Monthly Archives: April 2020

Chowda Tops List of First Quarter Bonus Winners In VTA’s Certified Residency Program

Chowda, a 3-year-old Virginia-Certified colt, who was one of 108 horses to win a bonus award in the first quarter of 2020 as part of the VTA’s residency program initiative.

The New York bred earned a capped reward of $10,000 — highest of any — from a victory in the $100,000 Gander Stakes (black-type) at Aqueduct where he was sent off at 15-1 odds. The Gary Sciacca trainee is 2-for-2 this year and overall, has bankrolled $142,793 from six starts. He scored at Aqueduct previously in a January allowance race where he earned a $9,240 reward, and in a maiden special weight last November. Out of the Chief Seattle mare, Salty Lil Sis, Chowda is owned by Eddie F’s Racing. The Emcee colt spent six months at Woodberry Payne’s Ingleside Training Center before he started competing.

Chowda wins the $100,000 Gander Stakes at Aqueduct Feb. 16. Photo by Coglianese Photography.

Next biggest award went to New York bred Moonlight Now, a 4-year-old Tiznow gelding. His $8,250 bonus came from a $60,000 maiden special weight win at Aqueduct February 20. Moonlight Now is out of Moonlightandbeauty by Capote and is owned by Albert Fried, Jr. He spent his Virginia residency at Paula Parsons’ Centennial Farms in Middleburg.

Moonlight Now (inside) edges Clever Fellow in a maiden special weight at Aqueduct Feb. 20. Photo by Coglianese Photography.

Wild Banker collected an identical reward via a similar $60,000 maiden special weight race at Aqueduct January 24. The New York bred, a 3-year-old son of Central Banker, reached the winners circle for the first time in three starts. He is owned by Michael Dini and Al Moorehouse and is trained by Michael Tannuzzo. Wild Banker is an Eagle Point Farm (Karen Godsey, Ashland) graduate.

Wild Banker collected a $8,250 bonus for winning a maiden special weight Jan. 24 at Aqueduct. Photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese.

Maryland-bred Follow The Dog won a $53,000 allowance race by a head over Hero’s Hope January 9 at Laurel and bankrolled a $6,250 reward. Owned by Waldorf Racing Stables and trained by Phil Schoenthal, the 4-year-old Bandbox colt earned his third program bonus and first of 2020. He won the Maryland Million Nursery Stakes in 2018 and has career purse winnings of $159,782. Follow The Dog resided at Ingleside for six months prior to his first start.

Follow The Dog captures a $53,000 allowance race at Laurel Jan. 9. Photo by Jim McCue.

Of the six other horses that earned an award over $5,000, four are New York-breds. Bassman Dave, a 4-year-old Big Brown gelding, won a $36,000 allowance race February 28 while Left Leaning Lucy, a 3-year-old The Lumber Guy filly, took a $41,000 maiden claimer February 21. Abraxan,a 4-year-old Forty Tales filly, was best in a $36,000 claimer February 2 and Fair Lassie, a 4-year-old Dublin filly, reached the winners circle in a $37,000 claimer March 27. All the triumphs came at Aqueduct. The first two were raised at Ingleside while the latter two were at Brooke Royster’s Chance Farm and Jean Rofe’s Racing at Rokeby.

Kentucky-bred Always Something is best in a $49,000 allowance at Laurel March 7. Photo by Jim McCue.

The final two are respective Kentucky and West Virginia-breds. Always Something, a 3-year-old Oxbow filly who captured a maiden special weight at Colonial Downs last August, won a $49,000 allowance March 9 at Laurel. Chiefs Kingdom, a 4-year-old Our Entourage filly, was best in the $35,000 Valentines Day Overnight Stakes at Charles Town on February 14. Owned and bred by David Bloom, she has won six career races including a trio of consecutive allowance wins last September, October and November. Their residencies were spent at Horseshoe Hill and Eagle Point Farms.

Chiefs Kingdom prevails in the Valentines Day Overnight Stakes at Charles Town. Photo by Coady Photography.

Of the 108 wins by Certified horses in the first quarter, 18 came at Laurel, 18 at Penn National, 12 at Aqueduct, 1 at Parx and the balance at Charles Town. For more information on the program and a list of participating farms/training centers, visit

William Backer Estate Named Top ’19 Virginia Breeder; Neil Morris Named Top VA-Based Trainer

The annual Virginia Breeders Awards ceremony will be held Friday June 19 at Great Meadow, the evening before the rescheduled Virginia Gold Cup Races on June 20. The 14 award winners were announced over a two week period and can be seen by scrolling through the “News” section of this website.

