Thursday, November 09, 2006


The Manila Jockey Club — the first racing club in Southeast Asia — was formed in the summer of 1867 by a group of racing aficionados led by Jose de la Gandara y Navarro, then Spanish General of the Philippines. Its original founders were from Manila’s affluent Filipino, Spanish and English families in the 19th century such as the Ayalas, Zobels, Tuazons, Elizaldes and Nietos.

When it was moved from Santa Mesa to a part of the San Lazaro estate, it then became better known as the San Lazaro Hippodrome. A couple of years ago, it was once again relocated, but this time outside of Manila to a much bigger complex at Carmona, Cavite. It is now called The San Lazaro Leisure Park. What now stands on its place right on Tayuman and Felix Huertas Streets is SM City San Lazaro Mall. And behind it are two housing development projects — Celedron Park (townhouses) and Avida Towers (high-rise condominium apartments); the ongoing constructions of which are featured in the photo below.

When I was a kid, the karera (races) were then held on alternate weekends at San Lazaro and the Santa Ana Hippodrome. On late Sunday afternoons, if the family wasn’t engaged in any wedding or funeral or any other social concerns, my father would sometimes take me with him to the San Lazaro racetrack, which was walking distance from where we lived. We only stayed for a couple of races and then went home in time for supper. While my father shared racing tips with his friends, I would usually indulge on either hotdogs or hamburgers and vanilla ice cream. By the time we got home, I was too full to eat anything else. It was always a fun experience whether my father won or not.

As a young adult in New York, on a weekday, I would sometimes take the Long Island Railroad to the Belmont Racing Park; there I would spend the entire afternoon. I’d bet two dollars the most on a race; if lucky, I would win about eight dollars, which I would spend five bucks on a hotdog and a can of soda, while the rest was for betting on the next race. It was more a leisurely way to spend an afternoon with a touch of adrenalin rush to boot.

Just as enjoyable was the pre-race ritual in which the trainers would parade the horses at a special area within the race park. Those beautifully-kept and well–trained horses were truly a sight to behold — incredible creatures, indeed. Besides the horses and racing, Belmont Race Park also offered live jazz concerts during the late afternoons at another part of the park. I was once fortunate enough to have enjoyed Lionel Hampton and his band performed about two hours of cool jazz music in that park. I rarely got a weekday time off so it wasn’t that often that I’d get a chance to spend an afternoon at the Belmont Race Park. But then again, I was not a serious enthusiast to begin with; besides, none of my friends were into horse racing so I didn’t miss it all that much.

However, I can see myself living in one of the townhouses being built in the old San Lazaro racetrack, because I grew up in the area and still feel a close connection to it — not so much for the karera, but rather for the community of my youth itself. The Espiritu Santo Church is only two or three blocks away, while the commercial centers of Quiapo, Santa Cruz, and Divisoria are mere short distances away. In this case, a calesa would definitely become my main mode of transportation.

Unfortunately, there is one major downside to this prospect: the streets that surround this old San Lazaro racing complex get flooded during major rainstorms — at least, under two-feet of water in some areas. Only a few months ago, I drove along Oroquieta Street (from Claro M. Recto Avenue to N.S. Amoranto Street in La Loma) and didn’t see any land at all. It was like driving through a river. So for those contemplating on buying real estate in this complex, beware of the flooding that occurs in the surrounding areas and better trade in your sedans for an SUV before moving in.

SM City San Lazaro Mall at Tayuman and Felix Huertas Streets

The construction of the housing developments on the old racetrack of San Lazaro

Vintage photo credit:
Photographer unknown
Photographic reproduction by Clifford S. Torres
Santa Cruz Church - A Living Heritage
By Anna Maria L. Harper
Published by the Sta. Cruz Parish Pastoral Council

posted by Señor Enrique at 4:18 PM


Anonymous DatuPanot said...

hola senor enrique,

i'm supportive of all the developments that's going on in manila. there seems to be a lot, which is good! but i think the city should focus more on the revitalization and most importantly the conservation of these achitectural and historical landmarks.
SM, instead of tearing down old structures, should at least try to maintain the style and character of a building or a structure. they (sm) have the influence and the big bucks to do this if they would like to. tell me, how many more bland, no-character SM shopping malls do we need?



