At their January meeting last Wednesday, the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC’s) approved changes for the 2013 Virginia Breeders Fund (VBF).  The process involved a complete review by the Virginia Thoroughbred Association’s (VTA) Breeders Fund Committee, the VTA board, the Virginia H.B.P.A. board and finally the VRC’s Thoroughbred Sub-Committee of their Breeders Fund Task Force.

Citing the reduced number of live racing days breeders consistently were looking to reduce expenditures during the upcoming 25 day live meet and an increase in back-end awards that pay breeders for horses that win in the U.S. during the remaining 10 months of the year.
The regulations for call for 50% of the awards to be paid at the Colonial Downs and the other 50% for year-end awards paid to breeders and stallion owners. However, those same regulation allow the VRC to adjust those percentages on a yearly basis.

The popularity of the 100% Owners Bonus at Colonial Downs caused those percentages to shift dramatically in 2008 when $1.1 million was spent on the bonus. That year, year-end awards for breeders and stallion owners fell from $518,850 the year prior to $199.565.

Since then the popularity of the bonus had caused the payout to run at a rate of 70% at CNL to 30% for year-end awards.

Noting the popularity of the 100% bonus, the VTA’s committee and board wanted to preserve the program, but reduce the overall expenditure during the short 25 day meet.  They noted that the 100% program had not increased demand for young horses they produced in private and public market places, but had increased demand for Virginia-breds that were ready to run at any upcoming meet at Colonial Downs.

The compromise was to continue the 100% owners bonus, but to cap each award at $10,000 (as it was in 2009).

For example, due to higher purses created by the shorter meet,  a MSW race purse will be approximately $30,000, making the payout $17,400 for first $6,000 for second, $3,000 for third, etc.  The winner’s bonus would be capped at $10,000, and the remaining places would be paid at the 100% rate. 

In all races with purses below $17,240, the winners share will be fully funded.  Here are some examples of other purses:

  1. $18,000 – To winner $10,400 from purse, $10,000 100% Owners Bonus = $20,400
  2. $20,000 – To winner $11,600 from purse, $10,000 100% Owners Bonus = $21,600
  3. $22,500 – To winner $13,050 from purse, $10,000 100% Owners Bonus = $23,050
  4. $25,000 – To winner $14,500 from purse, $10,000 100% Owners Bonus = $24,500
Note that even with the $10,000 cap the winner’s share of the purse from these races are just under or more than the total purse for non-Virginia-breds.
Past race meets suggest that this will return the program to the 50/50 split.  For 2013, it is now projected that $550,000 to $600,000 will be spent at Colonial downs and from $500,000 to $575,000 on year-end awards.

In addition to the 100% Owners Bonus program, the VRC approved the following along with annual administration and promotion fees:

  • $50,000 towards a 50% VA-bred bonus on the five open non-graded stake races run at Colonial Downs.
  • $50,000 for a $10,000 contribution to each purse of the five VA-bred stake races run at Colonial Downs.
  • $25,000 for year-end stallion awards.
  • $450,000 to $500,000 for year-end breeder awards depending on how much is spent on item #2 above.

Another new wrinkle for 2013 is the elimination of the 25% bonus paid on Virginia-bred restricted overnight races.  Please note overnight races restricted to Virginia-breds will be written, carded and run, but the various committees believed the shorter meet would create higher purses and adequate compensation for these races.  In 2012, Colonial ran 12 Virginia-bred restricted overnight races. (The Virginia HBPA provided the purse money for these races.)

Also many breeders advocated an increased bonus for Virginia-breds that earn pruses in the five open non-graded stakes.  Many breeders have found that owners and trainers of the horses they produce are reluctant to ship (due to high costs) to Colonial for a $50,000 stakes purses.  Those horses are more likely to run for a $75,000 purses. 

Breeders are looking to build the pedigrees of their broodmares and any fillies they may race and this type of stakes bonus is being utilized in Maryland and Florida among other states. The VBF will fund the first $50,000 of these bonuses and the VHBPA the balance (if any).

“This was a comprehensive process,” said Glenn Petty, VTA Executive Director. “Having done this since the inception of the program, it was the first time I’ve seen owners, trainers and breeders acknowledge the different impacts of the program. Many breeders think too much money it channeled to the track where it primarily benefits owners and trainers, and many owners and trainers are content with current program as the Fund has poured in over $8.1 million into Colonial Downs racing since 1999. We had some very frank conversations about who benefited.”

“That said,” Petty continued. “Many Virginians wear all three hats and that made it easy to find a compromise which seemed to fulfill, as best we could, everybody’s financial needs without negatively impacting the race meet. Obviously, if the program had more money, we would continue to expand our reach, but that’s simply not the case in the current economy and political climate.  I think everybody is reasonably pleased and that is usually the sign of a good compromise.  I also think the process worked like it is supposed to when it comes to figuring out how to modify a complicated program with a wide variety of impacts.”