Top Virginia Breeder – William Backer Revocable Estate. The Backer Estate’s 2019 resume is most impressive — a total of 21 victories, three stakes wins including a Grade I score, and $124,335 in Virginia Breeders Fund bonus monies. Out for a Spin, winner of the Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, was already named Top Virginia-Bred/Sired 3-Year-Old Filly while Ferdinanda, winner of the Brookmeade Stakes at Colonial Downs, was named Top Older Turf male. Tryon Summer captured the Nellie Mae Stakes at Colonial as well and finished second to Ferdinanda in the Brookmeade. The trio bankrolled respective purse monies of $363,610, $141,460 and $100,045 last year. Four of their other horses had multiple win seasons in 2019 — Buckys Pick, Gio Lemon, Hilltop Harmony and First Talent.

Mrs. William Backer of Smitten Farm accepts the award for 2018 Breeder of the Year.

Top Virginia-Based Trainer – Neil Morris. The English born trainer has been based in Middleburg for over 25 years now and his horses have amassed career purse earnings of $5.7 million. In 2019, he had 19 wins, 28 runner-up finishes and 30 thirds, good for a bankroll of $539,541 from 167 starts. His Dapper Dan, who was named Top Virginia-Bred Over Fences, won the Steeplethon at Great Meadow during the fall International Gold Cup card and was second in the spring edition. He also won twice each with Family Tree, Junonia, Catauga County, Shrove Tuesday and Virginia-bred Gio Lemon. Bred by the William Backer Trust, the 5-year-old Gio Ponti gelding broke his maiden at Charles Town in April then captured a claiming race at Timonium in August. Morris has had four Virginia Gold Cup winners including Zanclus in the 2018 edition. That year, Joe Clancy noted that Morris was the only trainer on the planet to have a horse win at a distance of 4 1/2 furlongs (at Charles Town) and at four miles (Gold Cup distance).

Trainer Neil Morris is shown after a win at Great Meadow. Photo by Douglas Lees.

Kimaru Builds The Legend of Gone West, Speightstown Sire Line

The following appeared in The Paulick Report on April 7.

The past couple of months have been uncommonly successful demonstrations of the sire talent belonging to the Ashford Stud stallion Munnings (by Speightstown), and on April 4, the horse added another stakes victory with Kimari in the Purple Martin Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The success for that 3-year-old filly comes on the heels of graded stakes winners Bonny South (Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks), Warrior’s Charge (G3 Razorback Handicap), Finite (G2 Rachel Alexandra), and Venetian Harbor (G2 Las Virgenes), plus numerous place-getters in stakes events around the globe.

Nor has sire Speightstown been quiet during this period. His most notable winners include Group 1 victress Mozu Superflare in Japan and Flagstaff, winner of the G2 San Carlos.

In fact, Speightstown and his flagship son have staked out ground as perhaps the most typical “young” line of Mr. Prospector on the scene.

Among the flourishing lines founded by the iconic bay son of Raise a Native and grandson of Native Dancer are:

– The large and very classic branch of Fappiano, best known through Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled and his sons Unbridled’s Song and Empire Maker, the grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming;

– The “other” Fappiano line of Quiet American through Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet to his champion son Midnight Lute;

– The good-sized classic branch of Smart Strike, best known through Preakness winner Curlin, the sire of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso, and also prominent through champion Lookin at Lucky, sire of last year’s official Kentucky Derby winner Country House;

– The miler-classic group descending from Forty Niner, especially through the still active leading sire Distorted Humor;

– The international branch from Seeking the Gold through his grandson Dubawi;

– The line of big classic horses coming from Machiavellian through his son Street Cry and his Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense;

– The Kingmambo group that gravitates toward turf but also includes American champion Lemon Drop Kid;

– The Gone West branch that includes the towering Elusive Quality and his son Quality Road, as well as the midsized sprint champion Speightstown and his son Munnings.

That’s a very brief summary of the Prospector lines active today and ignores the sire’s champion sons who are more active among the inner lines of pedigree, such as Conquistador Cielo, Gulch, and Woodman.

