Mountaineer Racetrack

Mountaineer Racetrack

Coady Photography

Live Racing Returns to Mountaineer Friday

The grade II $750,000 West Virginia Derby anchors meet.

Live Thoroughbred racing returns this Friday, March 2, at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort. The track in West Virginia’s northern panhandle will commence its 62nd season with a 10-race card. Post time for the first race will be 7 p.m. EST.

“We’ll have 900 horses on the grounds by this weekend. We are set and ready,” said Joe Narcavish, Mountaineer’s racing secretary. “Mountaineer dates back to 1951, when the track was known as Waterford Park. The seventh race this Sunday will be the 125,000th in Mountaineer’s history. That’s a pretty big number.

“Over the years, we’ve awarded more than $581 million in purse monies,” Narcavish said. “I’m proud of the niche we’ve established and maintained on the national racing calendar. This year’s West Virginia Derby card, which will be run on Saturday afternoon, August 4, has purses totaling $1.65 million. That will be an all-time, single-day record for us.”

The West Virginia Derby (gr. II) is the state’s most historic race, and remains the anchoring event for Mountaineer’s season. It will carry a purse of $750,000.

Friday’s feature, a five-furlong open allowance called the Welcome Back Dash, carries a purse of $33,700 and has lured a field of seven. DeShawn Parker, the perennial standard setter in the Mountaineer jockey colony, has been named aboard a pair of horses in the Welcome Back – Tend and Pagosa Peak. Having a choice is not an unusual circumstance for the 41-year-old rider.

Parker has led the North American jockey standings for each of the past two years, registering 377 wins in 2010 and 400 wins in 2011. All but 20 of his wins last year were achieved at Mountaineer. Parker has spent the winter riding at Tampa Bay Downs. He is scheduled to ride in nine of Friday’s races at Mountaineer.

Oswald M. Pereira, who finished second in the 2011 Mountaineer jockey standings with 213 wins, has been named to ride in four of Friday’s races. Pereira has spent the winter competing at Charles Town in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, where he currently ranks fifth in the rider standings.

Stalls have been allocated at Mountaineer to 144 trainers. Twelve of the stalls have been given to Chris Engelhart, who ranked sixth in the 2011 North American trainer standings with 236 wins. Trainer William N. Martin, who registered 47 wins during the second half of last year’s Mountaineer season, has 21 stalls and looms a major factor at Mountaineer again this year.

Mountaineer’s live season will encompass 210 racing days, extending through December 21. Race cards will be offered Fridays through Tuesdays, with Wednesdays and Thursdays being dark. There will be no racing on Easter Sunday.

All race cards will be scheduled for evenings, with two exceptions: the one on West Virginia Derby Day; and the September 14 “Fall Bash” card. Both will have a 2 p.m. first post.

The 2012 Mountaineer stakes schedule includes 13 events. It will start with the $75,000 Independence Day Stakes and the $75,000 Firecracker Stakes, both of which are grass events and will be run Tuesday, July 3.