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Local Affiliate News for Virginia HBPA

Hugh Motley, Va. Horseman, Dies at 60
1/13/2016 9:42:21 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 1/12/2016 5:49:20 PM

Hugh Motley, a highly-regarded horseman from Keswick, Va., who started his own bloodstock agency and sold Thoroughbreds at many of America's top sales, died in Wellington, Fla., on Jan. 9 of complications from pneumonia. He was 60.

Motley began riding as a child when his family moved from Virginia Beach to Keswick when he was 10. For more than 25 years he also had his own business breaking and training yearlings on his family's Highground Farm near Keswick.

Motley began his Thoroughbred career working for his cousin, L. Clay Camp, who had his own bloodstock agency. Motley and many other young Virginia riders, including horse show legend Rodney Jenkins, also would help Camp show his yearlings at venues up and down the East Coast including the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale.

"Hugh could do pretty much anything when it came to horses," said lifelong friend John Coles of Middleburg, Va. "We started fox hunting together when we were 10. He was a wonderful horseman, a guy with a great sense of humor, and everybody just loved him."

Motley served as Master of Fox Hounds for the Keswick Hunt from 2000-05. He also played polo for many years as a member of the Charlottesville Polo Club.

"He was a great rider with a natural seat," said friend Tommy Lee Jones. "He did a great job as Master at Keswick. People just enjoyed riding with him. He knew how to have a good time, and he was always harder on himself than he was with anybody else."

Hugh Douglas Camp Motley was born Jan. 30, 1955 in Virginia Beach, the son of Frank Robertson Motley and Caroline Camp Sherman who preceded him in death. He attended the Blue Ridge School in St. George, Va., and graduated from Christ Church School in Richmond before starting his career in the horse business.

Motley was an avid golfer and a voracious reader. He was a member of the Keswick Hunt Club, and a past member of the Keswick Club and Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville. In addition to his farm in Keswick, Motley also spent part of the year living with his family in Wellington.

Motley is survived by his wife of 40 years, Kathleen Buchanan "Winkie" Motley; a daughter, Sheila Camp Motley of Wellingon, (married to Mathew Allen); a sister, Mary Motley Kalergis of Charlottesville; a brother, James Coleman Motley of Salt Lake City, Utah; and a grandson, Collins Camp Allen.

The family requests donations be made in memory of Hugh Motley to two charities: the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation (821 Corporate Drive, Lexington, KY 40503) and the Little Keswick School, P.O. Box 24, Keswick, VA 22947.

VA: VRC Suspends TwinSpires ADW License
12/21/2015 10:25:53 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 12/19/2015 7:46:07 PM Last Updated: 12/19/2015 9:25:50 PM, one of three advance deposit wagering systems licensed to accept bets from Virginia residents, had its license suspended by the Virginia Racing Commission effective Dec. 18.

The Virginia Equine Alliance Dec. 19 said the VRC at its Dec. 16 meeting gave, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., until 5 p.m. EST Dec. 18 to pay $688,000 owed to the state's racing entities, including the VEA, Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, Virginia Harness Horsemen's Association, and breeders. The payment had to be made in order for the ADW provider to keep its license for this year and 2016.

The VEA said advised the VRC in writing that it would not comply with the order. The VRC then suspended the license and ordered the company to notify customers and allow them to retrieve funds from their accounts.

"We are currently in a dispute with the Virginia Racing Commission and certain Virginia racing interests," director of communications Ed DeRosa said Dec. 19. "We question the constitutionality of the Virginia ADW statutory scheme and are prepared to defend our position.

"We continue to operate in Virginia. Accounts remain active and we do not anticipate any disruption of service."

TVG and continued to operate in Virginia. Under state law a portion of each dollar bet through ADW systems goes toward purse accounts, breed development programs, and the VEA, which is attempting to rebuild racing in the state in the absence of Colonial Downs.

Virginia Group Pursues Thoroughbred Home
11/23/2015 10:00:41 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/20/2015 5:15:55 PM

With the Virginia Racing Commission recently denying Colonial Downs' efforts to host a limited Thoroughbred meet of 20 dates next year, the Virginia Equine Alliance updated its members Nov. 20 on its efforts to find a home for Thoroughbred racing in the state and other initiatives.

