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Breeders Cup continues to grow

September 18, 2000

Breeders Cup continues to grow



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - As a politician, Gov. Cecil Underwood knows all about races.

Underwood said, though, he doesn't know enough about horses to bet on their races, as he joined sun-baked bettors and Hall of Fame football players at Charles Town Races Sunday for the West Virginia Breeders Classic XIV.

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"I'm not an instinctive gambler," the governor said. "On the other hand, I think anybody who gets into a statewide race is taking a big enough of a gamble." Underwood is seeking re-election against U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va.

Underwood presented the trophy for the first race of the day, The Governor's Stake Cup, won by Basic Trainee. The race was eerily quiet because the track sound system was momentarily broken and many people in the stands didn't know the race had begun for several seconds after the horses left the gate.

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Underwood said the Breeders Classic is part of a good mix of activities that is good financially for the state and good for the Eastern Panhandle.

"What you're seeing here ... is investment in total entertainment," he said. "It attracts more and more tourists and brings in more money."

Former New York Giant linebacker Sam Huff is president of Breeders Classic, Ltd. and the enthusiastic spokesman for an activity that he helped begin 14 years ago. The Sunday Breeders Classic is the main event with a purse of $225,000. The total purse for the eight races affiliated with the Classic on Saturday and Sunday is $750,000, with $150,000 in the other races during the two days - a total of $900,000.

"Next year, we're hoping to hit $1 million," Huff said.

The size of the purse didn't seem to matter much to some who came for the sun, the fun and to plunk a few dollars down on the ponies.

"I'd rather eat my two dollars up," said Joyce Hurd of Gaithersburg, Md., relaxing with two grown sons and a granddaughter. Her father was a horse owner and trainer and her late husband loved the track, even when he was seriously ill.

"He was sick and said he wanted to come to the track one more time and he did and he had a good time and two days later he died," she said. The interest was handed down - sort of.

"It's a couple of dollars here, a couple of dollars there," said her son Larry of his betting habits. "It doesn't really matter" the size of the purse. "Mostly I'm here to have fun.

Larry confessed to his mother, "If the Redskins were playing, I'd be home watching them."

Huff can certainly understand that.

"You have a trainer training horses," he said. "In football, you have a coach training players."

Former Baltimore Colts running back Lenny Moore lent his presence to the affair, saying he enjoyed the activity even though he doesn't gamble or know much about horse racing.

"I don't know much about it," he said. "And I don't know how much I want to learn because I don't know how much I want to gamble."

But the enterprise has become big - ESPN is televising it by tape, bettors all over the country can take part and the state Legislature lets the Classic use money from the slots at the state's four race tracks to finance it.

"It takes everybody pulling together to make it successful," Huff said.

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