"It's basically a state to state thing now. If you compete in one state you need a license for that state," Mitchell said. "We would like to see one national license that covers a person throughout the country. Fingerprinting, a background check and payment of one fee could be done all at one time."
Mitchell, who has been a member of the West Virginia State Racing Commission for over four years, says the Mountain State is a member of the National Racing Compact but many other states in the Mid-Atlantic Region and on the Eastern Seaboard are not.
"Thorougbred horse racing still needs to standarize rules," Mitchell said. "In one state, you can do one thing, in another state, you can do something else. We need to standardize rules and regulations and put them under one grouping for all to follow. Medication rules are a good example. You can use one drug here but not there."
Despite the current racetrack woes at Charles Town Races & Slots, Mitchell says West Virginia is blessed with two outstanding thoroughbred racetracks.
"Management at both Charles Town and Mountaineer Park have put a lot of money in horse racing and offer fans a quality product," Mitchell said. "The West Virginia Breeders Classics (at Charles Town) and the West Virginia Derby (at Mountaineer Park) are recognized all over the country."
If the racetrack surface is deemed safe, the 18th annual West Virginia Breeders Classics will be held next Saturday at Charles Town.
The $1 million event is the richest day of thoroughbred racing in the state and will feature an eight-race card restricted to West Virginia-bred-or-sired horses.
It is highlighted by the $300,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic, the $250,000 Cavada Breeders Classic and six $75,000 races.
"Safety is the key issue here, the main concern," Classics president and NFL Hall of Famer Sam Huff said. "We can't expect the jockeys and horses to run on an unsafe racetrack and we'll move the races until later in the year, if we need to."
While next Saturday's racing card will be conducted in the evening, the annual Breakfast of Champions will be held at Charles Town at 9:30 that morning.
The head table is expected to include Huff, as well as other former National Football League standouts Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Mitchell, Charley Taylor, Mark Moseley, Brig Owens and Sonny Randle, veteran college and professional coach Pepper Rodgers and Hall of Fame jockey Ron Turcotte - who once rode Secretariat.
Chris Lincoln of ESPN will be the master of ceremonies.
Tickets will be available at the door at $15 each and the breakfast benefits the WVBC charities.
A total of 171 horses, the offspring of Maryland stallions, have been pre-entered for next Saturday's Maryland Million Day at Pimlico.
The post position draw will be held Wednesday.
· In the $200,000 Cosamin DS Maryland Million Classic, 2003 runner-up Presidentialaffair is the likely favorite. The 5-year-old gelding by Not For Love has won 8 of 20 lifetime starts for earnings of nearly $400,000.
Eleven horses have been nominated, including multiple stakes winners Cherokee's Boy and Aggadan.
· The $100,000 Ladies attracted 21 nominees. Stakes winners Allens Blessing, Angela's Love, Chrusciki, Coquettish, Grace Bay, Ribbon Cane, River Cruise, Shiny Sheet and True Sensation are all pre-entered.
· The newest race on the menu, the $100,000 Turf Sprint, drew interest from the connections of 16 horses, including a trio from the barn of Ben Feliciano, Jr.: Namequest, Nortouch or Quest Of Fate. Two former Maryland Million turf winners Elberton (2001) and Move Those Chains (2003) are also expected to run.
· The $100,000 Sprint will feature the classy Crossing Point and 2002 winner Deer Run.
· The $100,000 Turf could pit 2002 winner La Reine's Terms against Class Concern, who won the $150,000 Schapiro Handicap here two weeks ago.
· He Loves Me and Richetta are expected to renew their rivalry in the $100,000 Oaks.
· Multiple stakes winner Bronze Abe stands out in the $100,000 Distaff.
· The other races to be contested are the $100,000 Lassie, the $100,000 Nursery, the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap, the $50,000 Starter Handicap and the $25,000 Sprint Starter Handicap.
The Maryland Million was introduced in 1986. It is a program of races for the offspring of Maryland-based stallions only and has been mirrored by 19 other thoroughbred states.
Hall of Fame television personality Jim McKay originally proposed the Maryland Million concept and remains Chairman of the Board. Million Day is the third biggest day of racing on the Maryland racing calendar behind only Preakness and Pimlico Special days.
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 email@example.com