Up until the early 2000s, there were 2 horse racing tracks located within the metropolis: the San Lazaro Hippodrome and the Santa Ana Park. While these places today have somewhat faded into obscurity in the midst of the modern commercial structures that replaced them, they have not been forgotten by generations of horse racing aficionados who grew up watching the races in these venues.
Today on the Urban Roamer, we will be reminiscing about one of these places, the race track known as Santa Ana Park.
First things first, despite its name, the Santa Ana Park was not located in the district of Santa Ana itself in Manila. Rather, it is located in nearby Makati, at the barangay called Carmona. It just so happens that during the time it was built, Santa Ana was a more affluent area, at a time when the modern Makati business district was not in existence yet. Besides, it was close to Santa Ana so there was no issue there.
Known originally as the Santa Ana Race Track, the 25-hectare complex was opened in 1937 through the efforts of the Philippine Racing Club, a club that consisted of American and Filipino horseracing aficionados. The Philippine Racing Club (known before as the PRC, hence the origin of the route name the jeepneys going to and from the area got the name from) was said to be established in the first place as a counterpart to the older Manila Jockey Club, which consisted of Spanish and Filipino horseracing aficionados.
The race track structures which consisted of two grandstands and an office building was built with a heavy influence of Art Deco, one of the most popular architectural styles of the period. Then there was the race track itself, an oval course which was a little over 2 kilometers in length. (1 1/4 miles)
With only a brief interruption during World War II, the horse racing operations at the Santa Ana Park never ceased, with its racing days alternating that of San Lazaro. For the next 70+ years, the races inside this race track continued as the landscape around it changed, from the rise of the Makati business district, as well as the rapid urbanization (not to mention the squalor that came along with it) around the area. In time, Santa Ana Park could no longer fulfill the changing needs of the horse racing industry in the country. After 72 years, it was time to move out.
By January 2009, the Philippine Racing Club, including its horseracing operations, relocated to a bigger facility in Naic, Cavite. It still bore the old name of “Santa Ana Park,” but it was no longer the old Santa Ana Park that generations of horseracing aficionados were used to seeing and have come to miss, even if the new racecourse was bigger and more modern.
As for the old Santa Ana Park property, save for some parts of the old structure that still remain at this time of writing, most of the original facility was now gone to give way to the redevelopment of the area to a commercial and residential district at the northwest of Makati. But for generations of residents in the area and the avid horseracing folk, the memory of the horse races in this part of the metropolis will always remain.
To be continued as we look at the complex that replaced this old horseracing facility, Circuit Makati
Acknowledgements as well to the Philippine Racing Club, Inc. and Jenny Ortuoste (through UP Diliman)