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Shortened weeks carry $$ increases

February 01, 2006|by LARRY YANOS

I've had more than one person ask: "Why is Charles Town racing Thursday, Friday and Saturday and not Friday, Saturday and Sunday?"

"Our export signal is terrible on Sunday, the worst day of the week. Everybody and his brother runs Sunday afternoons," Racing Secretary Doug Lamp explained. "With that taken into account, management and horsemen decided on the Thursday-Friday-Saturday format."

Although horsemen at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval would prefer a five-day schedule, Lamp says the shortened week has been sweetened with a purse increase.

"There had been talk of shutting down a few months early in the year but horsemen didn't like that idea," Lamp said. "It was agreed to run a three day week with a purse increase."

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Lamp said Charles Town is averaging more than $200,000 in the daily purse structure and the horsemen still have approximately $4.8 million in the account.

The current live racing schedule includes 10 races on Thursday with post time at 7:15 p.m. and 12 races on Friday and Saturday with post time at 6:30 p.m.

"We'll increase the live racing schedule to four days in March, adding Wednesday," Lamp said. "In May, we'll likely resume the five-day-a-week schedule, adding Sundays."

Lamp also says a new claiming rule should prove beneficial.

"Over the years, claiming horses at Charles Town has been very popular," Lamp says. "With the new rule, it should restrict things a little bit."

According to the new claiming rule, if you run a horse back within 30 days, you have to place the horse in a race with a 25 percent or higher purse. After 30 days, you can run for any tag.

"In the past, when you claimed a horse, you could run him back whereever, whenever and for any price," Lamp said. "That has changed. The new rule will discourage some of the drastic turnover - horses changing barns every week."

Pony Tales



Jockey Gerald Almodover and trainer Ronney Brown, who won championships at Charles Town in 2005, are up and running in 2006.

Through Thursday, Almodover has 16 wins in 77 trips to the starting gate and leads Eric Ramirez, who has 11.

They are followed by Brandon Whitacre, 9 wins; Dale Whittaker, 7; Oscar Flores, 7; Travis L. Dunkelberger, 7; Carlos L. Castro, 6; Joseph Schneider, 6; Luis A. Perez, 5; J. D. Acosta, 4; Alcibiades C. Cortez, 4; Rodney Soodeen, 4, and Alex O. Beteia, 4.

Brown and Jeff C. Runco lead the trainers standings with eight wins each. They are followed by: Stephanie S. Beattie, 5; Don Roberson 4; Lynnelle M. Kline, 4; Gerald D. Bast, Jr., 4; Ollie L. Figgins, III, 4; and Kevin J. Joy, 3.

According to Penn National Race Course publicity director Fred Lipkin, R. Ear - bred and owned by Cleon Cassel of Hummelstown, Pa. - swept all five first-place votes en route to his unanimous selection as 2005 Horse of the Year at the Grantville, Pa., thoroughbred oval.

Representatives of the local media, track racing department and Equibase voted for Horse of the Year honors. The final two ballots came from Penn National's publicity department and the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Under the guidance of trainer Tim Shea, R. Earl made the huge leap from the maiden ranks in early summer to stakes winner in early September. The 5-year old gained his first career win in a 5-furlong turf sprint on June 23. Five weeks later R. Earl was unplaced against allowance company but from that point on he's been unbeatable at the Grantville oval.

The bay gelding bested allowance foes over the grass on Aug. 3 and then showed his versatility with a five-length win in a 6-furlong sprint on the main track on Aug. 17.

R. Earl capped his meteoric rise to stardom on Sept. 2 when he rallied in the stretch drive to win the $41,000 Capital City Handicap by a neck under jockey Edwin Perez. The winner's check of $24,600 gave him a local racing record of four wins from seven starts and earnings of $61,175.

Local sprint champion Tonto Gusto gained all five second-place votes and Evening Clinic was the third-place selection in the voting.

Officials at the Maryland Jockey Club have decided not to card live racing today and Feb. 5.

Laurel Park will continue to race four days a week, on a Wednesday through Saturday schedule.

A shortage of entries, stemming from a quarantine of 500 horses at Pimlico Race Course and restrictions on the movement of thoroughbreds in and out of the state due to an outbreak of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1), led to the scheduling decision.

According to a press release from the Maryland Jockey Club, "We are working with a limited pool of horses and it has taken its toll on our entries. Cutting back to four days a week the next two weeks will allow us to have the quality and quantity we were accustomed to before the outbreak of the virus."

Since the restrictions began on Jan. 6, the average field size has been 7.3 per race. In 21 live days in December, Laurel averaged 8.6 starters per race.

In case you missed it, here's the complete list of the 2005 Eclipse Award winners honored Monday night at a banquet in California:

Horse of the Year: Saint Liam.

Two-Year-Old Male: Stevie Wonderboy.

Two-Year-Old Female: Folklore.

Three-Year-Old Male: Afleet Alex.

Three-Year-Old Female: Smuggler.

Older Male: Saint Liam.

Older Female: Ashado.

Sprinter: Lost in the Fog.

Male Turf Horse: Leroidesanimaux.

Female Turf Horse: Intercontinental.

Steeplechase: McDynamo.

Owner: Michael Gill.

Breeder: Adena Springs.

Jockey: John Velazquez.

Apprentice Jockey: Emma-Jayne Wilson.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher.

Award of Merit: Penny Chenery.




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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