Monthly Archives: July 2018

Next Round Of Virginia-Bred Stakes At Laurel Set For Saturday; Fillies/Mares Maiden Kicks Off The Week On Thursday

Entries are set for Thursday’s (August 2nd) $40,000 maiden special weight race for Virginia-bred fillies/mares at Laurel. A field of six will compete one mile on turf to kick off the card. Early 9-5 favorite is Holiday Hopes (Walter Vieser); second choice at 7-2 is Kitten’s Friend (Mark Lapidus, LLC). The rest of the field includes Darter (Althea Richards), Winning Thread (Lazy Lane Farm), Daniella (Lady Olivia of North Cliff) and Wolverette (Quest Realty). Post time Thursday is 1:10 PM.

The next slate of Virginia-bred and sired stakes races in Maryland is this coming Saturday, August 4th. A four-pack of $75,000 stakes will be contested — the Hansel, Meadow Stable, William Backer and Camptown Stakes. The new owner/trainer bonus program in this series will be in effect for all five races. The draw for Saturday’s card will be on Wednesday.

Virginia Horse Racing Officials Vow To “Get It Right” On Gambling Expansion

The following piece appeared on July 31st and was written by Graham Moomaw. 

Horse breeders and trainers, business people and elected officials appeared en masse Tuesday in Richmond to tell state officials that Virginia’s second chance at building a successful horse-racing industry could stumble if the state overregulates the video gambling machines that are supposed to pay for it.

Skeptics warned that the state is galloping toward mini-casinos that cities and counties may not be able to stop, establishments that could make their money at the expense of poor communities and gambling addicts.

After a two-hour public hearing Tuesday, the Virginia Racing Commission  the state panel that oversees horse-racing  gave little indication of whether it will bow to the horse industry’s wishes and loosen the state’s draft regulations for historical horse racing machines.

A former Kmart store on Midlothian Turnpike in Richmond could become an Off Track Center with historic horse race terminals.

But nearly five months after the General Assembly passed a bill expanding horse-race gambling, racing commissioners said they want to see one of the machines in action to understand what it is Virginia just legalized.

“I want to see one of those machines sitting right down here. I want someone to explain exactly how that machine works. And why it’s not a slot machine,” said Commissioner I. Clinton Miller. “I want to be able to look people in the face and say ‘This is different. This is not Charles Town . This is not Las Vegas.'”

Racing Commission Chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr. asked commission staff to look into how a machine demonstration could be arranged.

“Hopefully as all of you have urged, we will, this time… get it right,” Van Clief said as he told the crowd the commission would revise its draft regulations in the next few weeks.

Historical horse racing machines  powered by an archive of past horse races  look and feel like slot machines. But they operate under a pari-mutuel wagering system, which means players bet against each other, not the house.

When the law took effect July 1, Virginia joined four other states  Kentucky, Arkansas, Wyoming and Oregon  that have approved historical horse race wagering.

The General Assembly passed the bill earlier this year to allow the shuttered Colonial Downs race track to be sold to Chicago-based Revolutionary Racing, which has said the revenue from historical horse race wagering is critical to its plan to reopen the New Kent County track next year. An economic analysis circulated by Revolutionary Racing indicated the machines would generate almost 80 percent of its projected revenue.

The regulations under consideration by the Racing Commission will determine how many machines can be rolled out, where they can be installed and how much control cities and counties will have over the 10 off-track betting parlors Colonial Downs wants to operate in the Richmond area, Hampton Roads and elsewhere.

The prevailing sentiment among those who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of lighter regulations that could mean more gambling machines and, by extension, more money for the horse industry.

Jeanna Bouzek, vice president of operations for the original Colonial Downs, grew emotional as she urged commissioners to loosen the regulations so that the race track’s second life doesn’t also end with hundreds of people losing their jobs. Colonial Downs closed in 2014 after a yearslong dispute between the track’s owner and Thoroughbred owners over how many races to run each year, a fight exacerbated by the track’s financial struggles.

“They’re not going to be around if they can’t make money. I mean c’mon,” Bouzek said of the new Colonial Downs owners. “It’s been a hard three or four years. I just hope the industry gets it right this time.”

As written, the draft regulations would cap the number of machines allowed statewide at 3,000, impose a 700-machine limit at the main Colonial Downs facility in New Kent County and limit the number of machines at off-track betting sites based on the population size of the city, county or town where the facility is located. Large localities like Richmond and Henrico County would have a 700-machine maximum, while smaller localities would be capped at 300 or 150 machines depending on their population. Local governing boards would have the power to set lower caps.

