Charles Town Turf Club will reopen Friday night, even though representatives of the West Virginia track and thoroughbred horsemen failed to reach agreement on a new contract yesterday.
"We're going. We'll have short fields," track spokesman Bill McDonald said minutes after entries closed for the program.
Horsemen had threatened to boycott the reopening unless a contract agreement was reached. Represented by the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, they had twice voted to boycott Friday's races. The latest vote, on Monday, was 154-17.
Only one of Friday's nine scheduled races failed to fill, necessitating a substitute race, McDonald said. He called the caliber of the card "about what you'd expect on a Friday night here."
"They're all our horses," he said. "There's no such thing as a scab horse."
The feature race, a seven-furlong allowance for 4-year-olds and up, drew the smallest field -- four. Another race drew five entries, and two races attracted six entries each.
Of the five remaining races, one drew seven entries, two drew eight horses each, another nine and the other 11, the only entry exceeding the 10-horse starting limit.
Charles Town officials kept the entry box open past 3 p.m., more than five hours longer than normal, according to McDonald, in case a contract settlement could be reached.
"That's not to say we haven't had progress," McDonald said.
McDonald said representatives of the Kenton Corp., which owns the track, and the HBPA representing 1,800 owners and trainers, had 14 issues still on the table. The biggest stumbling block, he said, remains the issue of straw v. sawdust in the horse's stalls.
Management wants the horsemen to switch to straw, making it is easier for the track to transport the manure it sells to mushroom farmers for a reported $250,000. The horsemen say the use of straw would cost them an extra $600,000 annually.
The straw issue came up before an afternoon recess, during which track officials decided to go with the entries they had. No action was taken on the straw issue. "We're leaving that little juicy item for last," McDonald said.
According to McDonald, the two sides had agreed on five of the other eight articles discussed prior to the recess.
Fendall Clagett, HBPA representative and spokesman, could not be reached for comment.
The Kenton Corp. last month had announced that it would close the track because of last year's $250,000 loss and an anticipated deficit of $750,000 in 1979. An agreement was later worked out between the state and the track to reopen.