Colonial Downs has not offered live racing in 2014 or 2015, after the track and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association failed to reach agreements on race dates. Money generated for purses from advance-deposit wagering in the state has shifted to the VEA, which counts the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, Virginia HBPA, Virginia Harness Horsemen's Association, and Virginia Gold Cup as members.

This year the VEA used sites like Great Meadow to offer Thoroughbred flat racing in the state and offered eight key stakes races at Laurel Park in Maryland.

In an email to members on Friday, VEA executive director Jeb Hannum listed several points of emphasis, with finding a home for Thoroubhred racing at the top of that list. Hannum's list of goals, as outlined follow:

• Seeking a new "permanent" home for Thoroughbred races - Meetings are currently taking place with management of Morven Park in Leesburg about the prospects of running Thoroughbred races there on a regular basis in the future. Work will need to be done on the turf surface to ensure the safety of both horses and riders. Dates will need to be secured around many other events Morven hosts during the year. A number of additional issues will have to be addressed, so realistically, we'd be looking at 2017 dates there at the earliest, assuming we clear all hurdles. The alliance will investigate additional days at Great Meadow, as well as other racing opportunities out of state for the short term.

• Seeking long-term permanent track(s) for Standardbred races - The Oak Ridge Estate in Nelson County has already been established as a viable site to host harness races and possibly even add Thoroughbred races at some point in the future. Several annual non-betting harness racing events also currently take place at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in Woodstock, Va., and meetings have already taken place with track officials there to discuss an upgrade to the track that could position it as another option for pari-mutuel races moving forward.

• Opening off-track betting centers in the state - As far as off-track betting is concerned, we are in the process of talking to three national companies that specialize in OTB development and operation. Our hope is to get the first outlet up and operating in 2016. The VEA also wants to work with local ownership scenarios in smaller communities like Nelson County (where Oak Ridge is based), where connections and contacts have already been established through years of being part of that business community. The OTBs are critical to the long-term viability of racing in Virginia as they will generate additional purse and operational funds.

• Planning a schedule of both flat and Standardbred races in 2016 based on several different budget scenarios - The VEA is also working on several different scenarios for live racing events next year. Since we hosted seven different race days in 2015, we know the hard costs associated with conducting these events and now, it's a matter of plugging in the revenue numbers received from the account wagering services (TVG, TwinSpires, and XPressBet), and seeing how many live days we can afford. Right now, proceeds from online betting handle is the sole handle generator until we get another revenue stream from OTBs in the near future.

• Planning a new industry website and promotional strategies - Work is currently in progress to create a new all-encompassing website where the entire Virginia horse racing community can access information on upcoming events, get industry news, and learn how to make wagers on local and national races. The site will appeal to horsemen, bettors, and potential live race event attendees.

Colonial Downs is fighting in federal court the VRC's decision to deny it a license. While that outcome will play itself out, Hannum is confident the VEA can make important strides in 2016. "There is a lot of work to be done to grow and sustain Virginia racing, but the biggest positive aspect right now is that everyone is on the same page, at last. We want to move forward quickly, but we will not be able to rebuild racing overnight. It will take time and we need to count on your patience," Hannum said. "The next racing commission meeting is Dec. 16 and we'll provide updates on these issues I've addressed here to the commissioners, who through their vote on Tuesday, reinforced a great desire to work with us and help Virginia racing get back on track and prosper."

Virginia Denies Colonial a Limited License
11/18/2015 10:40:10 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/17/2015 3:10:46 PM Last Updated: 11/17/2015 7:17:10 PM

Citing Colonial Downs' recent history of giving up its racing license, the Virginia Racing Commission on Nov. 17 denied an application from Colonial to conduct a limited race meet.

VRC executive director Bernie Hettel said the commission denied the application based on Colonial giving up its racing license in 2014. In giving up that racing license last year, Colonial also would eventually surrender licenses to operate advance-deposit wagering and off-track betting outlets in the state.

