By T. D. Thornton
Mountaineer Park will be adding 12 dates to its current race meet while Charles Town will drop 10 programs. Both moves were approved Sept. 17 via telephonic meeting of the West Virginia Racing Commission (WVRC).
“The action that causes this was the cancellation of the West Virginia Derby card,” WVRC executive director Joe Moore explained to commissioners prior to the 3-0 approval vote for the Mountaineer increase, which will tack on the dozen programs between Dec. 6 and 23.
“Now the $500,000 approved for the West Virginia Derby cannot be used for any other race other than that race as described by statute,” Moore said. “But the remainder of races that were also cancelled on that card is what’s funding these additional 12 days of live racing at Mountaineer Park.”
On the Charles Town 10-date cut, Moore cited “declining gaming revenue both on the lottery side and the racing side that funds the purse funds.” He added that the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association submitted a letter supporting the reduction.
Erich Zimny, Charles Town’s vice president of racing operations, told the WVRC that depending on the level of the purse account, it is possible that his track would later ask for those dates to be added back in before 2020 comes to a close.
“It’s possible,” Zimny said, citing the relatively tight horse population as one of several other contributing factors. “Everything’s on the table depending on how much money’s in there, as you guys know. If it’s in there, we’ll pay it out.”
Chairman Ken Lowe and commissioner J.B. Akers voted in favor of the dates reduction. Commissioner Tony Figaretti cast the lone dissenting vote in the 2-1 decision.
“I’m against this, because every time we turn around, between Charles Town and Mountaineer, it’s cut into us,” Figaretti said. “They keep losing dates and losing dates. We can’t make any money off cutting dates. So I’m 100% against that.”