THE KENTUCKY DERBY – Edward P. Evans’ QUALITY ROAD made a big statement about his ability winning the Gr.1 Florida Derby in track-record time over the previously undefeated high-dollar yearling Dunkirk.

Looks like Churchill Downs may be the next stop for the talented three-year-old. The last Virginia-bred to win the Derby was Sea Hero who wore the blanket of roses back in 1993.

Sea Hero’s win was the first for for jockey Jerry Bailey and trainer MacKenzie Miller. It was also the first Kentucky Derby win for Rokeby Stables’ owner Paul Mellon, who became the only person to ever win the Kentucky Derby, the Epsom Derby, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, having captured the latter two with Mill Reef in 1971.

COLONIAL DOWNS/VHBPA CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS – The final contract between the two regarding purses was due into the Virginia Racing Commission office on last Friday, but was held up when Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart was admitted to a local hospital with an infection.

Negotiations continue (and Stewart is reportedly doing well) and we are told the sides have narrowed their differences down to $8,000 and three 55-gallon drums of insecticide. Go ahead – laugh, but that’s how detailed it gets sometimes in a world of constant give-and-take. We don’t know who’s gonna end up with the bug spray, but we hope they figure it out this week.

When the contract is submitted to the VRC for approval, the proposed racing dates will be finalized.

VIRGINIA BREEDERS FUND – The Breeders Fund committees of the VTA and VRC will meet on Thursday to determine what the program will look like in 2009. The goal is to try and preserve some form of the 100% Owners Bonus that was so successful at Colonial Downs last summer while making sure that there is enough money left for year-end Breeder and Stallion Awards.

So the question is how best to use the money for this year? While we did pass a bill which will give the Breeders Fund 1% of all ADW wagers (up to $400,000) a year, we are reluctant to base that program on that money until we see how things work out. All of the ADW companies have existing contracts with Colonial Downs and the VHBPA, and we remain concerned that those contracts and other legal wrangling may delay the payment of that money in 2009.

Unfortunately, like everything else these days, wagering in the Commonwealth is down. It looks like the Fund will have $900,000 for distribution and last year the 100% Owners Bonus program cost $1.1 million – you don’t have to be on the Obama bailout team or the new chairman of GM to know bad math when you see it!

So we have been exploring options. Option one was to just pay the winners the 100% bonus. This would cost, based on last year’s results, $700,000. This has two drawbacks: 1) everyone else is left out in the cold, and 2) the $700,000 depletes the $900,000 fairly dramatically. If you figure in money to fund the six Va-bred/sired stakes races run at Colonial, suddenly we’re out of money again at year-end.

However, we could pay those bonuses on the back-end and place a cap on them if everyone agreed that the “winners’ only” model was the best solution. It would be tricky, but it could be done.

The second option is to pay a smaller bonus to the winner (10%) and the 100% bonus to the second through sixth place finishers. This would cost the fund approximately $475,000 based on last year’s statistics, and leave $425,000 for stakes purses and back-end awards.

Please take a moment to vote in our poll, and let us know which direction you think we should go. It is important to note that what is proposed is for 2009 ONLY and we will continue to revise the program annually. It remains our ultimate goal to be able to fully fund the 100% Owners’ Bonus Program, the Virginia-bred/sired stakes races and still have $500,000 for year-end awards.