Mountaineer, Horsemen Strike Three-Year Deal

Mountaineer, Horsemen Strike Three-Year Deal
Photo: Blood-Horse Publications

Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort and the local horsemen’s group signed a three-year contract Dec. 29 with just two days to spare.

The contract between the track and Mountaineer Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association was signed at 4 p.m. EST, officials said. The deal averted suspension of full-card simulcasts and implementation of daily stall rent at the West Virginia track.

Details weren’t immediately available, but the track and horsemen’s group said verbal agreement had been reached on key issues such as the amount of money that goes to stakes purses and charging horsemen a per-start fee rather than stall rent. The Mountaineer HBPA had expressed concerns over contracts governing export of the Mountaineer signal.

The old contract expires Jan. 1.

“Mountaineer is pleased to have come to agreement with the HBPA,” Mountaineer director of racing Rose Mary Williams said in a statement. “Live Thoroughbred racing has been an integral part of Mountaineer’s history since it opened its doors as Waterford Park in 1953, and continuing to provide a quality racing product is an important part of our mission.”

Said Mountaineer HBPA president Rembrandt Wright: “The HBPA looks forward to working together with Mountaineer to promote racing in the future.”

The West Virginia Racing Commission earlier in December approved 2010 racing dates for Mountaineer. The track will be dark January and February, then open March 1 for a 210-day racing season. The number of days is the statutory minimum.

As part of the new agreement, Mountaineer will keep the racing surface open for training four days a week during the two-month dark period.

A request by Mountaineer to also shut down in November and December but still run its 210 days over eight months was rejected by the WVRC and opposed by horsemen and local lawmakers. Members of the Hancock County Commission issued a joint statement saying the county “has a history of both workers and management coming together for the good of the economy.”

The 2009 live racing season at Mountaineer ended prematurely closing night, Dec. 29, when the program was ended after only two races. The $75,000 New Year’s Eve Stakes was among the casualties.

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