Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort has asked the West Virginia Racing Commission for permission to drop 11 live racing programs in December and reduce the number of races it is scheduled to run in October and November.
Mountaineer was approved to offer 210 live racing programs through Dec. 20. If the request is granted by the WVRC, the meet would end Nov. 30, and rather than running 10 races per card in October and November, the track would offer nine-race programs for a loss of 43 races those two months.
The WVRC May 20 said it must notify horsemen and pari-mutuel clerks about the request and allow for a 10-day period for objections to be submitted. If there are objections, a hearing must be held within 30 days in Hancock County, where the track is located; if not, the racing commission can approve the request at its June 17 meeting.
WVRC senior deputy attorney general Kelli Talbott noted the Mountaineer request was unusual in that the track also asked the racing commission to pre-approve its plan not to make up racing days that have been or will be canceled this year. A similar request was made by Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, which so far this year has lost 20 live racing programs because of weather or track conditions.
The issue of make-up days will be discussed in June, WVRC officials said.
No one at the meeting raised objections to either request. Horsemen's groups in West Virginia have been discussing the racing dates situation in light of the state Legislature's approval of a bill that will shift 10% of purse revenue derived from gaming to other state programs this year.
In addition, Mountaineer this fall will compete with the new Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course near Youngstown, Ohio, which is Mountaineer's primary market. The facility, which will take over dates formerly raced at Beulah Park near Columbus, will have almost 1,000 stalls for Thoroughbreds.
Mountaineer, once a year-round track, in recent years has raced March through December.
According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Mountaineer through the first 57 days of its 2014 meet has averaged 7.23 horses per race, down from 8.23 for the comparable period in 2013. The competition for horses is only expected to intensify given recent declines in the Thoroughbred foal crop.