"Largely it was based on previous surrenders of multiple licenses that Colonial had owned and operated," Hettel said. "The recent history of those surrenders and withdrawals prompted the actions of the racing commission not to grant."

Colonial surrendered its racing license last year when track owner Jacobs Entertainment and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association failed to come to an agreement on race dates. The track, which because of the disagreement has not offered live racing since 2013, would prefer a shorter meet with larger purses while horsemen would prefer those purses be spread over a longer meet.

In its request Tuesday, Colonial had hoped to offer one day of racing this year followed by 20 dates next season. Jacobs Entertainment chief executive officer Jeff Jacobs expressed frustration with the VRC's decision.

"As a businessman who has invested over $100 million dollars, blood, sweat, and tears to move Virginia horseracing to major league status, I must say I have never been faced with such a hostile regulatory environment as this one," Jacobs said. "The members of the VRC are too close to the HBPA to allow them to look at Colonial Downs in a fair and impartial way."

The VRC has recognized the Virginia HBPA as the official horsemen's group in the state. Colonial has put forward that it has an agreement with an alternative horsemen's group, the Old Dominion Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, for its limited race meet; but the VRC has not recognized that horsemen's group.

Colonial also has taken action through the courts. On Nov. 13 Colonial filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Virginia Racing Commission in federal court in Richmond, Va. The filing seeks clarity on what Colonial says are conflicting federal and state laws that have interfered with the VRC granting the track a limited license to conduct Thoroughbred racing.

Colonial also had requested licenses to operate a pair of off-track betting sites but Hettel said that without a racing license, Colonial could not be approved for those licenses. The VRC denied both requests.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the license for was discussed. Hettel said the Churchill Downs Inc.-owned advance deposit wagering site has not been paying the Virginia Equine Alliance as required. Hettel said later this month he'll meet with representatives from TwinSpires and the VEA, which counts the Virginia HBPA, the Virginia Harness Horsemen's Association, Virginia Thoroughbred Association, and Virginia Gold Cup as members; to resolve the issue. On Tuesday the commission took no action against, which will be allowed to continue to operate in the state.

"They need to collectively talk and figure out some way of a satisfactory payment plan from money generated through the advance-deposit wagering," Hettel said.

When Colonial turned in its license to operate its EZ Horseplay ADW site in April, state lawmakers passed legislation allocating ADW funds that were previously sent to Colonial to the VEA, which has taken the lead in scheduling live racing in the state. A fee of 9% of all ADW wagers made within Virginia is split between horsemen and the racing license holder, currently the VEA.

Va Racing Commission to hold five key hearings
11/13/2015 9:54:13 AM  -  Racing Biz 

Posted: 11/12/15

Five public hearings are scheduled for the November 17 meeting of the Virginia Racing Commission in Richmond, four of them concerning the future of Colonial Downs.

Commission meetings have been brief in recent months, but don’t expect that to be the case next Tuesday.

Two of the applications concern live racing, and two have to do with Colonial’s former off-track betting (OTB) facilities.

The Commission is expected to vet Colonial’s application for a single-day of racing on November 30, 2015 — the Monday after Thanksgiving, also known as “cyber Monday” for the internet Holiday shopping that occurs post-Thanksgiving weekend. Though that application was initially filed in July, the Commission has put off consideration of it while Colonial and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) negotiated to try to reach an agreement for the horsemen to lease the track.

The single day Colonial has requested would include two stakes, the Buckland and the Kitten’s Joy, both with $50,000 purses, and a mix of other races, according to the condition sheet. Colonial Downs does not have a contract with the HBPA which was designated as the majority horsemen by the Commission through a formal process this summer. Colonial maintains it has a 25-year agreement with the Old Dominion Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, an entity created in part by Colonial Downs itself and which purports to represent Virginia horsemen.

While this proposal has been pending for several months, last week, Colonial Downs threw something of a curve ball, applying for four days of live racing in 2016, to be tagged as the Virginia Derby Festival weekend and run from September 24 through September 27. Other than a day of steeplechase racing held in the spring of 2014, Colonial hasn’t held a day of racing since July 13, 2013.

