Charles Town to close track for improvements in August

June 06, 2004|By LARRY YANOS

The Charles Town Races & Slots will lose approximately 15 days of live thoroughbred racing in August so workers can upgrade the track and install new lighting.

"The track needs some attention and management and horsemen felt August was a good time to get things done," said Don Combs, Executive Director of the Charles Town Division/Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "Work will start in early August and we hope to resume live racing around Aug. 25."

Combs says the work will primarily include building a new racing surface, a new track railing, improving the banking turns, adding a half-furlong to the 7-furlong chute and improving the lighting system.

"When you race year-round, it's tough to maintain a racetrack," Combs said. "Management and horsemen felt it was best to shut the racetrack down for a period of time so the concerns could be addressed. August seemed to be a good month to do that."


Combs added that Charles Town management and horsemen will make up the lost days later in 2004 with the approval of the West Virginia State Racing Commission.

Simulcast betting and slot machines will be available during the shutdown.

Charles Town notebook

- Combs had a different view of the Belmont Stakes Saturday.

Last year, Combs was an assistant racing secretary and alternate steward for the New York Racing Association.

Earlier in his career, he worked in the racing secretary's office at Charles Town in the 1980s and was employed at the three Florida racetracks - Gulfstream Park, Calder and Hialeah - before accepting a job in New York. There, he worked at Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga.

- The Charles Town Races & Slots have announced purse changes for four stakes races this year.

The Robert G. Leavitt Memorial Stakes on July 24, the Sadie Hawkins Stakes on July 31, the Frank Gall Memorial Stakes on Aug. 28 and the West Virginia Futurity on Nov. 17 will all carry a $75,000 purse.

All will be contested at 7 furlongs.

- Jockey Brandon Whitacre, the grandson of former national riding champion Jesse Davidson, leads all riders at the Charles Town Races & Slots in victories.

Whitacre is followed by Gerald Almodovar, Angel R. Quinones, Kendrick Carmouche, Anthony Mawing, David Cora, Jesus Sanchez, J.D. Acosta, Travis Dunkelberger and Carlos Castro.

- Smarty Jones trainer John Servis, who was born and raised in Charles Town, W.Va., entered a horse last Saturday night at the Charles Town Races & Slots.

Maresha, a 5-year-old mare owned by D.J. Stable, LLC, competed in a $36,000 allowance event for 3-year-olds and upwards at 6 1/2 furlongs.

The Kentucky-bred finished third under jockey Kendrick Carmouche and was the second betting choice.

Belmont briefs

- Maryland-based jockey Ramon Dominguez rode longshot Caiman in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

The 3-year-old is trained by Angel Medina. Dominguez's first U.S. win of his career came at the Hialeah Park in 1996 aboard Solo Moondance for Medina.

It was the fifth classic mount for the 27-year old rider who had a mount in three consecutive Preakness Stakes (2001-2003) before riding Tapit in this year's Kentucky Derby.

-- Smarty Jones jockey Stewart Elliott didn't arrive at Belmont Park until Saturday. He had riding commitments Friday afternoon at Monmouth Park.

-- The Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the Triple Crown events. It was first run in 1867. The Preakness Stakes started in 1873 and the first Kentucky Derby was 1875.

The Belmont is the fourth oldest stakes in North America. It was predated by the Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland in 1831, the Queens Plate in Canada in 1860 and the Travers at Saratoga in 1864.

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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