New Austintown track inches closer to race day

AUSTINTOWN – Operators of a planned new horse race track and the jockey union have agreed upon the number of horse stalls, jockey dormitory accommodations and other issues under debate, paving the way for next month’s approval of a race permit and release of the racing schedule for Austintown.

The track will provide 988 permanent stalls, plus another 54 stalls to accommodate horses brought in for just one day of racing. Track operator Penn National Gaming Inc. originally had proposed 500 stalls, a number the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association had called insufficient.

Ohio State Race Commission Chairman Robert K. Schmitz has been clear that the commission would not issue a permit for a race schedule for the track with a commitment for at least 988 horse stalls.

The large number of horse stalls is needed because, on average, 320 horses race each week, and thoroughbreds race only once every two to four weeks. Most of the horses are housed at the track for the entire race season.

Other details worked out in the 10-year contract between Penn National and the horsemen include the percentage of revenues from slots-like video lottery terminals that will be shared with the horsemen and simulcast schedules, said Penn National Gaming spokesman Bob Tenenbaum.

Following Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Ohio State Racing Commission, Executive Director Bill Crawford said he looks for the race schedule to be approved and released at the regular March meeting, scheduled for March 20 in Columbus.

Last month racing dates were released for the other three thoroughbred tracks in Ohio. Racing at the Austintown Track, being built near the intersection of state Route 46 and Interstate 80, is expected to begin in November and run through the winter months, replacing the existing winter-spring schedule at Beulah Park in Columbus. Indoor seating will be available at the track, under construction since May.