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With track back, Charles Town gets back on track

October 29, 2006|by LARRY YANOS

Live thoroughbred racing returns to Charles Town on Thursday.

Richard Moore, the director of racing at Charles Town Races & Slots, said the track has been resurfaced and other "housecleaning" chores have been completed.

"Everything went well," Moore said. "The track was winterized - that was the main concern - and improvements were also made to the jockeys' quarters. A catchpin - a safety device for runaway horses - was installed at the 7-furlong chute and there was sewer construction."

Moore said the track will be shut down twice a year - in April and October - for overall maintenance.

Charles Town's last live thoroughbred racing card on Oct. 21 was abrupty halted after the sixth race when a horse got loose in the post parade and ran into the safety rail past the finish line, causing damage.

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"In all of my years of racing, I had never seen that happen and it happened here twice within a month," Moore said. "The exact same spot on the racetrack, same damage."

For the remainder of 2006, Charles Town will maintain a four-day, Thursday through Sunday, live-racing schedule. It will also offer racing on two Wednesdays - Nov. 22 and Nov. 29 - but won't offer a card on Thanksgiving Day.

The four-day-a-week schedule will continue in December with no racing on Christmas Eve.

Day shines a light

Chaplain Rick Mann, who directs the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America program at Charles Town, said retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day touched many lives during his recent visit to the West Virginia thoroughbred oval.

"He was great," Mann said. "His message was well-received. I've talked to many owners and horsemen and those from the general public and everyone was impressed. The speech he gave at the Breakfast of Champions was especially inspiring. People were absorbed."

Mann said more than $7,000 was raised for the chaplaincy. The money will be used to assist the various programs.

Day, a born-again Christian and spokesman for the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America, blended religion and racing in his speaking engagements at Charles Town. Day retired fourth on the all-time jockey victory list with more than $297 million in earnings and multiple victories in racing's high-profile races.

Still, there were highlights in Day's career.

"I'd say winning the Kentucky Derby was the highlight of my career," Day said. "The Derby is the cornerstone of American racing. Other events, such as the Breeders' Cup, are gaining in recognition but the Derby is well-established. It was a great feeling winning that race. The Derby is the Derby."

Day was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1991 and won the Eclipse Award for top jockey four times.

Maryland's entries

Three horses, based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County, Md., are among the 121 horses pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup World Championships.

The 23rd running of the Breeders' Cup - consisting of eight Grade I races with purses and awards totaling $20 million - will be held Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Better Talk Now and Film Maker are veterans of the Breeders' Cup, having competed the last two years for trainer Graham Motion.

Better Talk Now won the Turf in 2004 while Film Maker finished in the money in the Filly & Mare Turf the last two years.

The third Fair Hill horse is Round Pound (Distaff) from the Michael Matz barn.

Twelve other horses have run at Pimlico or Laurel Park during their careers, including 2006 Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini and 2006 Pimlico Special victor Invasor - two of the favorites in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

Pony tales

Jockey Mario Pino moved within 200 victories of the 6,000-victory career milestone with a win aboard Le Cordon Bleu in Wednesday's seventh race at Laurel Park.

The 45-year-old jockey ranks 16th on the all-time win list and is the winningest rider at the Maryland tracks.

Pino has surpassed 200 wins in a year 12 times in his 28-year career. He has reached the winner's circle 1,881 times since the beginning of 1999.

Fourteen jockeys have reached the 6,000-win plateau. Only two active riders, Russell Baze and Earlie Fires, have more career winners than Pino.

Laurel Park will shift its first post time to 12:10 p.m., beginning Wednesday for the remainder of the year. The only two exeptions are Nov. 4 with an 11:15 a.m. start and Nov. 23 with an 11 a.m. start for Thanksgiving Day.

Officials of Breeders' Cup Ltd. and the NTRA have announced the race order and post times for the 23rd Breeders' Cup World Championships.

The program will feature 10 races. The eight Breeders' Cup Championships races, televised live beginning at noon by ESPN, will feature total prize money exceeding $20 million.

The post time for the first Breeders' Cup Championship race, the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, will be at 12:30 p.m. with the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at 5:20 p.m.

Each of the Breeders' Cup races will feature a maximum of 14 horses and wagering interests.

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 at larryy@herald-mail.com

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