Monthly Archives: January 2023


On January 9th, we announced changes to the bonus payout guidelines for the Virginia-Certified and Virginia-Bred owner/developer programs. As we explained in our earlier notice, these programs are funded from revenue generated by Historical Horse Racing (HHR) machines which also fund other aspects of Virginia’s racing program. The Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA), in consultation with the Virginia Thoroughbred Association (VTA) and Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (VAHBPA), has established an annual budget of 4 million dollars for these programs. The plan is to increase funding for these programs once Colonial Downs adds more HHR locations and machines (we hope in 2024 and 2025). In the meantime, the changes below will help us to stay within our allocated budget.

Our previous objective was to keep bonuses as close to 25% as possible. In order to achieve that objective, we decided to end awards for wins in state-bred restricted races. Our decision of where to make cuts generated quite a response from you! Overwhelmingly it is clear that folks would rather receive a bonus for any race won, even if the award is a lesser amount. We heard you and this week the VTA Board updated the previous published changes.


  1. Certified Developer bonuses of 10% will be earned for wins in state-bred-restricted races in the Mid-Atlantic region (NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, & WV). Winners of Virginia-restricted races are not eligible for any Certified bonus.
  2. Certified Developer bonuses will be earned for open race wins in the Mid-Atlantic region (NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV, & VA). Open bonuses will be calculated as follows: After the 10% state-bred-restricted race bonuses are subtracted from the 4 million dollar incentive fund, the remaining incentive money will be distributed on a pro-rata share of each open winning purse divided by the total of all open win purses. We estimate the open win bonuses for 2023 and 2024 to be in the 15% to 20% range. 
  3. Beginning with foals of 2023, Certified Developer bonuses will no longer be earned for any win in West Virginia.
  4. Certified Developer bonuses will not be earned for out-of-state wins during the Colonial Downs meet.
  5. Plans to grow the VA Restricted race program during the Colonial Downs meet are now in the works.
  6. Because of the difficulty of estimating the number of wins each month, Virginia-Certified awards will now receive bonus checks once a year (after December 31st of the year they were earned).This is the only way to ensure open race bonuses are paid at the same percentage month to month.


  1. Beginning with the foal crop of 2021 (two-year-olds of 2023), the Virginia-Bred Owner’s bonus of up to 25% earned for wins in the Mid-Atlantic region (NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV) will be paid to the horse’s Developer. (The Developer is the person or entity that owns the Virginia-Bred horse when the horse makes its first start). 
  2. Because of the difficulty of estimating the number of wins each month, Virginia-Bred Owner/Developer awards will now receive bonus checks once a year (after December 31st of the year they were earned).This is the only way to ensure open race bonuses are paid at the same percentage month to month.

Remember: Owners of Virginia-bred horses earn a 50% bonus when their Virginia-bred or sired horses finish 1st – 4th at Colonial Downs.

Making changes to these programs is nothing we desired to do. We are hopeful it is a short-term issue, that we can resolve sooner rather than later.

Debbie Easter, Executive Director
Virginia Thoroughbred Association

*Please note that these changes do not affect the award program for the Breeders of registered Virginia-Breds. Breeder awards are funded separately and are not affected by the Certified Program or the Virginia-Bred Owner/Developer program.

Two Colonial Downs OTB Managers Celebrate 25 Years of Working Together

Congratulations to two longtime Virginia horse racing industry employees —- who both started working at the Colonial Downs Off Track Betting Center in Alberta in December, 1997 —- and are still working at Colonial Downs, some 25 years later! 

Paulette Coleman and Karen Henson started work the same day that December and neither could have imagined they would still be working together a quarter century later. At the time, pari-mutuel horse racing was still very new to Virginia. Off Track Betting sites first opened in 1996 in Chesapeake and Richmond then the Colonial Downs track itself opened in September, 1997. OTBs on Hampton and Alberta followed shortly after the inaugural meet in New Kent.  

Paulette Coleman and Karen Henson started working together at the Colonial Downs Alberta OTB in December, 1997.

Coleman worked four years in Alberta before relocating to manage Colonial’s old Richmond OTB location on Hull Street. She since has managed the former Richmond West Broad Street OTB and the Breakers Sports Grille OTB and even now, serves as Horsemen’s Bookkeeper for the summer thoroughbred meet in addition to her OTB duties. Henson spent 17 years at Alberta and after that location closed, managed the Windmill OTB in Collinsville before transferring to Breakers where she is currently based. She also works at the New Kent track during the summer races. 

“I love the customers, the excitement of horse racing, and the big days especially,” said Coleman. “I absolutely love it. It’s in my blood. I’ve enjoyed 25-plus years of making friends. Just the other day, my supervisor said that ‘you know everybody no matter where you go’. Horseplayers travel around so you see many of the same ones at the various sites.”

Henson echoed those same sentiments. “It’s the customers,” she said. “I enjoy the aspect of listening to the customers and forming relationships. We’re just like an extended family. They let us know how they are doing. We genuinely want to know that so we can provide a better experience for them. It’s also a privilege to work the live race meet and hear the horses run, which adds another layer of enjoyment for me. This is so much better than any other job I’ve ever had.”

The Breakers Sports Grille OTB is located in the Ollie’s Shopping Plaza on West Broad Street in Henrico.

Because pari-mutuel wagering was still new to Virginians in the late ’90’s, times were different and both ladies have fond memories of those early days in Alberta. 

“It was the best of times there,” recalled Coleman. “The place was jumping on the weekends. The betting line was full of tellers, the place was full of customers. It was just a wonderful atmosphere. Racing was new to us so we were surprised at the number of people that already knew how to bet. And then you had locals who wanted to see what it was all about and they wanted to learn how to bet.”     

After the initial version of Colonial Downs closed in 2014, Coleman and Henson went on to work elsewhere for a short period of time at Lowe’s and at a propane company respectively. But as soon as the Virginia Equine Alliance opened up a slate of OTBs in 2016, both jumped back into racing without hesitation — in Henrico and Collinsville.

“I missed it,” said Henson. “Horse racing is exciting and fun, especially when you have money in the game and you’re cheering your horse on. We have a lot of longtime players at Breakers but the fun aspect is showing new customers how to play, then watching them build on the knowledge you gave them and what they get from other customers too. It’s neat to see that transition take place.”      

“Many people think we don’t want them to win,” added Coleman. “We want them to win.  New customers especially think it’s like a casino where they play against the house. We want them to win and bring two or three people back the next time, and have those people bring another two or three back on their next visit to have fun. When you see excitement in their faces from winning, we get excited too. We’re rooting for them. We’ll yell right with them — “come on five, come on five!”

Kentucky Derby prep race season is in full swing now and most every weekend thru mid-April features key stakes races for three-year-old horses, all of whom are battling to secure a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate on Saturday May 6. Fans can wager the action at either of the two VA-Horseplay OTBs — in Henrico at Breakers Sports Grille (9127 West Broad St) and in Chesapeake at Buckets Bar and Grill (228 North Battlefield Blvd). The six Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums also feature a simulcast area to watch and wager races from up to 20 different tracks daily. Online betting is also available via,, and