The Virginia Equine Alliance  a coalition of horse-racing groups that formed after Colonial Downs closed has asked the state to amend the draft regulations to allow the 3,000-machine cap to be raised in the future and scrap the restriction that ties the number of machines at off-track betting sites to population size.

The new gambling machines will only be allowed in communities that have approved off-track betting through voter referendums. Those localities are the cities of Richmond, Chesapeake and Hampton; Henrico, Scott and Brunswick counties; and the town of Vinton in Roanoke County.

Vinton Mayor Brad Gross spoke at the commission meeting, telling state officials that the rules based on population size would unfairly limit economic development opportunities for his town of about 8,000 people.

“It will certainly limit the positive impact to our small town and the greater Roanoke region,” Gross said.

New Kent officials, who have fully supported the push to reopen Colonial Downs, also spoke in favor of lighter regulations.

Mike Schnurman, a lobbyist for Henrico County, urged the commission to create a “dual approval process” in which the state would make decisions about the industry as a whole and local officials would decide what works for their communities.

Colonial Downs is planning to open one of its first off-track betting sites in a former Kmart in South Richmond. No one representing Richmond spoke at the meeting.

Jack Jeziorski, a representative from Monarch Content Management, a company involved in more than a dozen race tracks across the country, urged the Racing Commission to tighten the proposed rules on how the historical horse racing machines will actually work.

As written, the rules don’t require the machines to show any video of an actual horse race, allowing cartoon representations and other graphics that Jeziorksi said blur the lines between slot machines and horse racing.

Bolstering those regulations, Jeziorski said, would help ensure the new machines don’t drift into illegality.

Miller, the racing commissioner who wanted to see a machine for himself, seemed to concur.

“We don’t want little cartoons,” Miller said. “We don’t want Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck running across the screen.”

Busy Week At Saratoga For Friend Or Foe (Smallwood Farm) Offspring

A trio of horses sired by Smallwood Farm’s (Crozet, Virginia) Friend Or Foe competed at Saratoga this past week as thoroughbred racing’s most anticipated race meet completed its first full week of action this summer.

Mr. Buff took second in an $80,000 allowance/optional claimer last Wednesday, and on the same day, Chillin With Friends had a solid third place finish in his first lifetime start — a $75,000 maiden special weight race. The former, a 4 year old gelding out of the Speightstown mare, Speightful Affair, collected his fourth runner-up finish this year in New York and saw his lifetime bankroll top the $230,000 mark. The latter, a 2 year old filly out of Hout Bay by Harlan’s Holiday, was squeezed between four foes at the start of her race but came on strong and rebounded to collect third. Under Suspicion was seventh in a $77,000 allowance race on Saturday. The 3 year old filly, out of the Stormin Fever mare, Misty Rosette, broke her maiden February 3rd at Aqueduct and had finished fourth or better in all four of her starts prior to Saturday.

Smallwood Farm’s stallion Friend Or Foe is shown at the Crozet, Virginia farm.

All three Friend Or Foe horses were bred by Chester Broman and Mary Broman, and they also own Mr. Buff and Under Suspicion. Smallwood Farm has been in business for over 50 years and is located one mile from Braeburn Farm (Felix Nuesch) in Crozet. Phyllis Jones owns Smallwood with her daughter, Robin Mellen, who is on the Board of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association.

Mr. Buff, by Friend or Foe, breaks his maiden at Belmont on September 23, 2016. Photo by Adam Coglianese.

“We’ve bred everything from Clydesdales to event horses at Smallwood”, said Jones, who started the operation in 1960. She currently has a lot of pride in Friend Or Foe. “His oldest crop is now 4 years old and his offspring have turned out to be wonderful and calm horses.”

VEA: More Discretion Needed In Proposed Virginia Historical Racing Regs

VEA: More discretion need in proposed Va. historical racing regs

by | Jul 24, 2018 | Breaking, Business, Top Stories, Virginia, Virginia Business | 0 comments

Photo by Laurie Asseo.

by Nick Hahn

In advance of next week’s Virginia Racing Commission public hearing on Historic Horse Racing (HHR), the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA), the nonprofit representing the racing industry’s major stakeholder groups has submitted comments on the proposed regulations.

The general theme: The Commission needs to allow itself “regulatory discretion” to meet the goals of the enabling legislation, House Bill 1609, to promote, sustain, and grow the state’s horse industry – discretion that the proposed regs would not permit as currently drafted.

No action is expected to be taken at the meeting to be held on July 31 in Courtroom B of the State Corporation Commission located in Tyler Building of downtown Richmond. But plenty will be discussed.

