Mountaineer OK'd for Two-Month Shutdown

Mountaineer was approved to be dark for live racing in January and February.

The West Virginia Racing Commission Dec. 7 approved a 2010 racing schedule for Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort that allows the track to close for live racing in January and February but not for four months as requested.

Under the schedule, Mountaineer will open March 1 for a 210-day meet that ends Dec. 21. Racing will be held five days a week with first post time at 7 p.m. Eastern with the exception of an afternoon program on West Virginia Derby (gr. II) day.

Mountaineer had requested to be dark January, February, November, and December and run its 210 days over eight months with racing six days a week. The 210-date minimum is statutory.

Maria Catagnani, executive director of the Mountaineer Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said the barn area will remain open in January and February. The current meet ends Dec. 29.

The WVRC took the action on dates to ensure Mountaineer could continue to operate video lottery terminals as of the first of the year. The VLTs produce revenue for purses at the track.

“We didn’t want to shut down the machines,” Catagnani said. “It wasn’t up to us; it was up to the racing commission.”

Horsemen opposed the plan to shut down for four months and close the barn area. Local legislators and businesses weighed in as well.

When asked if the Mountaineer HBPA is satisfied with the 2010 schedule, Catagnani said: “We would have preferred racing 52 weeks a year with day racing incorporated into the program.”

Mountaineer, which has a dirt surface, traditionally opens in mid-January but loses racing dates because of weather and track conditions the first two months of the year.

Mountaineer director of racing Rose Mary Williams on Dec. 8 called the schedule "a good compromise. January and February are always the months in which racing is canceled and very unpredictable."

Williams said Dec. 21 will be closing day unless there is a need to run programs lost due to cancellations.

The two-month closure could aid the horse population at Kentucky's Turfway Park, which will go from five-day weeks to three-day weeks Jan. 1 to maintain full fields and preserve purse money.

Turfway president Bob Elliston said if December business holds up, purses could average $150,000 a day for the winter/spring meet, up from $110,000-$120,000.