[image url="http://cdn.bloodhorse.com/images/content/rwilliams_large.jpg"]Rose Mary Williams[/image]
Rose Mary Williams, director of racing at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resortin Chester, West Virginia, has over 30 years of experience in the racing industry.
With a career that began in the pari-mutuel department, Williams hand calculated races in the computer department and served as Director of Simulcast Racing and Director of Mutuels prior to assuming her current position. She was appointed corporate secretary of MTR Gaming in 1998.
Under her tutelage, Mountaineer’s racing product has been dramatically upgraded with average daily purses increasing from $22,000 in 1994 to $160,000 and bottom claiming prices rising to $5,000.
The growing stature of Mountaineer’s Thoroughbred racing is reflected in the response to its export signal. Under Williams' guidance, the total pari-mutuel handle rose to over $434,000,000 in 2006. Williams has also overseen an $8.5 million upgrading of the racing facility at Mountaineer.
Williams assists in developing racing operations at all of MTR Gamings properties. She is currently assisting with the opening of the racing operations at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, PA scheduled to open for live racing on September 1, and Running Aces Harness Park in Minnesota scheduled to open in April 2008.
Mountaineer is one of those independent tracks that are aligned neither with TVG or TrackNet. What is Mountaineer's position on the current ADW impasse between TVG and TrackNet? Are you an advocate for open access and allowing as many ADW's as possible to get your signal? What role do independent tracks like Mountaineer have in bringing a resolution to this matter that is only hurting the customer in the end?
Mountaineer has never signed an exclusive contract with an ADW. When TVG asked us to sign an exclusive contract during our earlier years of export we decided it was in our best interest to offer the signal to all the ADW services. Unfortunately our races were partially shown by TVG but we believe that we made the right decision. MTR Gaming which owns Scioto Downs Inc. formed a subsidiary of Scioto named RacelineBet.com to offer ADW. RacelineBet.com is marketing affiliate of AmericaTab the intent of MTR was to increase revenue and awareness of the MTR tracks. We still offer our signal to all ADW we believe open access benefits all the MTR tracks.
We've been playing MTR for years, and love your simulcast show with Nancy and Mark, and Peter Berry is the best. My question is about ADW and all the feuds about exclusivity, etc - how does MTR manage to send their signal to all of them? Thanks for your reply.
Thanks for the comments about Nancy, Mark and Peter. To answer your question we simply do not sign exclusive agreements with any of the ADW operators. We believe in offering all the ADW services our content to benefit all the customers.
Charles Town, WV:
Did MTR management have an agreement with the Mountaineer HBPA (horsemen) for their support of table games before the 2007 legislative session started?.
No, MTR did not have a signed agreement with the Mountaineer HBPA on table games. We talked to the HBPA about the benefits to the all and asked for their support. They backed us in the legislative session. We have always tried to be united.
Rosemary, yours was one of the first to benefit from slots money, with so many other tracks adding to the list are you concerned it will erode Mountaineer’s advantage?.
Mountaineer has tried to position itself to be a destination resort. Not only to offer racing and slots but a hotel, events such as boxing and concerts, fitness center, spa, numerous restaurants, and golf. We were just approved for table games and expect to add this by November. So, to answer your question we just continue to grow to offer the best value for your entertainment dollar.
Why are certain trainers (in good standing) consistently denied stall space while other trainers (with previous drug positives) are given all the stalls they request?
I am not sure what you are referring to but in Erie we made the stall application available online and at the track. We received numerous stall applications and weighed them by the horse listed on the applications. We did grant some stalls to Mountaineer horsemen that signed stall applications with us when we first applied for our racing license in PA years ago. I do not believe anyone that applied for stalls received as many as they requested due to the numerous request. We have a huge waiting list for stalls due to limit stall space in 2007. We have just over 500 stalls this year and next year will have over 1000.
Hi Rosemary, I understand that Mountaineer's Racing Officials are handling the duties for Presque Isle Downs; I've noticed there are no races for PA bred 2 yr. olds. I was shocked with all the hype that's been given to the PA program to find out that not a single race was written for their 2 yr. old state breds. Can you comment?
You are correct Mountaineer racing officials did handle writing the condition book for PID. The PA Breeder’s Assoc. stipulated the PA Bred races in the book. They fund the races and told us which races to write in the book. We have received the request for PA bred 2 yr. olds and will pass this information on to the Breeders Assoc. for their consideration next year.
