Charles Town Sets Reduced Horse Racing Schedule For 2023

Written By Darren Cooper on January 17, 2023 - Last Updated on February 7, 2023
West Virginia horse track at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town requested fewer races in 2023

West Virginia horse racing fans will have to make do with less. At least for now.

The venerable Hollywood Casino Charles Town Races (both J. Edgar Hoover and John F. Kennedy were spotted there) is planning a 164-day program in 2023.

That number could change after track organizers meet in the summer and review the available purses.

The 2023 program at the West Virginia horse racing venue started Jan. 4. The schedule calls for racing from Wednesdays through Saturdays in the winter and Thursdays through Saturdays in the spring, summer, and fall.

Charles Town has been open for horse racing fans since 1933 and is home to the Charles Town Classic (Aug. 25) and the West Virginia Breeders Classic (Oct. 14).

West Virginia horse racing program will be reviewed again in July

The horse racing program of 164 days is less than the track has had recently. In 2022, the track had plans for a 179-program series, but because of cancellations, it only ran races on 173 days.

Both Charles Town and the state’s other thoroughbred track, Mountaineer Park, must comply with a West Virginia statute that requires them to ask for a certain number of days from the West Virginia Racing Commission (WVRC). Charles Town is mandated to ask for 220 dates and Mountaineer 210.

But that’s just how everything looks at the starting gate.

Both tracks are allowed to come back before the WVRC and ask for a reduction in days or to add dates later in the year. At a December WVRC meeting, both asked for reductions.

West Virginia Racing Commission executive director Joe Moore told the Thoroughbred Daily News:

“The request comes with the agreement [by] the racetrack and HBPA that they will meet in July to revisit their live race schedule and their available purse monies to assess whether there is a possibility of adding any days towards the end of the year.”

Mountaineer Park ran 130 dates in 2022.

Fewer horses and trainers lead to fewer horse races

The program quotas haven’t been met in many years because of logistical issues in filling that many cards. Overall, there has been a decline in the number of willing trainers and available thoroughbreds.

Fewer horses mean fewer races and less interest from spectators. The WVRC has begun to grow alarmed at the reduction in the number of race days.

Purses are derived from attendance fees and trainer fees, and when those are reduced, the track’s ability to run races wanes.

The schedule for the week of Jan. 16 was strong, with eight races scheduled for Wednesday with at least seven horses in each, according to Equibase.

Charles Town is a legendary track just 63 miles from Washington, D.C., with a long history of thoroughbred racing. The Charles Town Classic has run since 2009 with a purse that has topped $1.5 million in the past and is for older horses running a distance of 1 1/8 mile.

Photo by PlayWV
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