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Racing returns to Charles Town track

April 16, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town Races officials were never happier to see the horses turning in slow times than they were on Wednesday.

Live horse racing returned to Charles Town Races that day after workers spent 10 days resurfacing the racetrack.

"I am in hopes we have gotten past the last remaining hurdle in the grounds renovation," said Dick Watson, president of the Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Workers put a new bed of limestone at the base of the track and then a cushion of sand, clay and loam, said William Bork Jr., spokesman for Charles Town Races.

"It's like running on the beach," Bork said.

The track closed on April 5 after a spill that jockeys blamed on the track's surface.

The old surface, installed in 1978, had worn down to the concrete base in places.

Bork said the horses ran faster on the old track because it was like running on pavement.

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Watson said that while the number of injuries to horses did not increase because of the track's condition, horse trainers believed that the horses were taking longer to recuperate from a race and to prepare for the next because they were running on a harder surface.

Watson said that should not be a problem with the new track.

It will take some time for the new material on the track to get pounded down to a firm surface, Watson said.

Bork said he did not know how much money was lost while live racing was suspended. Video lottery and simulcast racing continued at the track during the resurfacing project.

Watson said he believes the lost revenue will be recovered later in the summer when the race days are made up.

Watson said the track resurfacing comes at a good time because the popularity of the racetrack seems to be increasing.

Watson said he believes that in a month or two the average daily racing purse will be more than $40,000, the highest ever in the track's history.

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