Charles Town Cancels Again; Surface Still Problem

Officials were meeting the morning of Oct. 1 to discuss ongoing problems with the racing surface that have led Charles Town Races & Slots in West Virginia to again cancel racing for at least another week.

Charles Town lost eight live racing programs from Sept. 15-24 because of drainage problems on a racing surface just replaced this summer. The track reopened Sept. 25-26, but was forced to cancel again after several races Sept. 29.

A note on the track's Web site now says live racing will resume Oct. 8, only one night before the $1-million West Virginia Breeders Classics. The event is the centerpiece of the Charles Town stakes program and the racing focal point of the West Virginia Thoroughbred breeding program.

An official with Penn National Gaming Inc., parent company of the track, said the racing surface was initially closed to racing and training after wet areas were discovered. Track officials feared the drainage problem could cause an uneven racing surface.

Racing was halted for about three weeks in August so the surface could be replaced. Horsemen had expressed concern about the asphalt base that led to drainage problems in the past. PNGI also installed a new lighting system that required digging along the inside rail to put in poles and wiring.

The Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has hired former Maryland Jockey Club track superintendent John Passero to be its consultant on the project. Passero, who is recognized as one of the best track superintendents in the country, is assisting PNGI on the project but is meeting with resistance, according to individuals close to the situation.

Representatives of many groups, including the Charles Town HBPA and West Virginia Racing Commission, reportedly attended the Oct. 1 meeting. The HBPA has held meetings to discuss the ongoing situation and how to deal with it. Track officials couldn't be reached for comment late in the afternoon of Sept. 30.

Charles Town is home to thousands of video lottery terminals that remain operating every day by state law. Simulcasting from other tracks continues as well. Though live racing was canceled the evening of Sept. 30, the slots casino was packed for a car giveaway, according to reports.