Work Continues on Charles Town Racing Surface

Live racing at Charles Town Races & Slots in West Virginia remains up in the air as work continues to correct a reported drainage problem on a racing surface just replaced this summer.

The last racing program was held Sept. 12. Thus far, Charles Town has lost five racing programs, and the programs of Sept. 22-23 seemed in doubt. In fact, a note on the track's Web site indicated live racing has been canceled until further notice, but the track continues to take entries.

An official with Penn National Gaming Inc., parent company of the track, told the Hagerstown, Md., Herald-Mail the racing surface was closed to racing and training after wet areas were discovered. Track officials feared the drainage problem could cause an uneven racing surface, the newspaper reported.

A timetable as to when racing might resume was expected late in the week of Sept. 20.

Racing was halted for about three weeks in August so the surface could be replaced. Horsemen had expressed concern about the concrete 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 reportedly hired former Maryland Jockey Club track superintendent John Passero to be its consultant on the project. The track went in another direction, but according to reports, Passero has ended up helping workers correct the problem and was on the scene Sept. 22. He couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

The Sept. 18 program was to have featured three $40,000 stakes that serve as preps for the Oct. 9 West Virginia Breeders Classics, a $1-million night of state-bred racing at Charles Town. The prep stakes hadn't been rescheduled as of the program of Sept. 25. Three prep stakes were held Sept. 11 on the weekend before racing was suspended.

Sam Huff, president of the West Virginia Breeders Classics, couldn't be immediately reached to comment on how the problems with the racing surface could impact the state-bred championship night should they linger. The Classics program will feature a $300,000 stakes, a $250,000 stakes, and six $75,000 stakes for various divisions.