Charles Town racing resumes Wednesday

August 23, 2004|by LARRY YANOS

The initial phase of the renovation of Charles Town Races & Slots' racetrack concludes this weekend and live racing at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval will resume Wednesday evening.

Post time for the 12-race card is 6:45 p.m.

The public is invited to attend a special ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday at 6:30 to officially re-open the racetrack with its new racing surface, banked turns, high-tech lighting and state-of-the-art drainage system designed to reduce cancellations due to bad weather.

"Final touches are being made, the cushion on the track and the safety rails in particular, and everything should be OK to go on Wednesday," said Don Combs, executive director of the Charles Town Division/Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Although management and horsemen decided to delay the expansion of the 7-furlong chute to 7 1/2 furlongs and building of four new barns and a training track, other issues were addressed during the three-week shutdown.


"We'll be working on the 7 1/2 furlong chute and it should be completed by the end of October," Charles Town Director of Racing Richard "Dickie" Moore said. "The four new barns and the training track are included in the 2005 budget and, hopefully, will be completed by June of next year."

In a press release, John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National Gaming (the parent company of Charles Town), said "the excitement of live racing at Charles Town is back and better than ever. These renovations, this level of investment ($8 million), reflect our ongoing commitment to the long-term viability and health of thoroughbred racing at Charles Town and its importance to the community."

Wayne Harrison, the acting president of the Charles Town Division/HBPA, said the improvements to the racetrack will be a welcomed boon to the local thoroughbred industry.

"The track resurfacing and, specifically, the installation of banked turns will make this one of the safest facilities around. As a result, we should be able to attract an even better class of horses and competition," Harrison said.

Since acquiring the track in 1997, Penn National Gaming has renovated the grandstand and barns, built jockey quarters and a new paddock and begun simulcasting the races to over 150 locations around the country.

Purses have grown from $22,000 per day to an average of $200,000 and the number of horse owners and trainers has grown from 2,400 to 13,000.

Dandy Dozen

According to Moore, Charles Town will continue to run 12 races a day through the middle of November.

"We lost approximately 150 races because of the shutdown and we should be caught up by the middle of November," Moore said. "After that, we'll likely continue the five-days-a-week schedule with 10-race programs."

Kentucky Derby tickets available online

Thoroughbred horse racing fans, hoping to secure reserved seats to the 2005 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., can now apply for tickets on the computer.

Churchill Downs has introduced an online ticket application form that allows customers to request reserved seats to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks by visiting tickets and filling out the form.

To apply for reserved seats online, customers will be asked to join the Twin Spires Club, Churchill Downs' customer-rewards program. The Twin Spires Club is free to join and members are eligible for points, prizes and privileges - including exclusive member giveaways and contests.

All ticket applications must be received by Sept. 1. Applications received after Sept. 1 will not be considered for reserved seats. All applicants will be contacted by e-mail by the end of October to let them know whether they will be invited to purchase reserved seats.

The majority of seats available to the public are located in the Churchill Downs grandstand.

Pony Tales

· Prairie Meadows trainer Dick Clark scored his 1,000th win last Tuesday when Kahlua Hummer won the third race at the Altoona, Iowa, racetrack.

Clark earned his 11th training title at Prairie Meadows on July 4 and is the leading trainer during the current racing season, which runs through Sept. 25.

· Two years ago Tuesday, jockey Julie Krone became the first female rider to win a million-dollar race when she piloted Candy Ride to victory in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar Race Course in California.

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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