02/11/2015 1:46PM

Mountaineer to cut purses by 20 percent


Mountaineer Racetrack in Chester, W.Va., is planning to cut purses by approximately 20 percent this year as a result of reduced subsidies from its adjoining casino, according to track and horsemen officials.

Rose Mary Williams, Mountaineer’s director of racing, said the track was forced to make the cut after the state legislature passed a bill reducing the statutorily mandated subsidies by 10 percent in order to shore up the state’s budget last year. The purse cuts will affect all races, Williams said.

Williams said the track and horsemen have joined together to support a bill in the state legislature that would reduce the number of required live racing dates at the track from 210 to 185. If the bill passes, Williams said the track likely would cut the dates from the end of its race meet to avoid head-to-head competition with Mahoning Valley Race Course, which opened last year in Ohio.

“We’re hopeful that would permit us to retain the purse level where it is,” Williams said.

Jami Poole, president of the Mountaineer Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said the organization’s board voted 7-2 to work with management to get legislation passed to allow the track to cut dates. He said some horsemen are upset the track may no longer race virtually year-round, but he also said the cut in subsidies gives trainers little choice.

“Management has worked very hard with us on this,” Poole said. “No racetrack is running year-round anymore. They have to get that mentality that that’s not possible anymore.”

Poole also said management agreed to reduce the amount of money going to stakes purses in order to shore up overnight purses. Four stakes will be cut from the schedule this year, Poole said.

Mountaineer currently is scheduled to run from March 1 to Dec. 21.

Mahoning Valley, which is owned by Penn National Gaming Inc., is approximately 30 miles from the track. Last year, the track began its wraparound meet in mid-September.