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Charles Town temporarily halts all stakes races

March 13, 2005|by LARRY YANOS

Charles Town Races & Slots has temporarily reduced the purse structure for thoroughbred racing and eliminated all 2005 stakes events.

"The horsemen, effective now, will be looking at a 20 percent purse adjustment," said Don Combs, executive director of the Charles Town Division/Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "The purses will now be averaging around $150,000 a day instead of the $175,000-185,000 level enjoyed earlier."

Combs cited two reasons for the purse reduction.

"The schedule during the latter part of 2004, where we had six days of racing and 12 races a day, depleted the horsemen's account and we are still uncertain to the exact amount of money the horsemen must contribute toward the workmen's compensation bill addressed by the governor. We also have started a new pension fund. There's a lot of uncertainty at this time."

Gov. Joe Manchin, looking for ways to correct the workmen's compensation issue in the Mountain State, has requested horsemen from each of the four state racetracks contribute to the deficit.

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"We will owe approximately $4.15 million to the state," Combs said.

Combs said there is no timetable concerning when the purses and the stakes races will be reinstated at Charles Town.

"We are going to try to recoup the funding in the horsemen's account as fast as we can," Combs said. "This decision means there will be no stakes races at Charles Town, restricted or otherwise, until the financial picture improves."

The West Virginia Breeders Classics races, scheduled for September, are state-funded and will not be affected by the latest announcement.

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Horsemen at Charles Town have received a record $5,459,337.64 payout from revenues generated from the West Virginia Thoroughbred Development Fund, according to Joseph F. Cuomo, West Virginia Racing Commission Director of Audits.

"The payouts are broken down into three categories," Cuomo said. "The Breeder category - the person who owned the foal at the time it was born in West Virginia - was $2,586,002.04; the Owner category - the person who owned the horse at the time the horse won a designated race - was $1,795,834.75; and the Sire Owner - the owner of record at the time the offspring is conceived - was $1,077,500.85

Cuomo said, in some instances, it could be the same person.

The West Virginia Thoroughbred Development Fund was started in 1984. After many years of looking for a breeders incentive program, breeders were successful in obtaining the legislation that created the fund.

The stated purpose of the breeders fund was - and continues to be - to promote breeding and racing of thoroughbreds in West Virginia through awards and purses for accredited breeders, sire owners and thoroughbred race horse owners.

Officers of the West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Inc., are Cindy O'Bannon, president; Dr. Douglas Allara, vice president; Edward Keenan, secretary; Charles Jenkins, treasurer; and Michelle Shrader, administrative director.

The Board of Directors: Eleanor Casey, Jenkins, Keenan, John McKee, Rene Moore, O'Bannon, Nancy Staples, Betty Stehr and Charles A. Woodson Jr.

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n Laurel Park has switched to a 1:10 p.m. post time for the remainder of the winter meeting. The first post will stay at 1:10 for the entire spring stand, which ends June 12, except for two days during Preakness week: May 20 (12:45 p.m.) and May 21 (10:30 a.m.).

n Trainer Kenny Cox saddled three winners on Wednesday's eight-race card at Laurel Park to move into second place in the winter standings. The 37-year-old conditioner scored twice for leading owner Michael Gill and also had his picture taken after Free Dip won. Cox trails Scott Lake in the standings.

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 larryy@herald-mail.com

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