Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort will kick off its 210-day season March 1 with average daily overnight purses of about $115,000, a figure on par with 2013.
For the past several years the West Virginia racetrack, which used to race year-round, has been dark in January and February but open for training. Though the season runs just shy of 10 months, the number of racing programs per year has held steady.
Last year Mountaineer paid total purses of $26.46 million, which includes more than $2 million for stakes. Average daily purses totaled $126,022 including stakes, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.
Races restricted to West Virginia-bred runners offered $1.12 million in purses in 2013; a similar amount is expected to be paid this year pending action in the West Virginia Legislature.
At the urging of Gov. Ray Tomblin, legislation was introduced that would shift some video lottery terminal revenue to other programs. Mountaineer and the state's other three racetracks have VLTs and table games that fall under the West Virginia Lottery.
The House of Delegates Feb. 26 passed the bill on a 72-25 vote, but not before adopting amendments that protect funds for local and county governments that host gaming. In addition, the planned 15% reduction in table games revenue that goes to Thoroughbred and Greyhound racing and breeding programs was cut to 10%.
Owners, trainers, and breeders in West Virginia have publicly opposed any shift in revenue. The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
Mountaineer will again card nine-race programs each night through September, and then offer 10 races a night until the end of the season Dec. 20. Turf racing is scheduled to begin in mid-May.
In a change from previous years, the five-day racing week will run from Saturday through Wednesday. Friday night racing has been dropped in the hope Wednesday night programs generate more off-site pari-mutuel handle.
The opening-night program attracted 87 entries, with 17 horses on the also-eligible list. The feature is a five-furlong open allowance test with a purse of $37,100.
Deshawn Parker, the longtime leading rider at Mountaineer, is expected back in mid-March. He currently is second-leading rider at Sam Houston Race Park, which concludes its Thoroughbred meet March 11.