Virginia’s General Assembly approved House Bill 1609 earlier this year, which was signed by Governor Northam — with a directive. Executive Directive One in summary directs the commission to place reasonable limitations on the proliferation of gaming, hear local community opinions of hosting localities, establish maximums on the number of terminals and engage the public on the review of HHR regulations.

Since the closing of Colonial Downs in 2014, the Virginia Equine Alliance has reopened satellite wagering facilities in four localities that previously hosted off-track betting, (City of Richmond, Henrico County, City of Chesapeake and Henry County). The passage of HB 1609 was a critical factor in the sale of Colonial Downs in April to the group now known as the Colonial Downs Group from the previous owner, Jacobs Entertainment Inc.

The proposed regulations, released on the Virginia Racing Commission website on July 10, place per-facility limits on the number of machines, as well as implementing a statewide cap of 3,000 terminals. The proposed regs also require one live racing day per 100 HHR terminals. They also include requirements for the number of imported signals from other racetracks and even the number of tellers that sell wagering tickets.

It’s clear that the Commission is seeking to protect local communities, as well as ensuring the machines support, rather than cannibalize, the live racing product.

The question: Does the math work to support live racing?

According to the VEA, the answer is: Maybe at the moment. But not for the long run.

“We’re going to have to be able to adjust as the times adjust,” said VEA President Debbie Easter, who is also Executive Director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, which is part of the VEA. “The industry has changed since Colonial Downs closed. We’ve learned a lot since it failed before. Let’s not set it up to fail again. The goal is to fuel purse money to get Colonial Downs back to 30 days of live racing that was offered when Colonial Downs was successful.”

In addition to the VTA, the VEA also includes the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Virginia Harness Horse Association, and the Virginia Gold Cup Association.

The VEA proposal seeks to modify the existing proposal in regard to the total number of terminals proposed statewide, the per-facility cap on terminals, the requirements regarding the number of out-of-state racing signals a facility must import, and a vague standard that allows localities to further limit terminals to 35 percent of Commission authorizations.

The initial thresholds may be adequate as a starting point but the VEA appears to be looking forward for growth. The VEA suggests that, while 3,000 may be a workable starting point, an increase in the number of terminals should be left to the discretion of the Commission “if it determines that such increase is necessary to promote, sustain, and grow the Commonwealth’s horse industry.”

“VEA strongly supported passage of HB 1609, which created the potential for life saving industry revenue by authorized historical horse racing,” VEA Executive Director Jeb Hannum wrote in the organization’s response to the Commission. “While VEA is not privy to the Commission’s reasoning or study behind its proposed ‘hard cap’ of 3000 terminals we know that number will not generate sufficient revenue to sustain and expand Virginia’s horse industry.”

Generating sufficient purse money to make shipping to Colonial attractive to horsemen will be a challenge, and the purse structure landscape has continued to shift in the years since Colonial ran its last race, in 2013. According to Jockey Club statistics, the Maryland tracks in 2017 gave out over $323,000 per day, including all stakes.

“While Virginia’s horse industry can probably survive for the next two years with a hard cap of 3,000 terminals after that VEA revenue has to grow quickly to support racing anywhere near the minimum of 30 days mandated by the Commission’s ‘one race day for every 100 terminals’ ratio in its proposed regulations, a ratio VEA supports,” Hannum wrote.

The proposed regulations allow localities to limit the number of HHR terminals to 35 percent of the number authorized by the Commission – a somewhat cumbersome and confusing addition to the process. Localities already must pass referenda and amend local land use laws such to permit satellite wagering, giving them substantial control from the word go. It is possible the rules are intended for those four localities that already have off-track wagering facilities – but they, too, have plenty of control.

“There are mechanisms in place for localities through the referendum process and local land use law to dictate how satellite facilities including HHR are operated. An example of that currently exists in Chesapeake,” which limits the number of wagering terminals permitted at the site, added Easter.

To simplify the process, the VEA suggested changing “the proposed regulation slightly to require the political subdivision to affirmatively take action through ordinance or resolution before the Commission issues a license, and not after the terminals have been installed pursuant to a Commission issued license.”

Similarly, the per-facility caps proposed in the Commission regulations are arbitrary and counter-productive, the VEA argued. The proposed regs would limit a facility to between 150 and 700 terminals, depending on the size of the locality in which it is located.

“A satellite facility does not draw all its patrons from the immediate neighborhood,” Hannum wrote. Indeed, he pointed out that the VEA’s Windmill OTB, in Henry County on the North Carolina border is located in a sparsely populated county – population about 52,000 – but drawns much of its clientele from the Greensboro, NC, metro area, home to about 1.6 million people some 50 miles south.