November 09, 2006 11:48 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

So the hippodrome is gone and Felix Huertas St. has its own SM City mall.

I suppose the old houses are gone, too.

Didn't know your family lived around the area. They may have known the family of my uncle doctor(he married the elder sister of my mother)who lived there for a long time.

Since that house that they lived on was an ancestral home, it was really old-looking even then. With a lot of religious icons inside, moving around was quite an effort.

November 10, 2006 10:24 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

This is true, DP. SM malls seem to be springing up almost as numerous as Starbucks do in Manhattan. The Manila Jockey Club was also a landmark, but I guess no one is that interested in establishing it as such and absorb the cost of maintenance.

Hopefully, the new mayor after Atienza's final term of office will be more history sensistive and not just into strictly revitalization and progress.

November 10, 2006 1:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Whatever grand ancestral homes are left aren't that all admirable anyway because most of the ground floor levels had been converted to fast food carinderia-type businesses, Amadeo.

We lived in Misericordia Street (renamed T. Mapua) and Batangas Street. It was once a nice residential block, but has been transformed into auto parts and tire commercial area. Our old house still stands, though. It is now owned by another family.

November 10, 2006 1:33 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

I've never been to any race horse before but I should have been to one but just did not had that idea when I was in Manila. I always see this scene on TV and movies and I can see that it is such a raucous environment--in a way that it is so lively and vibrant. It should be a truly enjoyable experience I think.

November 10, 2006 2:07 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

The San Lazaro Hippodrome is still indicated in most maps. Last year I wanted to do a series about horse racing. I was very excited about it. You can image my dissapointment to see a SM Mall instead of a race track...:-(

I agree with Datupanot. SM should use some of it's cash for conservation of historical landmarks.
It is probably difficult to build nice malls but I find SM malls particularly ugly. Those Malls become the center piece of a neighbourhood and destroy the "spirit" of the place. SM Bagio is as ugly as SM San Lazaro. As you point out they are eyesores like the Starbucks, Jolybee's and Mc Donald's...

November 10, 2006 7:35 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, you are correct, Major Tom. The racetrack can be just that -- raucous, lively and vibrant as you've pictured it to be.

Incidentally, "Sea Biscuit" is one fine movie about horse racing.

You're right, Sidney. The SM people could have been more imaginative as the Ayalas. At San Lazaro, they could have somehow integrated the old Manila Jockey Club landmark building with the design of the mall -- plus add in some greenery.

Not too many folks appreciate the SM Baguio edifice.

November 10, 2006 8:38 PM  

Anonymous kyels said...

This post reminds me of the movie starring Tobey Maguire in Sea Biscuit.

I've never seen a real horse racing before though I've watched it couple of times on telly last time.

Good to hear that there are so many development projects going on in Philippines, it's great, definitely.


November 11, 2006 10:21 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That is some movie, Kyels. Whenever I needed to feel good, I slip in the DVD and watch it again.

November 11, 2006 10:47 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Senor Enrique, thanks for blogging about the Hippodrome. I miss the sight of that landmark. SM San Lazaro may be very convenient for the residents but it's an eyesore. I prefer the times when the Hippodrome was still standing because the city view was still good and the neighborhood still had a distinct landmark. Now this neighborhood is as generic as ever. SM and the Manila city government should really learn how to be more sensitive towards preservation of historical landmarkds.

November 18, 2006 7:25 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

As much as I appreciate the beautification programs going on in the city, Bluechick, I am fast becoming aware of certain landmarks being demolished as well.

The Manila Jockey Club was one of them. Ironically, this landmark was torn down not as part of a beautification program, but to erect another monstrous SM mall.

November 19, 2006 7:13 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you again for this article. Just like you, I'm a racing fan also in Manila and California.
It was just sad that a landmark was replaced by a shopping mall and residential buildings.
Binabaha nga ang Tayuman and Felix Huertas... so much for my olds in UST.
I guess we can call that as progress. :D


February 03, 2007 6:10 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Check out my posts on UST also, Rey!

Many thanks also for visiting my site :)

February 03, 2007 7:33 AM  

<< Home

Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


About Me

Name: Señor Enrique
Location: Manila, Philippines

View my complete profile

This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called Flickr Badge. Make your own badge here.
Señor Enrique Home
Designed by The Dubai Chronicles.
All rights and lefts reserved.