Both Speightstown and Munnings are powerfully built, medium-sized horses with very good length through the body, and both possess the chestnut coat color that Gone West often passed on and that derived from his stakes-winning dam Secrettame and her sire, Triple Crown winner Secretariat. The latter proved less a force in the male line that had been hoped for, but he was a massive influence through his daughters, including the leading sires A.P. Indy, Storm Cat, Summer Squall, and Gone West among his maternal grandsons.

After Gone West won the 1987 Dwyer, which was a Grade 1 at the time, “apparently a lot of people were after the horse for a stallion because” owner James P. Mills “decided to make a commitment to stand the horse at stud,” recalled Reynolds Bell. “Gone West had brought $1.9 million when he went through the Keeneland July sale in 1985; so he looked the part and had the pedigree to go with it. Our good fortune was that Mill Ridge had a relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Mills, from having their mares at the farm.”

The Millses owned Hickory Tree Farm near Middleburg, Va., and had raced other notable horses, such as Kentucky Derby third Believe It (In Reality) and champion juvenile Devil’s Bag (Halo). Both of those stallions stood in Kentucky, and Hickory Tree had mares in Kentucky to breed to them and other important sires.

“When Gone West was available as a sire,” Bell continued, “Mill Ridge had just acquired Diesis as its first stallion, and in getting stallion prospects, if it doesn’t come down to money, it probably comes down to relationships. With Gone West, we competed for him in the marketplace, and we got lucky.

“Mr. Mills gave us a shot to stand the horse, and he recognized we were working hard to develop something that would complement what we were already doing at Mill Ridge. Mom [Alice Headley Bell Chandler] and I loved Mr. Prospector and his speed and influence in the breed. We thought that, if we could get a really good son of Mr. Prospector, that would be the sort to stand. Gone West had all that, plus a dam side that goes back to Aloe in the farther reaches of a pedigree that also includes Round Table, Known Fact, and other live horses at the time.”

In addition to the merits of the horse and his pedigree, there is also support of committed breeders with good mares. Bell said, “We had good clientele at the farm that could support him, as well as the interest that came from outside. Even so, he was competing against Forty Niner, Seeking the Gold, and Gulch, among the other big sons of Mr. Prospector at that time. It helped that we had a pretty strong contingent of European clients at the time,” including Khalid Abdullah, who bred the stallion’s first champion and classic winner in Zafonic, a winner of the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and later an outstanding sire.

Once Gone West had proven a success at stud, his sales yearlings brought very good prices, and the star of them proved to be Speightstown, who sold for $2 million at the 1999 Keeneland July sale. For a long time, it appeared that was money well burnt, as Speightstown was a tired last of 13 at Saratoga in his only start at two. At three, the striking chestnut won a maiden on his seasonal debut at Gulfstream, and then the colt won three of his next five starts as trainer Phil England worked the talented sprinter through his conditions. Finally, at Saratoga on Aug. 3, 2001, Speightstown ran second in the G2 Amsterdam behind G1 winner City Zip.

That was a more than respectable effort, and (drum roll, please), he didn’t start again for 21 months.

When he reappeared, Speightstown was trained by Todd Pletcher, and the horse won his 5-year-old debut, was second in the listed Jaipur Stakes on May 26, 2003, and then did not start again for 10 months.

When Pletcher brought the talented racer back as a 6-year-old, however, the trainer had all the wheels turning the right direction, and Speightstown won five of his six starts.

More importantly, Speightstown won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (and the Eclipse Award as top sprinter), the G2 Vanderbilt, True North, and Churchill Downs handicaps, plus the listed Artax Handicap.

Now, that was a season’s racing to earn the horse a serious opportunity at stud.

As a sire, Speightstown puts a lot of speed in his stock, like his son Munnings, but surprisingly, there are other important qualities coming through for a successful racer and for a sire. Soundness would not have been expected as a trump card for Speightstown, especially after his troubled racing career, but he gets 76 percent starters to foals, well above the breed average of 60 percent, and he has 59 percent winners, towering over the breed average of slightly more than 40 percent, with more than 100 stakes winners to date.

Not surprisingly then, Speightstown stands for $70,000 at WinStar Farm, and Munnings is standing for $30,000 at Ashford.

Embolden Named Top 2019 Virginia-Bred/Sired 2-Year-Old Male; Award Winners Announced Daily

Since the annual Virginia Breeders Awards ceremony and Virginia Gold Cup Races were pushed back to the weekend of June 19-20 at Great Meadow, we will announce a 2019 award winner each day over a 14 day period. We’ll also post it to the Virginia Thoroughbred Association’s facebook page.

