Tracks will give up profits to pay state's debt

February 06, 2005|by LARRY YANOS

Four West Virginia racetracks will use a percentage of their video lottery revenues toward paying off a state debt following a special legislative session called by Gov. Joe Manchin.

The bottom line: Purses will be reduced at Charles Town Races & Slots - probably starting July 1.

"The horsemen here at Charles Town get 14 percent of the revenue generated by the video lottery," said Don Combs, Executive Director of the Charles Town Division/Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "From that revenue, we will owe approximately $4.5 million to the state. From July 1 to the end of the year, we will trim purses as well as look at other avenues to make payment."

Combs said the governor was originally looking for $20 million to pay some of the state's workmen's compensation debt and one of the options was taking a percentage of video lottery revenues from the four state racetracks.


At the special session in Charleston, Gov. Manchin dropped that figure to $11 million. The bill was passed on the House floor.

"It's not an even breakdown of the four racetracks, with our video lottery revenue, we will likely be paying about $4.15 million as our share," Combs said. "In the former proposal, it would have been about $8.6 million."

Combs praised the work of lobbyist Cem Martin; Jefferson County delegates Bob Tabb, John Doyle and Locke Wysong and Hancock County delegate Joe DeLong.

"Our delegates worked relentlessly to get almost 50 percent reversal of the proposed purse reduction to $11 million," Combs said. "And DeLong, representing the interests of Mountaineer Park, also did a tremendous job. On behalf of the 3,300 members of the Charles Town HBPA, I say thanks."

Combs said other state industries in addition to horse racing was affected by Gov. Manchin's statewide plea for financial assistance for workmen's compensation.

According to Mike Gathagan, Vice President of Communications for the Maryland Jockey Club, "A Night For Noah" will be held at Laurel Park following the final race Feb. 13.

There will be auctions (silent and live), food and entertainment at the event, which will benefit 5-year-old Noah Grove.

Noah comes from a race track family. His grandfather, Phil Grove, won 3,991 races as a jockey and is now a steward for the Maryland State Racing Commission. His father, Chris Grove, is a Bowie-based conditioner who is among the better Maryland trainers.

Noah was diagnosed with Osteo Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer nearly a year ago. He received 13 chemotherapy treatments and had the cancerous tumor had to be removed.

Last June, he underwent a through-the-knee amputation and endured a second round of intensive chemo last fall. An artificial limb will allow Noah to resume a nearly normal childhood, though doctors have warned that as he grows into maturity, he may need numerous prosthetics per year until he turns 18.

A committee led by former Pimlico General Manager Chick Lang and Fran Raffetto, wife of Maryland Jockey Club Chief Operating Officer Lou Raffetto, planned a fundraiser for Noah.

Donations already have exceeded $25,000, including one from Michael Gill - the leading owner in the country - who has agreed to pay for the second prosthesis. Insurance is covering the first one.

Auction items will include the bit Smarty Jones used to win last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and the shoes worn by Birdstone when he upset Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes.

Other donations of interest include signed items from Baltimore icons Cal Ripken and Michael Phelps.

Tickets for "A Night For Noah" are $5 and can be purchased in the Maryland Jockey Club racing office.

The month of January was not kind to management and horsemen at Charles Town.

The thoroughbred oval lost four live racing dates because of inclement weather in the first month of 2005 and things started poorly in February with the postponement of Wednesday's card.

"We really haven't discussed any makeup dates with management but they will probably be later in the spring," Combs said. "We will have five live racing cards a week in February and March (Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and we hope that schedule carries for the rest of the year."

Pony tales

The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J., has donated $26,737 to the Red Cross International Response Fund to help those regions affected by the Dec. 26 tsunami.

The current harness race meet donated the proceeds of the wagering on the second leg of the Presidential Series last Saturday night. The race, appropriately, was won by a horse named Life Source.

The Meadowlands dedicated the event to the tsunami relief. Both the track and the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey offered financial assistance.

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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