Is the 25-day live meet going to be a standard for Presque Isle, or are their thoughts of expanding dates and/or the number of meets?
No, a 25-day meet is not going to be standard for Presque Isle Downs. Our track was not complete until late August so this pretty much limited us to a short meet the first year. Next year and beyond we anticipate 100 day meet from May to Sept.
Las Vegas, NV:
Hi there: Your bio mentions that the Mountaineer racing product has been "dramatically upgraded," but wouldn't it be a more accurate statement to say that the PURSES have been upgraded while the bottom end of your racing's quality has essentially remained stagnant and same? For example, I'm looking at what I consider to be a typical Mnr race (the 6th on 8/21) and see that 9 of the 10 trainers in the race have win percentages BELOW 5 percent for the entire year, (with many "0-fer's" on that list). If it's just a case of giving better money to underperforming outfits, how can you declare that this is a "dramatic upgrade? Thanks for taking my question!
I think that our racing has dramatically improved just look at the WV Derby this year. I understand your comment about the bottom $5,000 claimers but you have to understand that we have a condition book committee made up of horsemen and the racing secretary. The committee seems to really be concerned about the bottom claimers and directs the book to include these races. The HBPA has tried to mandate that we fill at least 50% of our races with the bottom claimers. Change does not come easy, but I do not think you can disagree that our racing has improved. I see the improvement every day when I watch the post parade and see the difference in the horses.
Hi Rosemary, What do you predict the response will be to the Tapeta Footings track at Presque Isle? Why do you think this track is the first to install this particular surface and why did you choose it over Polytrack or Cushion Track?
So far the horsemen that have trained on the Tapeta are raving about the surface. The times have been pretty consistent with a regular dirt track. The PA HBPA is sharing in the cost of the Tapeta which helped us in making the decision to install a synthetic surface. We chose Tapeta over other all weather tracks due to availability of the surface and Michael Dickinson commitment to making it the best synthetic surface for horses. We visited tracks with synthetic surfaces and weighed the options.
New York, NY:
What has the response been for your $400,000 filly and mare sprint?
We have had a lot of interest in this race. We anticipate that this could be a prep race for the Breeder’s Cup in the future.
As a handicapper, I'm curious to know at Presque Isle from what circuits the horses will come from? Which trainers?
We are seeing interest from PA, Kentucky, New York, Florida, WV, and Ohio. A few of the trainers that were allotted stalls are Steve Asmussen, Todd Beattie, Michael Dickinson, Bernie Flint, Scott Lake, Graham Motion, Niall O’Callaghan, John Servis, Dale Baird, and Mark Shuman.
Will the Presque Isle races be on HRTV or TVG? Why did you make the decision to be on that station?
We have offered contracts to both. It will be their decision but I believe both will take the signal. We will offer the PID signal to all ADWs.
Has the company set projections for live and total handle on the product? Will we have broad access to the signal at simulcast facilities?
Yes, we do have projections and we have numerous tracks taking our signal. We will offer the signal to everyone already taking the Mountaineer signal.
I saw that the purses are $500,000 a day for the short meet this year. What will they average in the future?
We anticipate the purses being over $300,000.
I'm unfamiliar with the track. What is the distance of the dirt track? Is there a turf course?
The all weather (synthetic) track is a mile. There is not a turf course.
What is the on-track simulcast area like at Presque Isle?
We will be installing betting carrels with individual flat screen TV’s on the second floor. We have a second flooring dining room that overlooks the racetrack with flat screen monitors that you can watch the race and wager from. These are Scientific Games state of the art wagering machines. There will also be and outdoor area in which you will be able to wager from a bank of self service machines but this area will be for watching live racing.
When do you think the WV Derby will be elevated to Grade II or Grade I status? It seems to have met all of the conditions. Thanks.
I really think this is our year. If not, it is not because of the quality of the race (wasn’t the finish exciting)? The duel down the stretch was racing at its best.
How many horses are in training at Presque Isle right now? Have you filled all stall requests?
Yesterday, I believe about 30 horses trained. Horsemen are just now shipping in to the barn area. We have all 500 stalls allotted and a waiting list.
