Game On Dude in the Charles Town Classic.

Game On Dude in the Charles Town Classic.

Coady Photography

Charles Town Gets Dates But Awaits Contract

The West Virginia track and the Charles Town HBPA are negotiating a new deal.

Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races was approved for 220 live racing programs in 2014, but the West Virginia track remains in contract negotiations with horsemen.

The West Virginia Racing Commission Dec. 9 approved racing dates and the stakes schedule for next year at Charles Town. It withheld approval of a simulcast agreement pending the result of contract negotiations between the track and the Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Charles Town HBPA president Randy Funkhouser noted Charles Town has received approval for 235 racing dates in recent years. He told the WVRC the horsemen's group approved a "contract rollover" from Jan. 1-31, 2014, and also agreed to extend simulcast export approval for 90 days from Jan. 1-March 31.

The contract expires Dec. 31.

Erich Zimny, vice president of racing operations at Charles Town, said the track plans to race four days a week from May through October, primarily on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule with first post time of 7:15 p.m. Tuesday nights will make for five programs a week from January through April and November and December.

First post will be 5 p.m. for the April 19 Charles Town Classic (gr. II) card and the Sept. 20 Race for the Ribbon program.

Sunday afternoon racing during good weather attracted crowds, but export wagering on the Charles Town signal suffered. Zimny said the track has been "building on its transition" to all night racing.

The Classic purse again will be $1.5 million. The Sept. 20 Charles Town Oaks received grade III status for 2014, and the purse for the 3-year-old filly stakes will be increased to $500,000 from $400,000.

"Between being graded for 2014 and how productive the Charles Town Oaks has been to date, we felt moving the purse to $500,000 should give us a true, marquee race that we can build a better event around," Zimny said. "As a $500,000 graded race in late September, it's our hope the Charles Town Oaks can have some Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) implications going forward."

The purse for a companion stakes for 3-year-old males, the Researcher Stakes, has been reduced from $400,000 to $100,000 next year. Zimny said Charles Town had hoped the stakes would earn graded status but there wasn't a good place for it on the calendar given a crowded division.

The WVRC also approved a marketing contract for the West Virginia Breeders Classic program, which will be held at Charles Town Oct. 18 next year. The program of nine stakes for state-bred runners is funded by the state.