Race official says track should be OK

October 07, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Despite criticism this week from a horsemen's official about the progress of a track resurfacing project at Charles Town Races & Slots, the president of the West Virginia Breeders Classics said Wednesday the track looks good and should be ready for the Breeders Classics races this Saturday.

Sam Huff said it is important for everyone involved in horse racing at Charles Town to work together and be positive about the track project because this Saturday's Breeders Classics is the first time purses for the race will total $1 million.

"We've been looking forward to this for a long time," Huff said.

Huff said he walked around the track Wednesday with Dickie Moore, who oversees racing there, and the oval looks like it will be good for racing.


Huff said track workers have been putting down a new base and a new sand surface.

"They're working day and night getting it ready. It looks like it is going to be great," Huff said.

Horsemen's complaints

Huff's comments came a day after the head of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association criticized the track resurfacing project.

Track owners and horsemen had agreed to work as a team to correct drainage problems at the track but the arrangement had fallen apart, Wayne Harrison, acting head of the HBPA, said Tuesday.

The HBPA had been using a consultant to oversee the project, but Harrison said a track official told the HBPA that the horsemen's group would no longer be able to use the consultant.

Jockeys are expected to be allowed to train and race on the track Friday to determine if they like the new surface, Harrison said.

Echoing comments from track officials, Huff attributed the drainage problems to the heavy rains brought by the remnants of Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne.

Huff said the rains washed out parts of the track and caused a large concentration of moisture.

Track officials have said it is important to correct the wet areas because ignoring them can cause an uneven racing surface.

Huff said that while he was at the track Wednesday, a woman asked him how long he thinks the good track conditions will last. He said he replied that the conditions should remain "at least until another hurricane comes."

Huff, a pro football Hall of Famer and radio broadcaster for the Washington Redskins, has long had an interest in horses. In 1987, The native West Virginian fulfilled a dream of having a night of racing dedicated to West Virginia thoroughbreds, according to the Breeders Classics Web site.

In 1988, ESPN began live coverage of the races.

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

Horsemen had wanted to lengthen the track to make it more competitive. There also had been concern about a concrete base under the old track, which made it difficult for water to drain following rain, horsemen said.

The track was closed again from Sept. 15 to Sept. 24 after wet areas were discovered. It was closed again last Thursday and has not reopened for racing.

Officials said last Friday that races lost during the shutdown will be made up by adding races to each evening's card when the track reopens.

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