Charles Town Races ready to race again

April 29, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jockey Larry Dupuy is ready for the starting gate to open today at Charles Town Races.

"It's great," Dupuy said. "We've got to get back to work."

The track is to reopen today at 10:30 a.m. with races beginning at 1 p.m.

Race fans will see a track that is a work in progress as renovation work continues.

"These people have put a good effort in this. Penn National is working their butts off," said Dupuy, of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

The track closed on Nov. 10, 1996. Dupuy won three races that day.

Penn National bought the track after Jefferson County voters approved a measure allowing the track to have video lottery machines.

Dupuy spent the off-time working as an electrician. He had gone back to school about two years ago when the track closed briefly.


"It's a flurry of activity," said Charles Town Races Marketing Director Bill Bork Jr. "Everyone's buzzing around. A lot of construction guys are buzzing around. TVs are being installed and tested. There's a new time on the tote board. Everybody's eager to get back to racing."

The track employs about 400 people directly and an additional 500 to 600 people work at the track as jockeys, trainers, horse owners, stable hands and at other jobs.

The president of the local horsemen's association said the relationship between his group and the track's owners is going well. On Thursday, the two groups are signing a contract, the first since 1993, he said.

"The long-term picture looks very good," said Randy Funkhouser, president of the Charles Town HBPA, formerly the Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association.

The track reopening is good news for the 2,000 horse owners and trainers on the books as well as for area farmers, who provide hay, straw and feed, Funkhouser said.

Though construction isn't done, Funkhouser said he's excited by the changes he's seen, including the work done on the stable area.

The award purses are looking good and Funkhouser said a lot of horse owners who had gotten out of the business in the past three to five years have come back to it.

Businesses near the track also are looking forward to the resumption of racing.

Terry Marcus, an owner of the Turf Motel in Charles Town, said race fans have packed his motel.

"I would say out of 46 rooms, 45 of them are track related," Marcus said.

"We're all eagerly awaiting tomorrow and this upcoming weekend," Marcus said Tuesday.

Marcus said he had to lay off several of the motel staff while the track was closed and now he's adding people to the workforce.

"It's light at the end of the tunnel," said Pat O'Brien, general manager at the Towne House Motor Lodge.

"It's been a long, hard winter," said O'Brien, who said his motel was full for the first time in months.

He estimated that 90 percent of the guests in the 115 rooms were in town for the horse racing.

Some of the fans came up over the weekend to make sure they would have a room, O'Brien said.

"It's been pleasant seeing the old faces come back," O'Brien said.

"I think everyone knows they're under construction," O'Brien said. "It's been so long since there's been racing there they don't care what it looks like."

Track officials have said the work will continue throughout the summer. Video lottery machines are expected to be installed later although simulcast racing will be available.

Jody Contee, 23, a waitress at the restaurant at the Towne House Motor Lodge, said the track reopening is "wonderful" for Charles Town.

Plus, she is looking forward to more tips, especially on the weekends.

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