managed by Accor in the old San Lazaro racetrack, a 200-room resort hotel and spa in Carmona, and a premier 200-hectare hotel and resort development project in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro.