On last Wednesday, the Virginia Racing Commission assigned 40 days of live racing to Colonial Downs for 2009. The track had requested 25, and the Virginia H.B.P.A. had countered with a 45 day request (the same as in 2008).

The VRC, at its meeting in January, had suggested two possible compromises. While Colonial Downs did not embrace either compromise, they are required to run the mandated days. The agreement calls for the VA HBPA to provide the “gap funding” which is required at the beginning of the race meet to insure all purses will be paid. This bridge loan covers the purse dollars that will be generated from the start of the live meet until December 31, 2009.

As part of the agreement, the VA HBPA also agreed to pay Colonial Downs $115,000 to offset additional expenses incurred during the 40 day meet.

The meet is scheduled to be run from June 12 to August 4 with the same five day a week schedule.

However, Colonial Downs and the VA HBPA still have not reached an agreement on a 2009 purse contract. The VRC told the parties that they were required to reach an agreement prior to the March VRC meeting. If the two parties fail to reach an agreement, the 2009 meet will be run from Memorial Day to Labor Day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Neither the racetrack or the horsemen support such a schedule for a variety of reasons. VRC Chairman Peter Burnett said he believed the modified schedule would “inflict enough pain” on each party to motivate them to reach an agreement. It would seem likely that Chairman Burnett is correct.

The key issue in the contract negotiation is the amount of the purses for the Virginia Derby and the Colonial Turf Cup. The track would like the purses to be $750,000 and $600,000 respectively, and the horsemen would like the purse for the Derby to be reduced to $600,000 and the Turf Cup reduced down to $500,000.