Yanos - Purses weren't worth the gamble

April 17, 2005|by LARRY YANOS

Legalization of casino-style table games at West Virginia state racetracks was denied at the recently concluded legislative session in Charleston, meaning Charles Town Races & Slots will have to use current methods to keep racing purses intact.

"We were hoping to see the approval of gaming tables. That would have produced more revenue, but the bill didn't come out of the judiciary committee," said Don Combs, executive director of the Charles Town Division/Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "We will now have to use the slot machines, live racing and simulcasting revenues to produce money to the horsemen's account."

It basically means the purse structure at Charles Town will remain "status quo" for awhile.

"We're giving away around $140-145,000 per day and I don't see that increasing anytime soon," Combs said. "The governor has requested $11 million from the horsemens' share of slot machine revenues in the state to be used toward workmen's compensation. Charles Town will be responsible for 42 percent, or approximately $4.6 million.


"We have about $2.5 million in the account. With good weather and, hopefully, increased revenues in the weeks and months ahead, we should stay steady. The money situation depends on intake from machines, live racing handle and simulcasting."

Starting July 1, the horsemen at Charles Town will start paying seven percent of revenues generated from the slot machines toward workmen's compensation and another seven percent toward purses.

One bill that did pass mandates that by 2006 all thoroughbred racetracks in the state must have a breeders program.

"That means Mountaineer Park and Charles Town will have breeders programs," Combs said. "It's a nice boost for the state breeding program. There will be more demands for West Virginia foals and more opportunities for the money to stay in the state."

Rising star

It's far too early to make comparisons with Bursting Forth, but West Virginia Breeders Classics president Sam Huff believes Jet Set Citi will be an outstanding race horse.

The 3-year-old Virginia-bred filly has won her first two starts at Laurel Park and will now be given some time off to rest an ailing knee.

"She came out of the race (the $50,000 Smart Halo Stakes on April 2) with a small knee chip and she'll be out for awhile," Huff said. "She was going to get a rest, regardless. She had two tough races to start her career."

Jet Set Citi is trained by Hamilton Smith.

"I like Graham Motion as a trainer, but he's all over the place this time of year," Huff said. "Hamilton does a good job. He's highly regarded on the Maryland circuit."

A few years back, Motion trained Bursting Forth for Huff.

"She was an unbelievable filly," Huff said of the horse who earned $625,000. "She loved the turf and loved to come off the pace. She still holds a track record at Keeneland for a mile and a half. Jet Set Citi has won twice at 6 furlongs, but I think she can go a distance as well."

In the Smart Halo Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Jet Set Citi battled Missle Bay to the wire, winning by a nose in 1:12.70.

"It was a muddy track and my horse was bumped by Missle Bay," Huff said. "I think she will be alright following some rest."

Racing around

Live thoroughbred racing in Maryland shifts to historic Pimlico Race Course on Wednesday for the spring meet. Post time for 37 of the 39 racing days will be 1:10 p.m.

The headline event of the eight-week stand is the 130th running of the Grade I, $1 million Preakness Stakes. The middle jewel of the Visa Triple Crown will be held May 21.

The marquee meet of the Maryland racing season will feature 26 stakes races for purses of $4 million. Fourteen of the added-money races, including all 10 of the graded stakes for the meet, are scheduled for Preakness week, including nine on Preakness day.

The Grade I Pimlico Special tops the May 20 card that features four other stakes races. The Special's $500,000 purse helps make the day the second biggest on the Maryland racing calendar.

Opening day attractions include free admission, a complimentary live racing program and half-priced hot dogs, popcorn, Pepsi products and coffee. The first turf race of the season is scheduled for that afternoon.

The opening Saturday of the spring stand will include five six-figure stakes races and a Pimlico cap giveaway to the first 6,500 fans in attendance.

The meet concludes on June 12.

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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