Today’s (April 6) award winner is: Top Virginia-Bred/Sired 2-Year-Old Male – Embolden. The Nancy Terhune and Ernest Frohboese-bred colt had “top three” finishes in all six of his 2019 starts on the way to bankrolling $181,000 in purse monies. Two of those were wins at Colonial Downs — one on opening day and the other on closing day. He connected early in a maiden special weight race, then later in the $100,000 Jamestown Stakes. He also finished 2nd in the black-type Atlantic Beach Stakes at Aqueduct and 3rd in the Grade 3 Futurity Stakes at Belmont. Owned by the Dare To Dream Stable and trained by Michael Stidham, Embolden is by The Factor out of Silver Heart by Lion Hearted. He was a $95,000 purchase at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sale for 2-year-olds in training.

Embolden wins the Jamestown Stakes for 2-year-olds over the Colonial turf. Photo by Coady Photography.

Previously announced winners are:

Top Virginia-Bred/Sired 2-Year-Old Filly – Bella Aurora. The Carpe Diem filly’s consistent 2019 campaign included top three finishes in all six of her starts. She reached the winner’s circle in three of those at Laurel — a maiden special weight in August, an allowance optional claimer in November and in December’s Gin Talking Stakes. Bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm, she also finished second in the Jamestown Stakes at Colonial and third in the Anne Arundel County Stakes at Laurel. Bella Aurora earned $141,140 last year. She is out of Street Interest by Street Cry, is trained by Mike Trombetta and is owned by Country Life Farm. The filly was an $87,000 purchase at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale.

Bella Aurora (#4) was best in the Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue.

Top Virginia-Bred/Sired 3-Year-Old Male – Chess Chief. The Into Mischief colt bankrolled $274,970 last year helped in part by “top four” finishes in several Derbies around the country. After winning a maiden special weight at Fair Grounds last March, Chess Chief went on to a fifth place finish in a key Derby prep — the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. From that point, the well traveled Dallas Stewart trainee finished second in the West Virginia Derby, third in the Oklahoma Derby and fourth in the Indiana Derby. All were Grade 3 stakes. He also ran in the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Chess Chief was bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm and is out of the Mineshaft mare, Un Blessed. He is owned by the Estate of James J. Coleman, Jr. and was a $145,000 purchase at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton New York Yearling Sale.

Chess Chief wins a $46,000 allowance at Fair Grounds to kick off his 2020 campaign. Picture courtesy of Hodges Photography.

Top Virginia-Bred/Sired 3-Year-Old Filly – Out for a Spin. The Hard Spun mare pretty much secured this award when she captured the Grade I Ashland Stakes at 52-1 odds last April at Keeneland. The Dallas Stewart trainee beat six other sophomore fillies and won by a neck over Restless Rider with Paco Lopez in the irons. Out for a Spin was also victorious in an allowance race at Fair Grounds three weeks before the Ashland. After competing in the Kentucky Oaks, the Dallas Stewart trainee only ran two other times last year. She was runner-up in the Bob Fortus Memorial Stakes (black-type) at Fair Grounds and was third in an allowance optional claimer at Churchill. Bred by the William Backer Revocable Estate, Out for a Spin earned $364,610 in 2019. She is out of My Mammy by Came Home, and is co-owned by the Commonwealth Stable, Randy Bradshaw and Stonestreet Stables.

Out for a Spin captured the April 6th Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. Photo courtesy of Keeneland.

Top Virginia-Bred/Sired 3-Year-Old Turf Filly – Holly Hundy. The now four-year-old Yes It’s True filly reached the winners circle three times in 2019 including once at Colonial Downs in the Camptown Stakes September 7. Kent Desormeaux directed that 3 3/4 length victory in Holly Hundy’s only non-west coast race of ten last year. She also prevailed twice at Santa Anita — in a maiden special weight and in an allowance optional claimer. Bred by Lazy Lane Farms and owned by David & Holly Wilson, Holly Hundy bankrolled $154,473 in 2019. She is out of Cryptos’ Best by Cryptoclearance and was a $180,000 purchase at the Ocala two-year-old sale.

Holly Hundy was best in the Camptown Stakes September 7 on Colonial Downs’ closing night. photo by Coady Photography.

