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Track remains closed

reopen date unknown

October 02, 2004|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA.

Horsemen, jockeys, breeders and a representative of the West Virginia Breeders Classics said Friday through a spokesman that the track at Charles Town Races & Slots will not reopen until their consultant says it's OK.

Wayne Harrison, acting president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said members of the HBPA's board of directors, representatives of the breeders and jockeys and Sam Huff, president of the West Virginia Breeders Classics, met in a closed session in the association's offices Friday, Harrison said.

The track was closed this week because of drainage problems.

"The representative groups are all very unhappy," Harrison said. They agreed that no horse will race on the track until the HBPA's hired consultant checks it out and gives his OK.

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"It's the first time I've seen them all come together like this," he said. Eric Schippers, vice president of public affairs for Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the track, said in a press release that the track is expected to reopen Oct. 8. Continued drainage problems at the oval caused the shutdown, they said.

The West Virginia Breeders Classics goes off at Charles Town Oct. 9.

"We are working cooperatively with the horsemen to address this situation and appreciate the patience and understanding of our patrons," the release said.

The release blamed recent rains following tropical storms Ivan and Jeanne for the problems.

Schippers' release also said that the track's first responsibility is "to ensure the safety of the track for the jockeys and horses and every step and precaution is being taken with that in mind while addressing the drainage problem."

The track was closed for three weeks in August while a new racing surface was installed.

At the time, the horsemen said they were concerned about the track's concrete base, which made it hard for rainwater to drain.

"No one can definitively say what the problem is or what caused it," Harrison said. He said in his opinion it was caused by "bad design, materials, workmanship and supervision" in the track's reconstruction.

Meanwhile, trainers will run their horses on the old Shenandoah Downs track across from the Charles Town track. It will be inconvenient, he said.

Races lost during the shutdown will be made up by adding races to each evening's card when the track reopens, Schippers said.

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