Instead of the per-facility limits being based on nearby population, the VEA argued that the Commission should have the flexibility to permit up to 700 terminals at any facility, based on market conditions and demand. That, the organization said, would also help Virginia capture out-of-state dollars and allow the HHR operators to deploy terminals where needed.

Finally, the VEA also suggested that several ratios used to established the number of simulcasting tracks a facility must receive, the number of self-serve wagering terminals required, and the amount of live teller services are misaligned to current player usage.

The regulations are modeled after Kentucky’s successful implementation of HHR. The terminals, which feel to the player like slot machines, offer wagering in pari-mutuel pools on races that have already occurred. The player would have very limited information to make selections. The VEA expects each terminal to generate an estimated $213 of daily revenue.

A revenue-sharing agreement with the Colonial Downs Group requires a minimum of 15 days of racing in 2019. How the state gets there, and what exactly the meet looks like, remain to be seen. But Easter, for one, believes that adaptability will be key.

“Racing is just one side of it,” explains Easter. “We have to compete and cooperate regionally with states like Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania in the Mid-Atlantic not only on average daily purse levels but for horses also. We will never be able to offer year-round live racing but our Virginia-Bred and Certified owners’ bonuses allow our folks to have year-round earning opportunities. It’s a year-round program that will offer about a month of racing in Virginia so we need to fit in regionally and be creative.”

This piece appeared in The Racing Biz July 25th and was written by Nick Hahn

Call To Action For Members of Virginia’s Horse Racing Community

Here is a letter that was e-mailed to member of Virginia’s horse racing community from Debbie Easter and Jeb Hannum of the Virginia Equine Alliance. 
Call to Action:
Write the Virginia Racing Commission Today!
As you well know, thanks to bipartisan leadership in the General Assembly this past session – as well as the signature and strong support of Governor Ralph Northam – the Virginia horse industry is on the verge of a potentially historic comeback. With the introduction of historical horse racing to the Commonwealth, we could finally have the stable and serious revenue source we’ve long needed to get quality horse racing back to a reopened and revitalized Colonial Downs, which would provide long sought-after support for organizations involved in every aspect of our horse industry.
But we aren’t there yet. And that’s why we’re writing you today.


The passage of HB 1609 was really just the first step in the process of revitalizing the industry. The second and most important step is the regulatory process. The Virginia Racing Commission will be putting in place the regulations that will govern historical horse racing machines here, and their decisions will ultimately determine if we have real horse racing again, or, as we talked about during this past session, Virginia remains an “also ran.”


The Commission has moved swiftly to produce initial draft regulations, and we were all incredibly pleased to see that. But the reality is that the regulations as currently drafted will not get our industry the financial support we need to truly succeed over the long term.  That’s where you come in.


The Virginia Racing Commission is taking written comments on their regulations from now through July 31st. We need every organization in the Commonwealth that is connected to the horse industry to make their voice heard and help the Commission understand that we need regulations that allow horse racing and the industry to grow in Virginia in the years ahead, and make us competitive again with Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, Kentucky and other states.


* We need you to write the Racing Commission by JULY 31st * 
Our message is simple: The General Assembly and the Governor moved in strong bipartisan fashion to support Virginia’s horse industry with the passage of HB 1609. Now, we need regulations that will allow the horse industry to grow and succeed and that will make the goals of HB 1609 a reality. As currently written, the proposed regulations will allow 3,000 Historic Horse Racing machines throughout the state. That number is not sufficient to grow and sustain the native horse industry for the long term. 

We should have regulations that give the Virginia Racing Commission the discretion to allow for future growth to take place, based on independent market studies.

A phase one of 3,000 machines is a good start, but let’s not handicap the entire industry by restricting the Commission’s ability to grow the number of machines. Such limitations would effectively leave us with the same dilemma: not enough funds to grow our industry.


Please email your comments to Virginia Racing Commission Executive Secretary David Lermond (
When sending your email, please be sure to also copy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Bettina Ring (, as well as
Deputy Policy Director, Carter Hutchinson (


If you prefer to send your comments via traditional mail, you may send your letter to the following address:


Virginia Racing Commission
5707 Huntsman Road, Suite 201-B
Richmond, VA 23250


Please ask the Virginia Racing Commission to work with the horse industry to put in place regulations that truly allow horse racing and the industry to succeed in the Commonwealth, today and moving forward. We know Virginia can be a national leader in horse racing. Your support, especially over this critical period between now and July 31st, is crucial to making that happen!

