Horsemen at the Charles Town Races yesterday denounced a track plan to levy stall-rental fees beginning in 1991 and said they would consider boycotting entries if management follows through with the initiative.

Randy Funkhouser, president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association for Charles Town, accused the track of employing "bully tactics" following an announcement Tuesday that a $2-per-day rental charge will be assessed to each stall used or occupied starting Jan. 1. Horsemen who fail to obtain a stall occupation permit by Dec. 31 would face eviction.

Mike Steele, national president of the HBPA, expressed outrage at the plan and said a levy of any kind would not be accepted. He said a lawyer for the New Orleans-based organization would meet with Charles Town horsemen Saturday and, if necessary, members of the West Virginia Racing Commission.

According to Don Hudson, Charles Town's general manager, the track's board of directors approved the policy to help ensure that horses stabled at Charles Town race there. Horses who run at least three times over each four-month period would gain reimbursements of their stall fees, he said.

"The real motive is to get a little better discipline in the barn area, so that people who don't run {horses} don't get a free ride," Hudson said.

Sal Anzelmo, general counsel for the national horseman's group, said no HBPA-represented thoroughbred track conducting live races charges rent on stalls.

"It's just unheard-of," said Anzelmo, who has represented the HBPA since 1966. "It's like having Sir Laurence Olivier pay for his dressing room at the theater where he is going to perform. . . . In essence, they're asking horsemen to subsidize the cost of conducting the race meeting."

Funkhouser charged that the stall assessments came as retaliation after Charles Town's horsemen voted overwhelmingly against a proposal to implement about 300 video lottery machines within the track. Jefferson County administrators then determined Charles Town failed to meet zoning requirements necessary to house the machines.

According to Funkhouser, the slot-machine issue bears a double edge. They have not enhanced business at Mountaineer Park, the state's other thoroughbred racetrack, and Charles Town's horsemen believe that if they were to become popular they could phase out racing.

Hudson said the stall charges are not a form of retribution.

Racetracks nationwide have been hurt by an economic slowdown, and Charles Town is no exception. Through Tuesday, its 1990 handle totaled about $85.6 million, a 6.6 percent drop from last year.

"The financial justification of this is ludicrous," Funkhouser said. "Most horsemen here can't afford this. If we have to boycott, we will boycott."

Steele questioned the intent of the stall assessment, saying: "What purpose would it serve? Logically speaking, you're not going to get any horses if you do that. What kind of racing are you going to have?"

He said a boycott would be "a last resort" but added, "We'll close the racetrack if we have to. We're not going to be intimidated."