Weather soaks racing schedule at Charles Town

February 08, 2004|by LARRY YANOS

Rain, rain go away ...

Over the years, Charles Town Races & Slots has been plagued by track surface problems, and the recent wet weather experienced in the Tri-State area has deeply affected the live-racing schedule.

"Things are tough, for the horsemen, the jockeys, the fans," said Ann Hilton, president of the Charles Town Division/Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "We're losing a lot of days because of weather-related problems. The weather has just not cooperated."

This past week, the West Virginia thoroughbred oval was forced to cancel Wednesday, Thursday and Friday because of inclement weather, which caused unsafe track conditions.


"It's cold and the track freezes, the temperatures increase and the track thaws, causing too much moisture," Hilton said. "It's been frustrating. The thawing and freezing makes for unsafe track conditions."

Hilton said horsemen and management have not met yet regarding possible makeup days for those lost by weather.

"We will likely make these dates up but no decision has been made at this time," Hilton said.

The West Virginia State Racing Commission mandates that dog and thoroughbred tracks in the Mountain State must run a minimum of 210 days. However, they can add days with permission.

Charles Town adds races

Weather permitting, Charles Town Races & Slots will add an 11th race to the Wednesday and Thursday night programs for February and March.

"We have so many horses here and we thought an additional race on Wednesday and Thursday would be beneficial to the horsemen," Hilton said. "It will give us a total of 17 additional races, more of an opportunity to run."

Hilton calls the addition of the extra race on Wednesday and Thursday "an experiment" for now.

"We'll see how things go, how we like it," Hilton said. "The races will not be written for any particular condition."

Pony tales

Management and horsemen have made three changes at Charles Town Races & Slots: A gate card has to be in place by time of start; stakes races will place back to fifth place, not fourth; and horses in non-winners of three with last start at Charles Town ($2,500, $5,000 and $10,000) will receive preference.

"All of these rules will help the horsemen," Hilton said.

* Eighty-nine horses have been nominated to Laurel Park's Winter SprintFest to be run on Presidents Day weekend (Feb. 14-16). The feature offerings on Saturday will be the Grade II $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap and the $150,000 John B. Campbell Handicap. Sunday's card is highlighted by the $75,000 Jameela Stakes while Monday's marquee race is the Grade II $200,000 General George Handicap.

* Triple Crown Productions has announced the early nominations for the 2004 Visa Triple Crown.

Twenty-five of the 434 horses are either bred or based in Maryland. The highest profile 3-year-old from the Free State is Tapit, from Michael Dickinson's Cecil County farm, who is considered one of the early favorites.

White Mountain Boy, Love's Strong Hart and Connie's Devil are also considered contenders.

* Sisters Monica and Shawna Barber combined to win six races at Oregon's Portland Meadows Racetrack last weekend.

Monica scored with a pair of winners on both Friday and Saturday, while her sister got into the act with a winner each day as well.

Albarado honored

Robby Albarado was honored as the winner of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in a winner's circle ceremony on Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.

The Woolf Award honors riders whose careers and personal character reflect positively on themselves and the sport of thoroughbred racing and is prized as one of racing's most prestigious accolades.

Since 1985, jockeys nationwide have voted to determine the winner. Albarado, 30, becomes the 55th winner of the award, named in honor of one of the greatest thoroughbred jockeys in history.

Albarado was nominated for the 2004 Woolf Award along with riders Gary Baze, Julie Krone, Randall Meier and Richard Migliore.

Born in Lafayette, La., Albarado enjoyed one of his best years in 2003, winning 185 races and finishing 11th nationally in purse earnings with $11,061,314. He also rode Horse of the Year Mineshaft to seven wins in nine starts for more than $2.2 million in earnings.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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