Colonial Downs Eyeing Former Kmart Site In South Richmond For Possible Off Track Betting Parlor

Colonial Downs is considering buying a former Kmart building in South Richmond and transforming it into a betting site with slots-like gambling machines, according to a spokesman for the owners of the New Kent County horse-racing track.

Colonial Downs has secured an option to buy the 140,000 square-foot building at 6807 Midlothian Turnpike, but the sale could depend on whether Colonial Downs wins state and local approvals to install hundreds of historical horse racing machines in the former big-box store.

“The location on Midlothian Turnpike in the City of Richmond is attractive to us as a potential site for Historical Horse Racing (HHR) for a variety of reasons and we believe it would be welcomed by the community given how long that property has been vacant and deteriorating,” said Mark Hubbard, a consultant for McGuireWoods Consulting who works with Colonial Downs.

The Kmart store is on Midlothian Turnpike just north of Chippenham Parkway. Photo by Bob Brown.

“However, we are in the process of evaluating proposed regulations for HHR across the commonwealth and that process will ultimately dictate where and to what extent we can create jobs and revenues for local communities, Virginia’s horse racing industry and the state.”

The Kmart closed in 2011, and the building has been used recently as a space for gun shows and a carnival. Last year, a Virginia Beach company said it would redevelop the building as a supermarket, but that plan never materialized.

The state is finalizing regulations governing recently legalized historical horse racing machines, which let players gamble on horse races that have already taken place while hiding the horses’ names and other race details. The terminals resemble slot machines, but because the payouts come from pools of money generated by the players, they function under the same pari-mutuel wagering system used in live horse racing.

The General Assembly passed legislation approving the machines earlier this year. Proponents pitched the new form of gambling as a moneymaker that could help reopen Colonial Downs, boost the state’s horse industry and create state and local tax revenue. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the law in April, but he instructed state regulators to put “reasonable limitations” on the new machines.

Under draft regulations released by the Virginia Racing Commission, off-track betting sites in large localities like the city of Richmond could have up to 245 historical horse racing machines, but local officials could vote to allow up to 700 machines.

City Councilman Michael Jones, whose 9th District includes the former Kmart site, said he’s heard from several constituents concerned about what an off-track betting facility would do to the neighborhood.

“Several members of the community have a concern with this particular business coming in,” Jones said in an interview Monday. “The type of traffic. The type of business. The type of attention. Property values going down or being impacted by it. And then just basic crime.”

“You have that, but then again you still have individuals that own homes off of Midlothian Turnpike,” Jones said.

Jones said he’s asked city staff to review business zoning rules in South Richmond, but current zoning laws appear to allow the building to be used for off-track betting.

Richmond voters approved off-track betting in a 1992 ballot referendum, as did voters in neighboring Henrico County and a handful of other Virginia localities. Most of the state’s off-track betting facilities had closed by the time Colonial Downs closed its doors in 2014. But Chicago-based Revolutionary Racing, the ownership group that bought Colonial Downs  this year, wants to use historical horse racing machines to create a revamped network of up to 10 satellite betting facilities.

If the Racing Commission removes or alters the mechanism that allows some local control over how many historical horse racing machines to allow, Colonial Downs may not need formal approval from the city government to move forward with its plan for the Kmart site. If that provision remains in the state regulations, Colonial Downs would presumably have to convince the City Council to authorize more gambling machines. It’s not yet clear if the project would move forward if Colonial Downs is limited to 245 machines rather than 700.

The racing commission’s next meeting is scheduled for July 31.

(804) 649-6839

Draft Rules Would Allow Up To 3,000 Horse-Race Gambling Machines In Virginia

The following appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch on July 12th.

The Virginia Racing Commission is considering allowing up to 3,000 historical horse race gambling machines at Colonial Downs and off-track betting parlors throughout the state, according to recently published draft regulations.

Earlier this year, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill to legalize the slots-like machines as a way to revitalize the state’s struggling horse racing industry, despite opposition from critics who called it a major expansion of gambling.

To ease those concerns, the governor instructed the racing commission to come up with “reasonable limitations” on the machines, which let players gamble faster by placing bets on horse races that have already been run, without knowing the names of the horses or the details of the race.

Bobby Geiger stands in front of historic horse race machines at Kentucky Downs.

The racing commission’s preliminary rules would allow up to 700 machines at the main track in New Kent County and create a path for similarly sized betting parlors in large cities and counties that have authorized off-track betting.