I was wondering if Mountaineer currently supports any of the Thoroughbred adoption programs. New Vocations, Exceller, and CANTER all take in horses off the backstretch. Does Mountaineer have a plan to help support some of these wonderful charities, all which greatly need the support in order to continue providing this service to the horsemen?
As always, we continue to support Thoroughbred adoption programs both in the local area and those that are not so local. In addition, any material that these adoption programs send me I make sure is put in the horsemen’s area. We are always willing to provide overnight packages for fund raising or assist in any way we can.
Why does the racing surface at Mountaineer change so dramatically from night to night. Some nights the rail is blazingly fast other nights all the jocks are staying 5 and 6 wide of the rail. Is a synthetic surface in the future at Mountaineer?
We experience a variety of weather conditions. Located right on the Ohio River, our weather changes daily - especially in the winter. The jockeys at Mountaineer also do not like to ride on the rail in slop or rain. We have to work the track constantly, so that is why you see differences. This year we have received so much rain that we are grading the rail and track a couple times a week. We also train on the track daily and run 232 days a year.
How much of the track’s success is based on attendance?
Attendance is what fuels the on track handle, but most of the handle comes from the export signal. I am anticipating that when the poker room opens trackside this will fuel the on track handle.
Mineral Ridge, OH:
I have been a race fan for 30 yrs. The Mountain has the best atmosphere and loyal fans. I applaud your success and wish you the best in the future.
Thanks for the kind words. Mountaineer has a lot of loyal race fans and we appreciate the loyalty.
How do you feel about the criticism about casinos just caring about their needs and not the horsemen? Everybody talks about how good the casino looks and not the backside.
Well, our facility is over 50 years old, and I think it is always improving. I have overseen 10 million dollars in renovations on the backside and track. Our current project is to build a new rec hall and track kitchen on the backside that will include a chapel. This project is going to cost over a million dollars. A couple of years ago, we spent 1.3 million on a groom’s quarters.
Are there any plans to upgrade the racing surface at Mountaineer, whether it is a synthetic surface or a renovated dirt surface? There seems to be times where the track is severely biased and many times (like Tuesday), where there's weather-related problems affecting the track's consistency.
We are evaluating the synthetic surface at Erie to see if we think this could fit at Mountaineer. We resurface at Mountaineer every September or October. We take all the old sand off and install fresh new sand. We use a paver to lay the sand so that it is consistent. We run on this surface 232 days a year and train on it every day. I do not think too many tracks in the country use their track to the extent that ours is used.
First of all, I love the mountain. Have you folks changed your track composition in the last year? It seems to have become less speed favoring.
We resurface our track every year but use the same mixture of sand. We will install the winter surface in late September or early October.
Are there plans to eventually install a turf course at Presque Isle Downs?
No, we do not presently intend on installing a turf course at PID.
How many stall applications have been received, and how many stalls are available on the grounds? Are there plans to expand the barn area for next year’s longer meet?
Right now we have 500 stalls and 46 in the Receiving Barn. They are currently all allotted and have a waiting list for stalls. Next year we will have 1000 stalls.
Santa Fe, NM:
Will there ever be a “Derby” at Presque Isle Downs?
We anticipate a Derby at PID. The first meet, the Master Stakes to be run on September 15 will be our premier race.
What will be the response when fewer than 100 people attend opening night at Presque Isle?
I really do not think that will happen. People in the Erie area are eager for racing to start. This is the buzz.
What kind of response have you had from horsemen in regards to the lucrative purse structure Presque Isle is offering in its inaugural meet?
I guess the fact that our stalls are all allotted and we have a long waiting list speaks for itself.
San Diego, CA:
What is the reaction so far by horsemen to the Tapeta surface? Were other surfaces considered, or does MTR Gaming have a vested interest in Tapeta?
MTR does not have a vested interest in Tapeta. I visited Turfway and Keeneland to evaluate the Polytrack surface. We weighed both options before making the decision to install Tapeta. So far the horsemen that have trained on the surface love it. The times are good and consistent. Next week most of the horsemen will be shipping in so more horses will be training and I am sure we will be receiving a lot more comments.
Rose Mary, I am a horse owner looking forward to sending horses to Presque Isle. How prepared do you think you are for the upcoming meet?
We look forward to seeing you. All the stalls have been allotted so please call the stall superintendent if you are shipping in before you come to make sure you can go into the receiving barn if you were not allotted stalls. Naturally being a new track we are putting finishing touches on the barns. Everyone is working hard to make sure that we are ready. Debbie Howells, the Director of Racing has been making sure that we are following up on the last minute details.
