Racing Commission Approves Additional Funds for VA Breeders

Todd Haymore, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, hosted yesterday’s Virginia Racing Commission meeting in Richmond. As of July 1st, the Virginia Racing Commission is now under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry (previously the Department of Commerce).

Secretary Haymore opened the meeting by welcoming the VRC to his secretariat and explained to attendees that the governor had directed him to help resolve the contract dispute between Colonial Downs and the Virginia horsemen. With that in mind he urged both sides to work quickly toward an agreement for 2015 racing dates at Colonial. He also explained this first meeting would deal mostly with procedural issues and assured attendees that he and his staff have been working to educate themselves about the issues facing the Virginia racing industry.

After the Secretary’s opening remarks, the Commission approved $500,000 for year-end awards to Virginia breeders, a 3.5 percent increase from 2013. The Commission also approved the following 2014 expenditures from the Breeder’s Fund: $25,000 for purses in restricted Virginia-bred races at the 2014 Virginia Gold Cup Races and the International Gold Cup Races at Great Meadow Racecourse; a $60,000 contribution to the purses of six Virginia-bred Stakes run at Laurel Park on September 13th; approximately $50,000 for the 100% owners bonus program on non-restricted races contested at the Dogwood Classic Races, the Virginia Gold Cup Races and the International Gold Cup Races with a cap of $10,000 per award; and $25,000 for year-end stallion awards.

Near the end of the agenda, Colonial Downs’ President Ian Stewart offered what some attendees referred to as an ultimatum to the Horsemen and the VRC. Stewart asked that a finalized race day request be submitted by both parties by September 24th and that the VRC needed to approve a race day contract with the VHBPA or some other horsemen’s group by the October 26th end of the harness meet or Colonial Downs will turn in their unlimited license. Stewart also informed the Commission that Colonial had delivered a proposed 10-year contract with a 2015 schedule of weekend ship-in racing to the VHBPA on Tuesday afternoon. Because of the short delivery time VHBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo and the horsemen were not able to comment on the contract details but Petramalo said he would respond with the horsemen’s counter-proposal by the end of the week. If the two proposals are not too far apart, Secretary Haymore suggested he will likely offer the services of a mediator in an attempt to resolve the remaining differences.

At the end of discussions about proposed meeting dates and procedures, the Commission directed Colonial Downs, VHBPA and the VHHA to submit 2015 race day requests by September 24th. After the September 24th directive, it was unclear where the discussions are headed.