The proposed regulations allow up to 700 machines in localities with populations of 120,000 or higher, which could potentially lead to significantly larger off-track betting facilities in Richmond, Chesapeake, Hampton and Henrico County.

However, local governing boards would have to sign off on any large-scale betting facilities. Without local approval, the number of machines allowed at off-track betting facilities in large localities would be capped at 245, or 35 percent of the maximum limit.

The regulations call for lower caps in smaller jurisdictions. The machine cap for localities with populations between 60,0000 and 120,000 would be set at 300, while localities with fewer than 60,000 people would have a 150-machine cap. Off-track betting sites in smaller localities would also require local government approval before hitting the maximum number of machines.

The regulations tie the number of historical horse racing terminals to the number of live racing days at Colonial Downs, which would require the track owners to hold more live races in order to add machines. Operating 3,000 machines would require 30 days of live racing. The regulations require a minimum of 14 live racing days, with at least six races per day.

“We are reviewing the proposed regulations and assessing our next steps,” said Mark Hubbard, a McGuireWoods communications consultant representing Colonial Downs. “We appreciate the expeditious work of the administration and look forward to working with the Virginia Racing Commission as the rule making process continues.”

The racing commission’s next meeting is scheduled for July 31, but it’s not clear when the regulations could come up for a final vote.

“I’m sure there’s going to be some input and some questions,” said racing commission Chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr., who said the draft regulations were crafted with input from the Northam administration.

The new owners of Colonial Downs, bought in April by Chicago-based Revolutionary Racing, are planning to operate 10 off-track betting facilities. The state currently has four off-track betting sites: two in the Richmond area, one in Chesapeake and one in Henry County outside Martinsville.

Several other localities — the city of Hampton, Scott and Brunswick counties, and the town of Vinton in Roanoke County — have approved off-track betting but do not have any active betting parlors.

The machines are expected to be a major revenue stream for Colonial Downs, Virginia horse groups, and state and local governments.

Virginia racing officials said they looked to Kentucky’s historical horse race regulations as a model when drafting their regulations.

An economic study commissioned by Revolutionary Racing said that when the reopened Colonial Downs facility reaches “full capacity” in 2022, it could produce 1,400 jobs and an annual economic impact of almost $350 million and generate $41.6 million per year in state and local tax revenue.

Most of that money would come from historical horse racing machines, which were key to the sale and planned 2019 reopening of Colonial Downs.

The terminals look and feel like slot machines, a likeness that has led to legal challenges and court scrutiny in other states. But because the payouts are generated from pools of player money, the machines fall under pari-mutuel wagering laws that apply to live horse racing.

Some historical racing machines replay a video of the race finish, but the racing commission’s draft regulations say the machines can also display the results through “digital, animated or graphical” depictions.

In Kentucky, similar machines featured cartoon horses galloping across the screen instead of real ones, drawing a lawsuit from a family values group whose attorney said the machines could feature “cartoon frogs or wiener dog races.”

The regulations also state that Colonial Downs, which has not yet received a new license from the racing commission, must file an annual report detailing its efforts to identify compulsive gamblers and direct them to resources to prevent gambling addiction.

Maryland Jockey Club Names New Racing Secretary; VP-Racing Hale Named To New Position

The following appeared in The Racing Biz July 2nd.

by Frank Vespe

The Maryland Jockey Club on Monday announced that longtime Vice-President of Racing and Racing Secretary Georganne Hale would become Vice President of Racing Development, a newly created position within the company.

In that job, the company said, she will oversee the revitalization of the Washington, DC International turf race; assist with the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series; and “lead and monitor philanthropic initiatives with the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Beyond the Wire, and Canter for a Cause while serving as a liaison for backstretch programs.”



Hale’s position as racing secretary will be filled by Chris Merz, stakes coordinator at Santa Anita and Del Mar and assistant racing secretary at Los Alamitos.

Rumors of the two moves had begun to circulate within the racing community June 21.

“I’m very excited about this new position with the Maryland Jockey Club,” Hale said in a press release. “I look forward to the great opportunities it presents to continue to build the Thoroughbred racing program and help with philanthropic programs.”

“We’re thrilled that Georganne will be leading these important initiatives for the Maryland Jockey Club,” said Sal Sinatra, President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. “As we continue to build and revitalize Thoroughbred racing in the Mid-Atlantic, we believe strongly that Georganne is the person to help lead us and accomplish these goals. Her knowledge of the industry and local communities is invaluable.”

Merz, the incoming racing secretary, is a 2012 graduate of the Animal Science/Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona and has served in a variety of roles within the racing industry.

