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  Trouble in Paradise !     

Mountaineer ParkMountaineer Logo

2020 Update

Mountaineer Park is located on the banks of the Ohio River, in Chester, it is about equal distance from Pittsburg Pennsylvania, Youngstown Ohio and Wheeling, West Virginia. The track is a one mile dirt oval, with one turn narrower than the other. It also has a seven furlong inner turf course, which in the old days had an airplane landing strip inside of that. Originally opened in 1951 as Waterford Park the facility featured an open air grandstand and clubhouse which sat 7,400, 5,800 in the grandstand and 1,600 in the clubhouse. Over the years both the grandstand and clubhouse became glass enclosed, the clubhouse also includes the Clubhouse Terrace dinning room. The facility has stabling for 1,100 horses.

Back in 1994, Mountaineer Park had no natural enemies, today that is not the case. As listed above all the major cities within 40 miles of Chester, now have racinos. MTR Gaming, once considered the business model for racino operations has merged with Eldorado Resorts as live racing has declined at Mountaineer Park. Over the past few years races, race dates and purses have all been cut. In 2015 Mountaineer was scheduled to race until late December, but dropped off the radar in mid-October, probably not a good sign. Obviously easier to get to the top, than stay there.         

Mountaineer Park wasn't always the glamorous resort it is today. It started life as Waterford Park with it's bottom of the barrel $1,200 claimers which pretty much made it the last stop for many thoroughbreds racing careers. This is not to say that it was not unique. Besides having a distinctive non oval shape it included an inner turf course which was unheard of for tracks running low level claimers. To top that the inner turf course had an inner airplane landing strip so you could jet in for a race or two(well mWaterford Parkaybe not a jet). At some point a plane crashed in the infield and the landing strip was eliminated.

 West Virginia may not seem like the innovator in racing but it's quick acknowledge of the value of the Racino helped convert Mountaineer from bottom level and elevated it's status where it was even being considered to host the Breeders Cup in 2009. Not bad for a track that was ready to go under in the 80's.

 Mountaineers purse value has risen from a 2 in the early eighties to 23 in 2010. When talking the history of Mountaineer one cannot forget to mention Dale Baird the local trainer who won 20 consecutive leading trainer titles at this track. He was also the leading trainer in the country 15 times with horses that were mostly his own, and racing most of his races at mountaineer Race Track. Tragically Baird died in an automobile accident December 23, 2007.

 In 2011 with the exception of January, Mountaineer ran it's normal year round schedule. It remains one of the most successful racing operations and continues to build or purchase other racing facilities. Deshawn Parker not only captured the Mountaineer riding title but was also the winningest jockey in the country.

I did have the opportunity to visit old Waterford Park quite a few times in the late sixties, early seventies. I don't think I cashed many tickets there, but I did see a plane land in the infield one night. On a more recent trip I did discover that the track itself was still just a track. The casino was built away from the grandstand between itself and the highway, where the old entrance was. Crossing into West Virginia over the Ohio River, it was nice to see that some thinGs don't change. The old bride with the wooden toll both was still there, like it was over forty years ago.

Mountaineer is the only track in West Virginia, that was ever built as a one mile oval, the others were all smaller ovals from a half mile to three quarters of a mile. It is also unique in the fact that no owner silks are worn, Mountaineer uses the county affair approach and uses standard colored silks for each post position in every race.

2020 Update

Mountaineer Park was scheduled to kick off the year for new owners Century Casinos on April 26, but there's a good chance that's not going to happen, due to COVID-19. Mountaineer and the MTR group were on top in the early nineties when they were pretty much the only casino in town. With racinos now in Ohio and Pennsylvania that is not the case anymore. MTR was merged with Eldorado Resorts of Nevada in 2014 and this year gets it's second buyout, probably not a good sign.