02/05/2018 1:00PM

West Virginia commission approves Charles Town Classic purse


The West Virginia Racing Commission on Monday voted 3-0 to approve the $1.2 million purse of the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic and the track’s 2018 stakes schedule. The decision came 13 days after the commission voted 2-0 to limit the Classic purse to $300,000.

The West Virginia Racing Commission is a three-person panel consisting of chairman Jack Rossi and commissioners Ken Lowe and Anthony Figaretti.

On Jan. 23, Lowe made a motion to approve a $300,000 purse for the Charles Town Classic. The motion included an option for a higher purse if Penn National Gaming, which owns the track and the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town, contributed half of the amount, with the remainder coming from the horsemen’s purse fund.

When Lowe and Figaretti voted to approve the motion, the future of the Charles Town Classic was put in jeopardy as track officials said they would not hold the race with a $300,000 purse and that Penn Gaming would not contribute to the purse.

The next day, according to an article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement saying he supported the Classic and had asked his staff to look into ways to reverse the commission’s decision.

At Monday’s meeting, Rossi said he would be forming a focus group to study whether “resources were being utilized to the highest extent to benefit racing in West Virginia.”

There was discussion at the meeting as to whether the high purses of some stakes were in the best interests of everyone involved in racing in the state.

Rossi declined to answer a question regarding what led to the commission’s turnaround regarding this year’s Charles Town Classic.

“I’m looking to the future, not at the past,” he said.

Erich Zimny, vice president of racing at Charles Town, was pleased to have the stakes schedule approved.

“We want to thank an incredibly supportive local delegation, the office of Governor Jim Justice, and commission chairman Jack Rossi, who is as fair a regulator as you’ll find and one who puts the state of West Virginia first and foremost,” Zimny said.

The Charles Town stakes schedule first came before the commission at its December meeting but was tabled until January after Lowe voiced his displeasure with the Charles Town Classic purse.

It is extremely rare for a racing commission to insert itself into a discussion of how purse funds will be allocated when a track and its horsemen have agreed to terms, like Charles Town and the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have.

The stakes schedule consists of 20 stakes worth a total of $2,485,000. There are three major days on the Charles Town calendar.

The Charles Town Classic, which has had its purse lowered $50,000 for 2018, tops a six-stakes card – two less than a year ago – on April 21. The Classic program is the only day card of the year at Charles Town and has a 12:30 p.m. first post.

The $100,000 Sugar Maple on the Classic undercard has been renamed the Dance to Bristol, in honor of the Ollie Figgins III-trained mare who won the Sugar Maple, Grade 1 Ballerina, Grade 2 Honorable Miss, and Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses in 2013.

The Grade 3, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks is one of six stakes on Pink Ribbon Night, Sept. 22.

The 32nd edition of the West Virginia Classics is scheduled for Oct. 13.

The schedule also includes 14 stakes for West Virginia-breds, each with a purse of $50,000.

The Original Gold and Confucious Say are not on this year’s schedule. The Tri-State Futurity has been discontinued.