That request puts Colonial Downs and the rest of the state’s Thoroughbred industry firmly at odds with each other.

In September, the Virginia Equine Alliance, which consists of the Virginia HBPA, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, the Virginia Gold Cup and the Virginia Harness Horse Association, held the races formerly known as the Grade 2 Virginia Derby, Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup, and Grade 3 Virginia Oaks at Maryland’s Laurel Park; this year, they were called the Commonwealth Derby, Commonwealth Cup, and Commonwealth Oaks.

Had the VEA not run those races, they would automatically have lost their graded status. That the Graded Stakes Committee recognized those races as the successors to the Virginia Derby and its siblings suggests that the Committee would continue to recognize them, regardless of the steps Colonial takes — but in point of fact, the sides would be entering somewhat uncharted territory. Who, in the end, “owns” a stake race?

In an email, Andy Schweigardt of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, of which the Graded Stakes Committee is a part, said that the Committee considers on a case-by-case basis “applications from racing associations seeking to retain the Graded status of a race proposed for relocation to a different venue, provided that the new venue is in the same region as the old racetrack and the name, conditions, calendar date and purse of the relocated event are substantially similar to previous years.”

Part of what the Committee would consider, Schweigardt said, is whether a race moved to a different venue would be capable of attracting a graded quality field.

Two other hearings on the agenda concern the re-opening of Colonial OTBs in Richmond and Hampton. Should Colonial not race in 2015, the Virginia HBPA would supplant Colonial Downs as the “industry stakeholder” on January 1 and could seek the opening of OTBs. In addition to seeking to reopen the OTBs, Colonial’s application also includes a request for a 25-mile protective zone where the VEA would not be allowed to open OTBs — essentially locking Colonial in as the only OTB owner in two of the state’s most populous locales.

The remaining hearing on the agenda concerns the failure by Churchill Downs L.P., doing business as its Twinspires account wagering platform, to pay moneys due the Virginia Equine Alliance as the “recognized industry stakeholder organization.” Under the law, four percent of account wagering goes to the industry stakeholder, in this case the VEA, but Twinspires has failed to make those payments beginning July 1, 2015. What now?

Many observers are skeptical that Colonial really intends to move towards live racing and suggest the company is merely positioning itself to impede any momentum of the “country racing” initiatives of the Virginia Equine Alliance.

As for the proposed cyber Monday card, Colonial’s racing secretary told The Racing Biz that as of the first weekend in November, he had not received communication from Colonial officials in over a month.

Colonial Downs may not be pulling up stakes, but they do seem to be running in the wrong direction, if not in circles.

VA: Colonial Downs Applies for 1 Day Race Meet
8/17/2015 9:44:53 AM  -  Pauick Report 

Posted: 08.14.2015


Colonial Downs in Virginia has filed an application with the state racing commission to conduct one day of all-turf racing – Dec. 3.

It’s a move that Frank Petramalo, the executive director of the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, called a “sham”.

According to a report in the Daily Racing Form, the application calls for eight turf races to be run on Dec. 3; average temperatures in that region at that time are usually in the mid-50s.

Petramalo told the DRF that the Virginia HBPA believes the application was filed with the racing commission in order to protect the track’s right to operate offtrack betting parlors in the state.

“In my opinion, this is simply an attempt to cut off the Virginia Equine Alliance’s right to operate Virginia offtrack betting parlors,” Petramalo said.

Colonial Downs has not held live racing since 2013. The track surrendered its license at the end of last year after the facility and the Virginia HBPA could not reach an agreement on 2014 racing dates.

As Va horsemen move ahead, Colonial throws a wrench in plans
8/3/2015 11:37:39 AM  -  The Racing Biz 

Posted: 7/30/15

A late game application for a single day of racing is serving as a legal placeholder for Colonial Downs and impedes forward motion to reopen off-track betting in Virginia. The application was made on the morning of a Virginia Racing Commission meeting on July 29th.

The Commission was already looking at an active meeting day when an early morning delivery arrived. Enclosed was Colonial Downs’s application for a single live racing day on cyber-Monday, November 29th.

