West Virginia commission wants uniform set of rules

December 04, 2005|By LARRY YANOS

Martinsburg, W.Va., resident Bryan Mitchell, a member of the West Virginia State Racing Commission, hopes a national medication rule will be adopted at the upcoming Racing Commission International meeting in Arizona.

"We've been working on this for years. We have a few more states to come on board yet," Mitchell said. "It will be great to have a national medication rule. Now, every state has their own rules and regulations, and it would be so much better to have a uniform set of rules."

On another matter, Mitchell says the commission is still trying to assist Charles Town Races & Slots with its veterinarian situation.


"They have one veterinarian at Charles Town and they need two more," Mitchell said. "We're looking, but we can't find applicants."

Earlier in the year, the commission brought three consultants from Kentucky to the West Virginia thoroughbred oval to make improvement recommendations.

The No. 1 priority was getting some help for the state veterinarian (Martha Hunt).

"With extra help, every horse running that night would have a pre-race examination in the morning. The vets would make sure the horses were sound or they would not be allowed to run," Mitchell said.

During the visit, the consultants had three major concerns: Reducing the live racing schedule, racetrack maintenance and definite need for a second veterinarian.

All three areas are being addressed.

The live racing schedule will be reduced in 2006, a limited weekend schedule in effect in January and February; the racetrack surface is holding up and the help-wanted sign has been posted for veterianarian help.

"We've had few complaints concerning the racing surface and the horsemen and management are in agreement with the limited live racing schedule for early 2006," said Charles Town Director of Racing Richard (Dickie) Moore.

Pony tales

Jockey Gary Birzer, who was partially paralyzed after a racing spill at Mountaineer Park Racetrack near Chester, W.Va., last year, is suing the Jockeys' Guild and two former officials for $10 million because the guild allowed his health insurance to lapse.

The lawsuit claims fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. It names the guild, which represents about 1,300 jockeys, along with former guild president L. Wayne Gertmenian and former chief operating officer Albert Fiss.

Both men were ousted last week.

A spinal-cord injury left the 30-year-old Birzer paralyzed from the waist down.

Testifying before a House subcommittee in Washington last month, Birzer and his wife said they incurred some $500,000 in unpaid medical fees.

Birzer said he had assumed he was covered by a $1 million catastrophic health plan and didn't know it had lapsed.

The annual Holiday Food Drive at the Penn National in Grantville, Pa., will continue through Dec. 17, with all guests receiving free admission to the thoroughbred racing oval with the donation of a nonperishable food item.

Post time for the track's nine-race live program is 7:25 p.m.

Suggested donations include canned goods, powdered drink mixes, paper products and other nonperishable food items.

All donated items will be given to support the work of the Grantville Area Food Pantry.

Voting is under way on the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Web site,, for the seventh annual "NTRA Moment of the Year."

Voters can choose from among 12 images, drawn from the year's racing through the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. Those selecting the winning image automatically will be entered in a random drawing for a grand prize of $1,000.

The winning moment will be announced at the Eclipse Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, Calif, on Jan. 23, 2006.

The moments were selected to illustrate a wide range of human emotions and achievements as well as outstanding displays of equine athleticism.

The Laurel Park winter stakes schedule has been approved by the Maryland Racing Commission meeting. From Jan. 1 to April 15, the Maryland Jockey Club will offer 19 stakes races worth just under $2 million, highlighted by a pair of Grade II sprints on Presidents' Weekend.

The purses for Barbara Fritchie Handicap, a 7-furlong sprint for fillies and mares on Feb. 18, and the General George Handicap two days later, will be increased from $200,000 to $300,000 with the Breeders' Cup Fund contributing $75,000 to each race.

One new added money race has been added to the stakes program: The $85,000 Dahlia Stakes, a 1-mile turf race for fillies and mares on April 15, the final day of the stand.

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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