The Slipton Fell Handicap is worth $75,000? C'mon. You're joking.
Not! That race, which recognizes one of the more cleverly-named horses that campaigned at Waterford Park in the 1960s, is only one of 28 stakes that will be worth a minimum of $75,000 next year at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort. About 10 years ago, the Slipton Fell was worth $5,000.
The 2002 stakes schedule at the West Virginia racetrack reflects the success of its gaming operation and increase in total daily average handle to about $895,000 a night. The 28 stakes are worth about $2.7 million.
The highlight of the year-round schedule of racing is the Aug. 10 West Virginia Derby, which was awarded grade III status for 2002. The purse has been raised from $500,000 to $600,000. Six undercard stakes will each be worth $85,000 (five went for $55,000 this year, and a new one was added to the schedule).
The Nov. 16 Mountaineer Mile will be worth $100,000, up from $70,000. Twenty other stakes will be worth $75,000, up from $55,000.
Rose Mary Williams, director of racing at Mountaineer, said purses will increase 5% for $4,000 claiming races, and 10% for all others, effective Jan. 1, 2002. The minimum purse for the minimum $4,000 maiden-claiming level will be $10,300, and open allowance races will top out at $41,600. A open event for $4,000 claimers will be worth $15,400, while a $20,000 open claimer will go for $28,800.
In the mid-1990s, a nine-race card went for $22,000 in total purses.
Williams said the improving quality of the racing program has led to the bump in total handle. More than 215 outlets now take the signal, which is available Friday through Tuesday evenings each week. The track, formerly named Waterford Park, will offer about $160,000 a day in purses next year.