THE CHALLENGE: FILLING VIRGINIA-BRED RACES

Year in and year out, it’s a classic chicken/egg problem. Virginia-bred/sired restricted races don’t fill because folks don’t enter in them. When asked, they say they don’t enter in them because they don’t fill…

While this has been going on annually since 1997 with only the Virginia-restricted maiden races filling, the stakeholders sat down following last year’s meet to address how better to deal with this issue. That meeting concluded with a resolve by all the parties to make every effort to write, fill and card more Virginia-bred races in 2010 at Colonial Downs.

(Keep in mind, this is complicated by the 60% bonus Virginia-breds will earn when they finish first through fourth in an open race. For some owners and trainers, the extra purse in the open race is sufficient reason not to run in a restricted race. This contraction makes the problem even harder to solve!)

That said, the first step turned out to be a component of the new purse contract between the Virginia H.B.P.A. and Colonial Downs. That contract now requires the CLN racing office to write two Virginia-bred races a week.

After a series of meetings involving Colonial Downs racing secretary Tyler Picklesimer and horsemen and breeders from all over the state it was agreed that those races would appear in the main body of the book and not as extras. Everybody thought that some “predictability” would help.

Secondly, the Breeders Fund will contribute an extra 25% purse supplement to these races. Subsequently, a $23,000 maiden race will offer a purse of $28,750 and a $5,000 claiming race with a $8,600 purse will offer $10,750 purse.

Finally, the combined stakeholders have retained the services of Jillian Tullock. Tullock works in the MJC racing office and she is going to work in the Colonial racing for the 2010 meet. Jillian has been dubbed unofficially “Virginia-bred Coordinator” as she is currently working on a data-base of Virginia-bred/sired horses. We have supplied her with all the information we have and we are hoping we can comply a great list from which to fill races.

Hopefully, we have done everything we can to solve the problem of filling the Virginia-restricted races. Last year 200 registered Va-bred/sired horses ran at Colonial Downs, but during the same time period another 200+ ran at other Mid-Atlantic racetracks.

It’s possible (and some folks argue this point) that there simply aren’t enough Virginia-bred/sired horses around, and, when combined with the open race bonus, we may never be able to fill many races other than maiden races. With about 900 two-, three- and four-year-old Virginia-bred/sired now available to CLN, it may simply be a math problem.

Last fall, we vowed to find out if we could sustain additional restricted races, and it appears that all of the stakeholders have gone to great lengths to try and find out the answer to that question.