No Agreement Reached on 2014 Racing Dates

No settlement has yet been reached between Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, following a Virginia Racing Commission meeting March 27.

Historically, thoroughbred racing at Colonial Downs was eight to nine weeks in the summer, run over 30 to 45 race days. The purses averaged about $200,000 a day. In 2013, the schedule was curtailed to five weeks and 25 race days, with daily purses of $230,000.

Although Colonial Downs’ Ian Stewart called the 2013 meet “a success,” estimating that the length of the meet reduced the track’s expenses by $500,000, the horsemen’s association says longer meets are necessary to justify the costs of shipping and stabling a horse at the New Kent racetrack.

Representatives from the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs attended a mediation session with retired federal judge Dennis Dohnal on March 12, but were unable to reach a settlement in an hour and a half session mediated by Dohnal.

The VHBPA put forth a proposal for a seven-week/28-day race meet, a compromise on their original eight-week/32-day proposal. HBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo indicated that the horsemen’s purse account will likely have a sufficient balance to run an eight week meet with 30 days of live racing, with purses of $200,000 a day.

Colonial Downs rejected the offer and proposed to race six days in 2014, for $500,000 per diem, which the VHBPA rejected outright.

In a Racing Commission meeting on March 17, VRC Vice Chairman D.G. Van Clief proposed a seven-week, 21-day meet as a transition for 2014. Horsemen and the Commission were on board, but Colonial Downs rejected that proposal in the March 27 meeting.

Instead, Colonial put forward three potential scenarios that would be acceptable to the track; the three proposals are variations of the short, boutique five-or-six-day meet model.

Betting on thoroughbred racing at Colonial Downs’ off-site facilities continues to be shut down; operations cannot resume until the horsemen and Colonial Downs can agree on a contract. The previous contract expired Jan. 29.

The two groups did reach an agreement on steeplechase wagering; The VHBPA will allow wagering at the race track in New Kent County during the Dogwood Classic Races. That race is a successor to the Strawberry Hill Races and runs April 5.

Petramalo told the Richmond Times Dispatch that the association agreed to the terms because Colonial Downs is putting up the $75,000 purse for the race.

The commission also approved a proposal to extend betting to the night before the Virginia Gold Cup May 3 at Great Meadow Park in The Plains.

You can find Frank Petramalo’s op/ed on the issue at the Racing Biz.