02/26/2011 11:18AM

Mountaineer Racetrack begins 201-day season Tuesday night

Coady Photography
Deshawn Parker won a nation-leading 377 races in 2010.

After spending a couple months on a working vacation in Florida, the big fish is coming back to his small pond in West Virginia.

Deshawn Parker, who led the nation’s jockeys with 377 victories in 2010, will be back at Mountaineer Racetrack when it reopens after a two-month shutdown on Tuesday night.

Parker will be honored with a trophy presentation from the track and a plaque recognizing his accomplishments from the West Virginia Racing Commission. He returns to Mountaineer, where he recorded all but eight of his U.S.-leading total last year, in quest of his fourth straight local riding title. In contrast to his success locally, Parker went just 8 for 122 while riding this winter at Tampa Bay Downs.

Parker has mounts in the main body of the field in seven of the opening night card’s 10 races, including Heaveninoureyes in the featured 4 1/2-furlong allowance sprint for 3-year-old fillies who have never won two races.

Much like last season, when Mountaineer switched from year-round racing to a 10-month season, the track will conduct 201 live cards this year while racing on its usual Friday through Tuesday schedule through Dec. 21.

The stakes schedule, which shrank last year in order to preserve overnight purses, looks much the same as 2010. Gone is the season-opening Waterford Park Handicap, but the remaining 19 stakes from last year return at the same purse levels.

As usual, the bulk of the stakes action will take place on West Virginia Derby Day, Aug. 6, when nine added-money events are scheduled on the lone afternoon card of the season, topped by the Grade 2, $750,000 derby for 3-year-olds. All but three of the remaining stakes will be clustered around the Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day holidays.

Overnight purses averaged $117,600 in 2010, down significantly from the $151,600 high-water mark in 2004 as gaming revenues have declined. Purses on the first card of the season total $110,600, which corresponds to the levels since the most recent 10 percent purse cuts last August. In the first conditon book, open allowance runners will run for a $33,700 purse, maiden special weight races go for $17,600, and bottom-level $5,000 maiden claimers compete for a $7,400 pot.

On opening night, Mountaineer will treat ontrack bettors with an instant winner promotion through the tote machines. Prizes for merchandise and dining will pop up randomly when a wager is made.