02/11/2008 12:00AM

Weather delays Penn National opener


Mother Nature has put a crimp in Penn National Race Course's grand reopening plans.

Although the facility's new Hollywood Casino with 2,000 slot machines will open as scheduled at 10 a.m. Tuesday, a forecast that calls for snow, freezing rain, and wind chills that make the temperature feel as though it's in the single digits caused track officials on Monday afternoon to cancel Tuesday night's first live racing card of 2008.

"Our intention has always been to be able to present the entire gaming, racing, and entertainment experience to our guests on opening day," said Gary Luderitz, Penn National's general manager. "Unfortunately, the weather reports for this region all point towards conditions that would not prove conducive for live racing."

Tuesday's weather forecast for central Pennsylvania calls for light snow throughout the day, then rain turning to freezing rain in the evening.

Nearly a third of the 100 entries on Tuesday night's nine-race card were shippers from other tracks. Track officials feared poor road conditions would have led to many of those horses not making the trip to Grantville, Pa., about 17 miles from Harrisburg.

"Our horsemen have been anxiously awaiting the return of live racing, but both sides of the track are in agreement that making this decision early is in the best interest of all parties," Luderitz said. "We wouldn't want guests coming out for an evening of racing and gaming, and then have the races canceled due to weather-related issues."

Track officials are hopeful that they will be able to launch the 2008 live racing season with a nine-race card Wednesday, starting at 6:45 p.m. Eastern.

Penn National does plan to be open for full-card simulcast wagering, beginning at noon Tuesday, in its new simulcast theater on the second floor and on the third-floor concourse.