Cocktails and Conversations at Hickory Tree a Huge Success

Jim and Mary Lea Treptow kindly hosted the first of a series of VTA district events at their Hickory Tree Farm on Sunday afternoon. Thanks to their generosity, the event was a resounding success, giving the Potomac members and guests the opportunity to discuss the Virginia thoroughbred industry. Turnout was spectacular, with over 70 people attending. And there couldn’t have been a more attractive venue to have a Sunday cocktail than Confederate Hall, looking over the historic pastures at  Hickory Tree!

After a welcome from President Wayne Chatfield-Taylor, VTA Executive Director Debbie Easter and VHBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo gave brief updates on the the VTA and VHBPA.

Wayne Chatfield- Taylor, Susie Chatfield-Taylor, Cheris Treptow, Debbie Easter, Jim Treptow, Mary Lea Treptow at the Hickory Tree event. Photo Courtesy Sherry Whiting.

Wayne Chatfield- Taylor, Susie Chatfield-Taylor, Cheris Treptow, Debbie Easter, Jim Treptow, Mary Lea Treptow at the Hickory Tree event. Photo Courtesy Sherry Whiting.

Mr. Chatfield-Taylor opened the comments by welcoming the crowd and thanking the Treptows. He spoke about the upswing in the market seen at the recent Keeneland sale, highlighting the strength of the broodmare market. He went on to say that Virginia is still a good place to raise a horse and expressed hope that the statewide elections may have a positive impact on the industry. He emphasized two salient political advantages that the industry needs to leverage: the Thoroughbred industry not only creates jobs, but it also promotes the preservation of green space in the state of Virginia.

Debbie Easter spoke of the VTA’s renewed commitment to inclusivity. She invited all members to be active participants in the VTA and highlighted the importance of member involvement in moving the industry forward. After stating that she is always available for a phone call or a meeting, she discussed the Virginia Racing Commission’s Blue Ribbon Committee and asked for member input. The Blue Ribbon Committee is comprised of D.G. Van Clief (Chairman), Sarge Reynolds, Easter (VTA), Ian Stewart (Colonial Downs), Frank Petramalo (VHBPA), Dr. Al Griffin (Gold Cup Association), Dr. Dunavant  (the standardbred industry) and Bernard Hettel (Virginia Racing Commission Executive Secretary). Its purpose is to examine Virginia’s racing and breeding industries and formulate a 5-year plan to advance both. The Committee will seek outside experts in the industry to advise and to help formulate the plan.

Mr. Petramalo then spoke about negotiations with Colonial Downs over race days. Currently, Colonial Downs is offering 12 days over four weeks, while the VHBPA is petitioning for 32 days over an eight week meet. Negotiations are ongoing.

After these opening remarks, the moderators opened up the floor for crowd comments and ideas, and a lively discussion ensued. Jim Treptow spoke on trying to get  a quality stallion to stand in Virginia and of  the potential for using a Middleburg training center as a possible venue for a racetrack in Northern Virginia. Virginia breeder and owned Larry Johnson suggested changing the Breeders Fund to reward those that breed in Virginia, and then race in Virginia and Maryland. Virginia owner Eric Rizer wants to see more restricted Virginia-bred races run at Colonial Downs.

Although many of the ideas discussed are still theoretical, the good energy and enthusiasm for moving racing and breeding forward in Virginia was exciting and encouraging. Overall, the VTA is thrilled with the success of the event, and is looking forward to the future Blue Ridge and Capital District events.