Horse track slated to reopen Saturday

September 24, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A new thoroughbred racing track at Charles Town Races & Slots - which was closed due to a drainage problem - is expected to reopen Saturday, a track official said Thursday.

The track has been closed since Sept. 15 because wet areas were discovered on the oval, said an official with Penn National Gaming, Inc., which owns the track.

It was important to correct the wet areas track because ignoring them can cause an uneven racing surface, said Eric Schippers, vice president of public affairs for Penn National Gaming.


Jim Buchanan, senior vice president of government and public affairs for Penn National Gaming Inc., could not pinpoint Thursday what caused the wet areas to develop.

Workers removed the top surface of the track, added more base material and compacted it, Buchanan said.

"It looks all fine, so we'll just have to see how it goes," Buchanan said.

Wayne Harrison, the acting president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said Thursday he is encouraged by how track owners worked to correct the problem.

A general meeting of the HBPA has been scheduled for Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the track's terrace dining room, Harrison said.

Harrison said some horsemen probably were "outraged and hot" over the track closure, and the issue likely would be discussed at the meeting.

"It's probably good for them to get it out in the open," Harrison said.

The track was closed for three weeks in August to allow workers to install a new racing surface on the track.

Horsemen wanted to lengthen the track to make it more competitive and were concerned about a concrete base under the old track, which they said made it difficult for water to drain following rains.

The old track was six furlongs. A furlong is an eighth of a mile.

To allow for races up to 71/2 furlongs, track owners came up with a plan to lengthen "chutes," which are areas where starting gates are set up along the track.

The work, which cost $8 million, included installing new lighting, a new racing surface, new drainage system and banking the turns. Track owners plan to build a three-eighths-of-a-mile training track on property the track owns along Fifth Avenue and to construct four new barns, track officials said.

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