Visit the “News” section of to read about the first 6 award winners.

Green Group Breaks Down Impact Of Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act On Racing Industry

The following appeared in Thoroughbred Daily News on March 31.

By Len Green

Editor’s note: The Thoroughbred racing industry is covered under legislation passed in Washington to bolster an economy that has been hard hit by the coronavirus. To clarify what is available to racing participants, the NTRA held a teleconference Wednesday which included tax experts who serve the racing industry. To break down what is available and who qualifies for assistance, the TDN asked Green Group Founder and Chairman Len Green to go over the CARES Act and its provisions.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) became law Mar. 27. The provisions most relevant to employers and small business owners, including those who are self-employed, covers items such as federal loans and tax credits.

Below is a brief overview of the key provisions.

Federal Loans, Grants, Loan Forgiveness, Credits and Deferrals

The CARES Act provides numerous forms of incentives and assistance for businesses to be funded by the Federal Government. These include loans, grants, loan forgiveness, tax deferments and tax credits. There are a variety of programs available. Here is a summary of some of them:

1. Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EID Loan) – $2 million Package

Small businesses (fewer than 500 employees), for profit and non-profit, can apply to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for a loan of up to $2 million to help alleviate the temporary loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

EID Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that a business cannot pay due to the impact of the pandemic. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for non-profits.

EID Loans have long term repayment periods of up to 30 years, but specific loan terms, including the amount awarded, is determined by the SBA on a case-by-case basis.

The SBA will require collateral, generally real estate, to support the loan, but will not deny a loan simply because the borrower owns no real estate. This could be a process taking several months.

To apply for the EID Loan you can follow this link

Contact the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or

2. SBA Rapid Relief Grants

Recognizing that the time it can take to process an EID Loan application could leave small businesses in desperate circumstances or unable to survive, the CARES Act includes $10 billion for emergency SBA grants of up to $10,000 for small businesses or non-profits which have applied for an EID Loan. Recipients can use the grant funds to cover immediate payroll, mortgage, rent and other specified expenses. The grant does not have to be repaid, but only businesses which apply for an EID Loan are eligible. The Act states that the SBA shall pay grants within three (3) days following the SBA’s receipt of the grant application. But because so many companies are eligible, there could be a delay.

To apply for the EID Loan, you can follow this link at

Contact the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or

3. Paycheck Protection Loans

This is the big one–the CARES Act also includes $350 billion to fund another loan program for small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, including non-profits, as well as sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed persons, during the period from Feb. 15, 2020 through June 30, 2020.

The program is based on a presumption that small businesses will suffer economic hardships due to COVID-19, so borrowers do not have to demonstrate their losses, as they do to secure an EID Loan.

Limit of Loan

The amount of Paycheck Protection Loans are 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs incurred during the one-year period before the date of the loan, up to a maximum of $10 million. This is important–payroll costs include salary/wages/commissions to employees and independent contractors (up to annualized salary of $100,000 per employee), sick/family leave/PTO, severance payments, group health benefits (including insurance premiums), retirement benefits and state and local taxes assessed on employee compensation.

The loans will have a maximum term of 10 years and an interest rate not to exceed 4%.

Use of Funds

Borrowers may use loan proceeds for: payroll costs; continuation of group health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, or insurance premiums; salaries or commissions or similar compensation; interest on mortgage obligations; rent; utilities and interest on other outstanding debt.

Applicants do not pay any processing fee and are not required to provide collateral or personal guarantees. To apply for assistance, follow this link

If you have questions about this application or problems providing the required information, please contact SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or (TTY: 1-800-877-8339)

4. Paycheck Protection Loan Forgiveness

Unlike EID Loans, a portion of Paycheck Protection Loans can be forgiven, on a tax-free basis. The amount of the loan that is forgivable is the sum of the payroll costs, mortgage interest payment, rent and utilities incurred or paid by the borrower during the eight-week period beginning on the loan origination date.


An independent company (like a CPA) can submit schedules and documentation to assist the borrower with their request for forgiveness. The amount of forgiveness will be reduced, if the borrower laid off or furloughed any employees during the period between Feb. 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020 or reduced wages/salaries of any employees by more than 25% during the same period. In recognition of the fact that many employers instituted layoffs before the CARES Act was passed, if an employer rehires the laid off employee or raises salaries and wages back to their prior level by June 30, 2020, the reduction formula does not apply to those employees.