“I’m really excited about coming to Maryland and working with Georganne, Sal Sinatra, everyone in the racing office and all the horsemen,” Merz said in a release. “It’s a wonderful opportunity. They’re doing such great things in Maryland. I’m really looking forward to working at Laurel and Pimlico.”

When whispers of the changes began to circulate on the backstretch, many horsemen expressed concern over what they might mean.

Hale started with the Maryland Jockey Club in 1984 as an assistant racing secretary. After being named racing secretary at Timonium in 1986, she was named racing secretary at the Maryland Jockey Club in 2000.

During Hale’s tenure, a time of declining field size nationwide, fields in Maryland have actually grown slightly. While Maryland averaged 7.6 horses per race in 2000, the average has been above that in each of the last six years, according to the Jockey Club. In 2017, the state averaged 7.8 starters per race after two years when it reached 8.5.

Those numbers compare favorably with other states in the Mid-Atlantic in what is the most competitive racing region in the country. They haven’t come without some frustration on the part of horsemen, however, who have expressed concerns about the paucity of opportunities for higher quality dirt horses and about the increasing use of “extras” to fill out racing cards.

Still, overall, horsemen had much praise for Hale’s work over the years.

“There are a lot of opportunities where you can protect your horse and get your money out,” she said. “That’s moving the game in the right direction.”Trainer Katy Voss said that with Hale, who galloped horses for Voss in the early 1980s, the Maryland industry has been moving in a direction that is friendlier to those who seek to breed and develop younger horses.

“She’s one of the people around here that lets common sense prevail as opposed to ‘that’s what it’s always been’ or ‘that’s what the book says,’” said trainer Phil Schoenthal, who has been training in Maryland since 2003. “For that reason, I’ve always enjoyed working with her.”

Trainer Ferris Allen, who has been based in Maryland for nearly 40 years, called Hale “an iconic member of the Maryland racing community.”

He added, “I think I speak for my colleagues in saying we hold her in the highest esteem. She is certainly as good as any racing secretary that I’ve worked with.”

Hale has also served for three decades as the racing secretary at the Timonium race meet at the Maryland State Fair. That meet is scheduled August 24 through September 3, and sources told The Racing Biz that Hale is expected to continue as racing secretary for the meet.

“She is one of the gems of Maryland racing,” Schoenthal said. “She has been one of the backbones and the spine of this place for a long time.”

Jonathan Thomas’s Catholic Boy Battles Back Again To Win Belmont Derby Invitational

Congratulations to Belmont Derby Invitational winner Catholic Boy and his trainer, Jonathan Thomas, who is the son of Virginia Equine Alliance’s Track Superintendent, J.D. Thomas! The following article appeared in The Paulick Report July 8th. 

The last time Catholic Boy and Analyze It met in the Pennine Ridge, Analyze It took the lead only to have Catholic Boy wrest is back from him in the final strides. In Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational, those two made the turn for home in unison, leading to a thrilling stretch battle. Catholic Boy (5-1) had set the pace, but Analyze It (2-1) came on his outside and took the lead by a head. Refusing to give in, Catholic Boy fought back and got his head down first at the wire for owners Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stable, Siena Farm, and Twin Creeks Racing Stable. Ridden by Javier Castellano for young trainer Jonathan Thomas, the 3-year-old son of More Than Ready covered 1 1/4 miles over Belmont’s firm turf course in 1:59.28.

Catholic Boy won the 2018 Belmont Derby Invitational. Photo by Eric Kalet.

“What a stretch drive,” Thomas said. “My hats off to Analyze It [No. 3], he ran super. It was a hell of a horse race. He really has an awful lot of heart. I didn’t expect him to fight back this time. I thought we were going to finish a really good second, [but] somehow he got it done. He’s always been a real generous training horse. You never know how they will respond in that scenario because we never put them in that situation in the mornings. Between his heart and Javier’s ride, what can you say? We had no instructions before the race. We just wanted him to ride him by gut instinct and do what he thought was best.”

Analyze It was quick out of the starting gate, but Castellano sent Catholic Boy to the lead quickly. Jose Ortiz took hold of Analyze It, easing him back to follow his rival about a length behind through fractions of :22.47 and :49.20. That pair was followed by European Hunting Horn, keeping close tabs alongside Encumbered.

After three quarters in 1:13.38, Analyze It inched up the outside of Catholic Boy. They were on even terms at the head of the stretch, but Ortiz dropped down on Analyze It and took a slight lead. Castellano kept riding away on Catholic Boy, but it wasn’t until the final few jumps that Catholic Boy re-took the lead.