By means of legislation that went into effect on July 1st, Colonial, as the “Significant Infrastructure Limited Licensee,” had until August 1st to make application for live racing days in order maintain its position to operate off-track betting. Colonial ceased operation of its off-track betting network in January of 2014 when a dispute with Virginia horsemen arose over the number of live racing days and forced the shutdown. Had the August 1 deadline passed without an application from Colonial, the nonprofit Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) could have sought to restart off-track betting in Virginia and had been in the initial stages of doing so.

“The application prevents the VEA from pursuing off-track betting, so it would stymie that initiative,” explained Bernie Hettel, the executive director of the VRC. “They covered that deadline by a couple days.”

The application reportedly is to hold six races on November 29, and one source indicated that the card may offer two stakes races. With the high cost of reinstalling Colonial’s dirt course, which has been sitting in a pile on the backstretch for the last two years, November racing would be held on the dormant Bermuda turf. If the races actually made it to the gate, the Colonial turf would likely be in a similar condition to the Dogwood Races that it hosted in the month of April. While details of Colonial’s application are being learned, the Virginia horsemen are seeking to preserve the graded stakes races that raced over at the New Kent track.

“We want to come back with a splash,” Frank Petramalo told the Commission. Petramalo, executive director of the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), said that horsemen aim to hold those four stakes — previously run as the Grade 3 All Along, Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup, Grade 3 Virginia Oaks, and Grade 2 Virginia Derby — out of state this fall at Laurel Park while they develop racing venues in northern Virginia, specifically Morven Park near Leesburg.

Earlier this month, Colonial notified Maryland racing officials not to allow the Virginia Derby to move forward, citing trademark and servicemark rights. Petramalo consulted with the law firm of Smith, Gambrell and Russell who opined that they saw no conflict. Still, Petramalo reported that the Maryland Jockey Club was hesitant after receiving notice of Colonial’s claim to the race. Sal Sinatra, general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, said this morning that his company’s lawyers remain in discussion with Colonial’s lawyers and that he hoped to have a resolution shortly.

Under the proposed plan, the $950,000 package of stakes races would be paid primarily by the Virginia purse account. Maryland’s horsemen would cover the cost of the All Along by using it to replace the $100,000 Lady Baltimore, which was contested under similar conditions. All of the handle, however, would remain in Maryland.

As proposed, the race formerly known as the Virginia Derby would be run at Laurel Park as the $400,000 Commonwealth Derby (G2) on September 19th. The $250,000 Commonwealth Turf Cup (G2), formerly run as the Colonial Turf Cup, would be run on the same day. The $150,000 All Along (G3), originally run in Maryland is slated a week earlier on September 12th.

The $150,000 Commonwealth Oaks (G3), formerly known as the Virginia Oaks would be scheduled for September 26th. Joining it on that day’s card would be five $60,000 stakes for Virginia-bred/sired horses: the Jamestown for two-year-olds; the Punch Line for three and up and the Oakley for fillies and mares three and up, both going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf; and the Bert Allen for three and up and Brookmeade for fillies and mares three and up, both going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. As is the case with the graded events, the Virginia-bred races would be paid for by Virginia’s horsemen, but the wagering revenue would remain in Maryland.

The likely 2016 venue for those races when they move to Virginia would be picturesque Morven Park, located adjacent to the town of Leesburg. A contract between the VEA and Morven is in the final stages. The Morven Park Board of Trustees approved terms of the deal at its July 13th meeting.

“The enthusiasm is about the infusion of capital improvements,” observed Hettel.

The VEA is backing $250,000 in re-engineering costs that include a new fencing, an inner rail, paddocks and the restoring the stand. Prior to Virginia horsemen reaching out, Morven Park was perhaps as little as thirty days out from demolishing its race course that hadn’t seen racing in over a decade as part of equestrian renovation project on the grounds.

Virginia horses to race in Maryland this year
7/27/2015 12:02:26 PM  -  Richmond Times-Dispatch 

Posted: Friday, July 24, 2015 9:30 pm

Virginia Thoroughbreds will race this fall in Maryland. Meanwhile, horsemen here are pressing forward on a plan to bring racing back to Virginia in its entirety as early as next year.