New York, NY:
How come Mountaineer Park is one of the few remaining tracks that doesn't provide their customers with access to free video replays?
We do not host our own website so this is not feasible, but you can sign on to RacelineBet.com for replays and live video. On track we are installing 2 kiosks with our replays. We are working on the replays with the web provider.
Oklahoma City, OK:
I raced horses at the Mountain for 5 years and I can say when I came to the track my wife and I have never been treated any better as owners, but everyone that raced on the track complained about the racing surface and how it changes throughout the year. If ever there was a track that needs a synthetic surface it is The Mountain. Are there any plans to replace the track with a better surface?
We are weighing the options on a synthetic surface but, given the fact that we run year round and 232 days a year in the most adverse weather, we need to be sure they synthetic surface will work. I am sure that you have read all the stories in the last year about tracks that run in cold weather and their plight with synthetic surfaces. We will be watching the performance of Tapeta in Erie.
Rose Mary, the purses for upcoming racing at Presque Isle is off the chart given the required payouts from slot revenues. What do you expect for 2008 in terms of racing dates and daily purses? Also, do you see the levels of claiming and allowance and stakes races on the daily cards in 2008 being similar to Mountaineer?
In 2008, we will run May through September, and we anticipate the average daily purse to be around $300,000. The condition book we put out for this meet should reflect next year’s book.
How tough is it to lure top-flight jockeys to Mountaineer? In the past, "help wanted" ads have been run in many racing trade publications in spite of great purses and a very structured racing schedule.
The help wanted ads that you saw in the trade publications were run by the HBPA, not Mountaineer. They were run when the HBPA was frustrated over the riders cancelling races and not being able to find a rider in that last race if you need a rider change. Mountaineer did not run the ads you refer to.
Congratulations on a successful West Virginia Derby this year! The field was deep and I believe a few of the horses will go on to win at the grade I level. Has there been consideration given to moving the Derby up to early July in order to draw the top caliber 3 year olds in the sport who normally opt for the Haskell or Jim Dandy? The 3 year old dirt stakes schedule is light in July, with the $350K Swaps (grade II) being the top race during the month. I think this move would enable the Derby to draw top competitors from the Triple Crown and secure grade II status for the race. Additionally, in order to further boost the status of Mountaineer racing, I would suggest shortening the season from the current 233 days to fewer than 200. This would permit a boost in purses and attract higher quality horses and jockeys. With racing, less is more, as indicated by the success of Saratoga, Del Mar and Keeneland. Lastly, it would be great if you could keep the Presque Isle meet 8 weeks and run from September through Breeder's Cup weekend ongoing. This would position the track as a top tier destination and attract many of the best horses from the Saratoga meet. I look forward to your answers. Keep up the great work!
Our WV Derby date is coordinated with ESPN and their scheduling. We try to get the national exposure for the race and work with ESPN on the schedule. By law we are required to run 210 days a year but the agreement with the HBPA requires us to card 232 racing days a year. I agree fewer days would boost the daily average and more likely attract more horses. I cannot convince the horsemen to race less for more.
Mt. Sterling, KY:
I love racing and West Virginia! How long would it take me from Mt. Sterling, KY to get to your facility? Do you have a buffet?
It takes about 5 hours from Kentucky to Mountaineer. We have a market place at the Hotel that is like a buffet. Depending on the day and time of year we have a buffet in the clubhouse.
East Liverpool, OH:
Most tracks now have a big screen in their infield to show the race, because when you are outside you can't tell who wins the race or finishes second and so on. This is a benefit to the bettor. Is Mountaineer considering doing this in the near future?
No, we just upgraded our tote board about 3 years ago. At this point, we do not have plans to install a video board in the infield.
Rose Mary, what are you going to do in the future to bring Mountaineer's backside up to better level than what it is now? It is currently in a less than desirable state compared to other racetracks.
Have you been on our backside? We have upgraded the electric, installed a new test barn and 2 other barns. Spent 1.3 million dollars on groom’s quarters and just awarded a bid for a new rec hall and track restaurant for over 1 million dollars. We have a street sweeper that sweeps the streets. I will say that we do need to start replacing barns and will in the future.