“It’s good for the sport to see two of the best 3-year-old horses on the turf run the way they did,” Castellano said. “They put a lot of effort, it’s two good horses and it can go either way. I’m very fortunate it went my way. I’m very respectful of Analyze It, he’s a great horse with a great trainer. Someone had to win the race, and I’m lucky to be in the spot I am.”

A photo finish showed Catholic Boy to be the winner by a head, relegating Analyze It to the place for the second start in a row. Hunting Horn rallied throughout the length of the stretch, but was able to do no better than third.

“This horse that won earned it,” said Chad Brown, trainer of Analyze It. “He came back and beat him [Analyze It], I don’t have any excuse. It sure seems that [Analyze It idles], but I don’t want to take anything away from the winner, because he still fought back and most horses wouldn’t. I thought he ran a great race, the winner, but so did our horse. He just wasn’t good enough.”

Bred in Kentucky by Fred W. Hertrich III & John D. Fielding, Catholic Boy was a $160,000 RNA as a short yearling at the Keeneland January sale. He has compiled a record of five wins from eight starts, earning over $1.2 million, and boasts graded stakes wins on both the turf and the dirt. The Belmont Derby was his first Grade 1 victory, though he had previously finished fourth twice in Grade 1 company.

“It’s the pinnacle,” said Thomas of his first Grade 1 win. “It’s one of those dreams you don’t really think about until it happens. I’m happier for him because he’s a deserving Grade 1 winner. He deserves it. I’m like a proud parent.”

No Refunds Becomes First Bonus Winning Horse In New Virginia Certified Residency Program

Bird Mobberley’s No Refunds became the first horse to win a bonus in the new Virginia Certified Residency Program when the two year old filly kicked off Saturday’s card at Laurel with her first ever victory.

The Maryland-bred scored in gate-to-wire fashion in a $40,000 maiden special weight race. The winner, by Buffum out of More Punch by Partner’s Hero, held off runner-up Nosey Josy and finished 1 1/4 lengths the best at the 5 1/2 furlong distance. No Refunds  reached the winners circle in her fourth attempt. She had a pair of runner-ups in April and May and a fifth in June, all at Maryland tracks and all in the same class.

No Refunds is the first horse to win an Owners Bonus courtesy of the Certified Residency Program. Photo by Jim McCue.

“Winning the first bonus from the certified program was exciting,” said Mobberly. “I was nervous because it was a hot, hot afternoon at Laurel. There were seven horses in the race but two of them (Bye Bye Bertie and Peace Corps) were scratched after they slipped in the gate. The other horses had to be reloaded two separate times and by the process of elimination, my horse became the favorite.”

No Refunds was one of four horses Mobberley’s trainer, John Salzman Jr, sent to Stephanie Nixon’s Horseshoe Hill Farm in Ashland, Virginia last July to become eligible for the residency program. “They normally would send horses in September or October but because of the new program, they sent them earlier,” said Nixon. “I’ve been breaking horses for the Salzman’s for the last 15 years. They are my main client and beyond that, we’re just good friends. Their business over the years allowed me to build a new barn at the farm.”

No Refunds appears in the Laurel winners circle with owner Bird Mobberley and jockey Jevian Toldeo. Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.

​”Stephanie and John are always in sync and work so well together,” said Mobberley. “They haver a great relationship and seem to know when a horse is ready. All I do is get in the way,” she joked.

​”All the horses that stayed at Horseshoe Hill for six months last year are in my stable mail so I can track how they all progress,” said Nixon. “I knew No Refunds had been getting close to winning, so I was extremely excited on Saturday. John (Salzman) is very quiet by nature, but he thinks I’m crazy by how excited I can get.”

Nixon said the Mobberley family have always been “old school” when it comes it comes to horsemanship and they take pride in that. “Gretchen, Bird’s mother who passed away two years ago, galloped horses until she was 82 years old. They are great people and it was a thrill to be part of that first certified program win, and especially for a Maryland-bred horse.”

With the victory, Mobberley scored a 25% Virginia Certified owners bonus in addition to the $29,640 winner’s share of the purse, which included some Maryland Breeders Fund money as well. A horse is eligible for a bonus if it maintains residency in Virginia for any six month consecutive period prior to December 31st of its two year old year. It must maintain that residency at a Virginia-Certified Farm or Training Center. A list with contact information can be found at Owners of those Virginia-Certified horses are then eligible for a 25% bonus for non-Virginia restricted wins at Mid-Atlantic racetracks (NY, NJ, PA, MD, WVA, DE).