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Weekend picked for 2001 Classics

November 25, 2000

Weekend picked for 2001 Classics



CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The 2001 West Virginia Breeders Classics will be held Oct. 12 and 13, the second weekend in October.

Since its inception, the prestigious event for West Virginia bred-or-sired horses had been contested the weekend the Washington Redskins had a bye week or played a Monday night game.

West Virginia Breeders Classics, Inc. president Sam Huff is a radio broadcaster for the National Football League team and tried to work the state's premier thoroughbred weekend around his professional football schedule.

"It has been decided it would be best to set an annual date for the Classics and not move it around," Huff said. "It's been very difficult in the past to coordinate the Classics around the Redskins schedule. This way everything will be set and the prep race dates can be assigned accordingly."

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Huff says the West Virginia State Racing Commission, the Charles Town management and the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association have to agree with the date change.

In addition, Huff would like to see the purse structure reach $1 million.

"The date change and the purse increase request has to be approved by different groups and it will take a lot of cooperation before being made official," Huff said. "We're also dealing now with a new governor (Bob Wise) and we'll likely have a new state racing commission."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Show me the money: The attractive purse structure currently being offered at Charles Town has renewed interest in the sport for breeders, owners and trainers.

"We have seen over 1,000 new owners here in the last year and a half," Charles Town Racing Secretary Jimmy Hammond said. "The purses continue to grow and more new owners are getting involved all the time. There are also many former owners and trainers getting back into the game. That's good to see. It will make the breeding part of the industry that much stronger."

Hammond was working in the Charles Town Racing Secretary's office in 1995 when things weren't quite as pleasant.

"I can remember back then we were giving away $22,000 a day in purses, and the future of racing looked questionable," Hammond said.

Thanks to the video lottery revenues, the Charles Town horsemen are now experiencing record increases in handle.

According to Hammond, most condition books now call for an average of just over $100,000 for each of the four live racing days - Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"With our purse structure, we are also attracting more horsemen from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware," Hammond said. "We are getting quality. We've had some outstanding horses shipping in here. And I would say we average 35 horses a card shipping here from other places."

Hammond says he tries to give the horsemen a variety when it comes to writing the condition books.

"The public still loves the 4 1/2-furlong race; it's tradition here, almost like the $2,500 claimer," Hammond said. "When you think of Charles Town, you think of the 4 1/2-furlong races and the $2,500 claimers.

"I make sure those 4 1/2-furlong races are in the condition book, but I also write races for the distance horses. Here, we're restricted to 6 1/2-furlongs, 7-furlongs and 1-1/16th mile when you talk about distance races."

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HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Racing Secretary Hammond says Charles Town has to be among the national leaders in number of horses per start.

"In October, we had 179 live races and had an average of 9.02 starters," Hammond said. "Don't forget, we can only utilize a 10-horse starting gate. That's the tremendous statistic."

There are approximately 1,200 horses on the grounds.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Herb Rudisill, a member of the Charles Town Racing Secretary's office, says applications are now available for the 2003 Tri-State Futurity.

"Horsemen can obtain entry blanks at the racing secretary's office or the HBPA office across the street," Rudisill said. "The nominations close Dec. 31."

The 2003 race, restricted to 2-year-olds foaled in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, is the oldest true futurity in the country.

"The 2003 race will carry a $50,000 purse," Rudisill said. "The 2002 race will still be $25,000."

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He writes a weekly horse racing column for The Herald-Mail.

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