Virginia Racing Commission Meeting Recap From June 25

Colonial Downs Executive VP of Operations John Marshall and VP of Racing Operations Jill Byrne presented details of a Covid-related Extra Care program to reopen the New Kent track and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums, along with a Mid-Atlantic strategic plan to reduce equine fatalities Thursday morning at the Virginia Racing Commission’s first meeting of 2020.

Marshall first provided insight into the upcoming thoroughbred meet in New Kent which will begin Monday July 27 and continue on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday basis thru September 2 with a post time of 5:30 PM. He said the meet is 32 days out as of today and there are contingency plans in place based on various Covid-related restrictions. “We will be evaluating the situation every day and will follow guidelines of authority,” he said.

Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in Richmond, Hampton, and New Kent will reopen Wednesday July 1 and allow 1,000 guests at any one time — which is less than 50% of capacity. The Rosie’s in Vinton will also open the same day but can accommodate 280 players at a time, since that site is smaller. Vinton has 150 Historical Horse Racing terminals versus the other centers that have between 600-700.

The VA-Horseplay OTBs in Richmond (Ponies & Pints), Henrico (Breakers), Chesapeake (Buckets) and Collinsville (The Windmill) — which offer live race simulcast wagering — will also will reopen July 1.

Due to the Covid pandemic, both HBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo and Marshall confirmed daily purse distribution will average $340,000 per day compared to $500,000 last year. Marshall said despite the drop, stall applications for the upcoming meet came in very strong with 830 horse requests compared to 350 or so last year. “All tracks suffered a hardship,” said Marshall, “But our purses are still strong comparatively to other markets. We look to executing a successful meet and to offer players a great product with large field sizes.”

Virginia Racing Commission Executive Secretary David Lermond commented on the list of racing officials Colonial Downs submitted to work at the meet. “Almost all the people worked here last year and many work together at Tampa Bay Downs which has operated with Covid-19 restrictions the last several months. They bring the experience of having worked in that environment, which is a big plus. The names on the list are all well qualified and they work well together.”

The stable area and will open July 13 as will the track itself for training.

Marshall presented details of Colonial’s Extra Care program, a 150-point plan to keep everyone safe at the Rosie’s sites, during live racing, and in the stable area. He addressed issues like occupancy limits, face coverings, temperature screening, physical distancing, crowd shields, sanitation, food & beverage and a “Sure Check” category.

“Sure Check” is about accountability, almost like a check off system,” he said. “We will document and track all the safety aspects we outlined in the plan. We can’t afford to have any health issue,” he said. “The security team will enforce social distancing.”

Jill Byrne introduced a new Best Practices” strategic plan with the goal of reducing equine fatalities. All the Mid-Atlantic tracks have agreed to these policies and compliance protocols so there will be continuity throughout the entire region.

“Everyone is on the same page and follows the same rules,” she said. “Everybody from the racetrack operators, to the horsemen and breeders, to the veterinarians and racing commissions were involved in coming up with this plan.”

As one example, if a horse has been laid off for 150 days or more, the trainer will need to submit a detailed layoff report to the Equine Medical Director who will need to approve it before the horse can compete again.

“That is very important given the recent Covid pandemic and lack of racing opportunities this spring,” added Byrne. “The strategic plan creates transparency in areas like pre-race examinations, shock wave therapy, biosecurity, the vet’s list, claimed horse health records, thoroughbred aftercare and more.”

Byrne said Colonial will employ a Safety Compliance Officer who will be in the stable area each morning beginning at 5 AM checking for things that look out of place. They will also monitor aspects like the starting gate, ambulance, medical staff and also be part of the mortality review committee.