Charles Town holds off on switch to polytrack surface

November 27, 2005|By Larry Yanos

The new training track at Charles Town Races & Slots, scheduled to open in early December, will not be equipped with a polytrack surface after all.

According to Charles Town director of racing Richard "Dickie" Moore, management and horsemen were considering polytrack but decided to wait awhile before making a final decision.

Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., is the only thoroughbred track in the country using the surface and Moore says management and horsemen want to see how the surface holds up in wintry weather before making a final decision.

"The jury is still out," Moore said. "We're going to take a look at the Turfway Park situation before deciding whether to install polytrack on our training or main track."


Moore says the new Charles Town 3/8-mile training track will be 45 feet wide and used primarily for young horses. It will help alleviate the crowded conditions at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval.

"The new training track will certainly be helpful," Charles Town racing secretary Doug Lamp said. "On some mornings, we have 400 horses working and things get a bit hectic. The track is open for training 6:30-11 a.m. six days a week."

Sherry Pinson, the media relations manager at Turfway Park, said horsemen there like the polytrack surface.

"We may be the first track to use it for racing but we certainly won't be the last," Pinson said.

You're approved

The West Virginia State Racing Commission has approved the 2006 racing dates requested by horsemen and management at Charles Town.

"Everything is in order," said Moore. "We'll go with the 220 live racing days as compared to 245 this year. We'll race on Friday and Saturday nights in January and February and then start a five-day racing week (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) in March and continue that the rest of the year."

For 2005, Moore said Charles Town will offer live thoroughbred racing on Dec. 23, shut down Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and resume on Dec. 28.

There will also be New Year's Eve and New Year's Day cards, both beginning at 1 p.m.

Pony tales

West Virginia University retired Sam Huff's No. 75 during the Mountaineers' football game against Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving Day.

The president of the West Virginia Breeders Classics, Ltd. is the first Mountaineers player to be so honored.

Huff played for WVU from 1952-55 and led the Mountaineers to the 1954 Sugar Bowl.

Maryland-based jockey Jose Caraballo registered his 2,000th career victory aboard longshot Yankee Gal in Wednesday's third race at Laurel Park.

Caraballo let first time starter Yankee Gal drop back to sixth in the 5 1/2-furlong test for 2-year-old $25,000 maiden claiming fillies before rallying for the upset win.

The Matt Hartman trainee paid $51.40.

He rode his 1,000th career winner for his wife, trainer Aimee Hall, at Rockingham Park.

The 39-year-old started riding at El Commandante racetrack in his native Puerto Rico in 1984, then moved to the United States. He was the top apprentice at Thistledown and also has ridden at Philadelphia Park, in New England, South Florida and the Mid-Atlantic. He has been a full-time rider at Delaware Park since 2000 and has been wintering in Maryland since 2001.

Jockey Erick Rodriguez made a successful return to the saddle Wednesday at Laurel Park by guiding Bo's Typhoon ($28.20) to an upset win in the second race of the afternoon.

The 25-year-old rider missed the last six weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his left leg in a spill on Oct. 5. He also missed the entire Pimlico spring meeting after fracturing four vertebrae in his back in mid-April.

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who announced his retirement from riding Friday at a Churchill Downs press conference, will continue his career with TVG, the interactive horseracing network, as a race analyst beginning in January.

Stevens, 42, won more than 5,000 races, including three Kentucky Derbys, two Preakness Stakes, three Belmont Stakes, eight Breeders' Cup races and a record nine Santa Anita Derbys during a career that began in 1979. His mounts have won more than $221 million.

He was inducted into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in 1997.

Away from the race track, Stevens, a native of Caldwell, Idaho, gained acclaim for his portrayal of legendary jockey George Woolf in the 2003 movie "Seabiscuit." The box office hit, based on the best-selling book, earned an Oscar nomination as Best Picture.

John Campo, who trained 1981 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, died Nov. 15 after a long illness. He was 67.

Campo trained for 30 years, retiring in 1996. His best year came in 1981 when he saddled Pleasant Colony to victories in the first two legs of the Triple Crown - a win over Woodchopper in the Derby followed by a win over Bold Ego in the Preakness. The dark bay colt then lost to Summing by 1 3/4 lengths in the Belmont Stakes.

Pleasant Colony, who also won the Wood Memorial before the '81 Triple Crown races and the Woodward after the series, was voted the Eclipse Award in 1981 as 3-year-old champion male.

Campo had two other Eclipse winners, both in 1973: Protagonist was the 2-year-old male champion and Talking Picture was the 2-year-old filly champion.

In 1986, a fire destroyed Campo's barn at Belmont Park and killed 36 of the 38 horses he had stabled there.

Campo saddled 1,431 winners from 12,826 starters and his horses earned nearly $25.8 million in purse money.

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 or by e-mail at

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