The venue for Thoroughbred racing next year won’t necessarily be at the Colonial Downs race track in New Kent County, which surrendered its license last fall.

It could be at Morven Park in Leesburg, if all goes according to plan, said Debbie Easter, executive director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and president of the Virginia Equine Alliance, on Friday.

“Hopefully we will have racing at Morven Park,” said Jeb Hannum, executive director of the Virginia Equine Alliance, which is made up of horse groups including the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “We are working out the details, but no contract with Morven Park has been signed.”

In the meantime, the Laurel Park race track in Maryland is this year’s primary site for Thoroughbred racing.

“We are definitely going to run the Virginia-bred and Virginia-sired stakes races in Maryland as we did last year,” Easter said.

“We hope to run our graded stakes there as well,” Easter said, referring to horses graded among the top echelons of horses.

If the graded horses don’t run this year for the second consecutive year of no racing, they will lose their rankings — “and it’s hard to get those grades,” Easter said.

Virginia doesn’t have any Thoroughbreds in the topone-graded category, but it has two- and three-graded horses that in previous years ran in the Virginia Derby and other higher-purse races at Colonial Downs.

“It can take 20 years to have a race get graded status,” Hannum said. Virginia has four graded-status races, and that is unique, he said.

Running the graded stakes races in Maryland will help ensure that Virginia can keep that status, whether racing resumes at Colonial Downs next year or at another site such as Morven Park, Hannum said.

Virginia-bred and -sired stakes races will run at the Laurel Park race track Sept. 26. If the graded stakes races are approved by Maryland’s horsemen’s group, they will take place there Sept. 12-13, Sept. 19-20 and Sept. 26-27, Easter said.

Colonial Downs, the only track that had an unlimited license to run a parimutuel race course in Virginia, shut down Nov. 1 after failing to come to an agreement with Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

The disagreement centered on the length of the racing schedule — the track wanted fewer race days, and the horsemen wanted more. The ongoing rift led to no Thoroughbred racing last summer at Colonial Downs for the first time in the track’s 17-year history.

Colonial Downs, which is owned by Colorado-based Jacobs Entertainment, closed all racing and wagering venues, including EZ Horseplay, the track’s advance deposit wagering system, April 7.

“We would still love to run in Colonial Downs,” Easter said. “But we need to go forward and bring racing operations in Virginia back to the horsemen.”

Colonial Downs had planned to apply for a limited license to run a high-end meet this fall. However, no one at the track or associated with the track could be reached Thursday or Friday for comment.

“There is some speculation that the track will apply for a license,” said Bernard J. Hettel, executive secretary of the Virginia Racing Commission, whose mission is to promote, sustain and grow a native horse racing industry in Virginia.

At its July 1 meeting, the commission approved the proposal to preserve the Virginia-bred and graded stakes races formerly run at Colonial Downs by moving them to the Maryland track. It recognized the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association as the majority horsemen’s group. Colonial Downs had attempted last year to create a new horsemen’s group.

The commission also approved the Virginia Equine Alliance as the industry stakeholder group, allowing the nonprofit to receive 4 percent of online wagering by residents of Virginia on out-of-state races. The money, previously allocated to Colonial Downs, will be used to help offset the cost of live racing. The panel is expected to approve the alliance’s budget at its July 29 meeting, allowing it to identify sites for racing ,with Morven Park among the primary sites being considered.

Great Meadow Park in The Plains is hosting for the first time an all-flat race Sept. 20 to compensate for the dearth of Thoroughbred racing in Virginia this year, in addition to its traditional Gold Cup steeplechase Oct. 24.

Standardbred harness racing will be at Oak Ridge in Nelson County — Oct. 10-11 and Oct. 17-18 — and possibly remain there in the future.

VA: Colonial Downs out of the races in 2015
5/29/2015 9:28:29 AM  -  Tidewater Review 

Posted: 5/28/15

Colonial Downs is out of the horse races this year, said Stan Guidroz, president of the New Kent race track.

"I can probably say with a high level of confidence that there won't be racing at the track this year. I think it's just too late, and the season is too organized for anything to happen," Guidroz said.