5. Employee Retention Tax Credits

Employers who do not request loan forgiveness of a portion of a Paycheck Protection Loan, may be eligible for a refundable tax credit equal to 50% of wages (including health benefits) paid to employees during the period Mar. 13, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020, subject to certain conditions, and is provided for the first $10,000 in eligible wages and compensation paid by the employer to an employee. Thus, the credit is a maximum $5,000 per employee.

To be eligible, an employer either must have had operations fully or partially suspended because of a shut-down order from a governmental authority related to COVID-19, or had gross receipts decline by more than 50% in a calendar quarter when compared to the same quarter in 2019. Eligibility will end before Dec. 31 if the employer’s gross receipts for any calendar quarter are more than 80% of receipts the same quarter in 2019.

For employers with more than 100 employees only (based on 2019 employment levels), wages are limited to those paid to employees who were not providing services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Public employers are not eligible for this program.
Eligible employers will report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on their quarterly employment tax returns, or Form 941 beginning with the second quarter. If the employer’s employment tax deposits are not sufficient to cover the credit, the employer may receive an advance payment from the IRS by submitting Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.

Eligible employers can also request an advance of the Employee Retention Credit by submitting Form 7200. Employers should contact their payroll companies to make sure the process will be streamlined with their quarterly filings.

6. Payroll Tax Deferral

The CARES Act also allows employers, who did not request loan forgiveness of a portion of a Paycheck Protection Loan, to defer payment of their share of the 6.2% Social Security tax on wages paid from Mar. 27, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020 (or the equivalent portion of self-employment taxes). The deferred taxes are payable in two installments, 50% on Dec. 31, 2021 and 50% on Dec. 31, 2022. Employers should contact their payroll companies to make sure the process will be streamlined with their quarterly filings.

Remember, the above is based on the law as it now is being interpreted and may be subject to changes.

For more information, please contact Diane Campagna at (732) 510-1429, Jim Benkoil at (732) 510-1422 or John Wollenberg at (848) 212-4018.


Virginia Equine Alliance Executive Director Jeb Hannum Addresses Status Of Racing In 2020

Jeb Hannum is Executive Director of the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) which is made up of four member groups: The Virginia Thoroughbred Association (VTA), Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, the Virginia Harness Horse Association (VHHA) and the Virginia Gold Cup Races.

Given the unknown in regards to the Coronavirus pandemic, any thoughts you can share with the equine community in Virginia?

Sadly, each day it seems to get a little bit worse for the racing industry and other equine events. The steeplechase community is trying very hard to have a series of races in the late spring but even now that is in jeopardy. In regards to flat racing at Colonial, the issue now is that the OTB’s are closed so the revenue that we were counting on for purses is not accumulating the way we had originally planned. The harness meet in Woodstock is scheduled to start in September so I hope we’re far enough out that it will not be affected.

A month ago, before the pandemic affected the Commonwealth, the legislative session was nearing completion and was at a crucial point for the racing industry? Can you give us any updates.

The good news is that the casino bill that passed the House and the Senate has protections for the horsemen and for Colonial Downs. The key provision is that it allows for an increase in the number of Historical Horse Racing (HHR) machines — specifically in Vinton and in Dumfries. This will help offset the decline in HHR revenue which is expected when the casinos come on line in a few years.

The horsemen and the coalition of gaming companies that help put the casino bill together are encouraging the Governor’s office to sign the bill ‘as is’. It is a complicated piece of legislation and it would be most beneficial for all parties to have it become law now. If necessary, any technical changes could be addressed in the next legislative session.

Is there anything members of the equine community can do to help in this regard?

The best thing is to contact the Governor’s office and ask him to sign HB 4/SB 36 as is.

With Colonial Downs still 3 1/2 months away from opening, Shenandoah Downs 5 1/2 months away and sanctioned steeplechase meets scheduled in late spring and in the fall, there is still hope to maintain much of Virginia’s racing schedule. Your thoughts as it gives people at this challenging time something to look forward to.

It looks like with all the cancellations this spring that it could be a very busy and exciting time for racing in the summer and the fall. Other events like the Upperville horse show I understand are also considering summer or fall dates. It is certainly an unprecedented and trying time. But horsemen are by nature very tough and used to some level of adversity. I am confident that we will come out of this and let’s hope that we can get racing very soon.