The decision comes after the Virginia Racing Commission on Thursday night denied approval of the track's choice for majority thoroughbred horsemen's group, the Old Dominion Thoroughbred Association.

Recognition as the majority horsemen's group is important because it will receive 5 percent of the profits made by three advanced deposit wagering companies operating in Virginia.

Colonial Downs created the association last fall after it failed to sign a racing schedule with Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which has about 1,300 members and been the majority horsemen's group for the last 17 years, said Stephanie Nixon, vice president of the association.

"(Legitimacy) is the problem I had with the Old Dominion Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association," said J. Sargeant Reynolds Jr., the racing commission chairman. He said the majority horsemen's group needs to have active members who have participated in Virginia racing.

The racing commission also denied approval to the Old Dominion Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association last fall, which led to track owner Jeff Jacobs turning in his racing license, and the Nov. 1 closure of Colonial Downs.

With Colonial Downs out of the conversation, the racing commission has begun discussing criteria for choosing official majority horsemen's groups to represent the thoroughbred and harness industries separately.

The commission will hold a hearing July 1 for any horsemen's groups that want to provide burdens of proof for their selection as majority horsemen's group. The commission has not officially decided on criteria for choosing the groups, but it will probably base its decision on number of horsemen in the group and their participation in Virginia racing events over the last three years, Reynolds said.

VA: Negotiations to Lease Colonial Downs Cease
4/13/2015 4:06:17 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 4/10/2015 4:11:08 PM Last Updated: 4/11/2015 2:42:50 PM

A Virginia group aiming to conduct race dates in the state in 2015 said negotiations with the owner of Colonial Downs, to lease that property for racing this year, have ceased.

The Virginia Equine Alliance said April 10 that efforts to lease Jeff Jacobs' Colonial Downs property to conduct racing ended after the track owner rejected two offers.

The VEA includes the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the Virginia Harness Horse Association, and the Virginia Gold Cup. It was formed in November following the decision by Colonial Downs to surrender its racing license and not conduct racing in 2015.

Virginia legislators have advanced bills that would provide funding for the VEA, recognizing it as the new racing license holder.

The VEA said it will look at other sites as options for racing in 2015, both Thoroughbred and Standardbred.

"The alliance is committed to working with all parties to bring Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing back to Virginia. We would like to see racing return in some form to Colonial Downs and are open to further discussions, but at this time, we simply do not know what Mr. Jacobs intends to do with the track," the VEA said in a statement. "It is therefore critically important to move forward and continue to develop alternative racing sites throughout the state for our Thoroughbred and Standardbred horsemen."

At a Virginia Racing Commission meeting this week, the Virginia HBPA said Colonial Downs had stopped paying into the purse fund from its former EZ Horseplay ADW site. Colonial Downs surrendered its license for that ADW this week, but horsemen contend Colonial owes the purse fund $413,000.

According to VRC staff, Colonial Downs said that since it no longer had an agreement with the Virginia HBPA, it did not have to pay into the purse fund. VRC executive secretary Bernie Hettel said he has reached out to the state attorney general's office for advice. The horsemen's group expects a hearing to be conducted on the issue.

"The other ADWs in the state—TwinSpires, XpressBet, and TVG—have continued to pay into the fund," said Virginia HBPA executive director Frank Petramalo, noting that those national ADWs acknowledge the Virginia HBPA as the recognized horsemen's group.

Colonial Downs has attempted to rally support for a new horsemen's group that would support its plans of a shorter meet with bigger purses.

The VEA said it has reached an agreement with Oak Ridge in Nelson County, Va., to conduct four days of harness racing there this fall. Harness horsemen are also in discussions to conduct four days of racing at the Woodstock County Fair.

The VEA said Oak Ridge could be a site for Thoroughbred turf racing in 2016, but the course will need re-seeding this year.

Colonial Downs withheld $420k in payments to horsemen''''s group
4/9/2015 10:21:49 AM  -  Richmond Times-Dispatch 

POsted: 4/8/2015

Colonial Downs and its online betting company withheld $419,351 in payments to the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association over the past five months, arguing that the Thoroughbred group should no longer get a cut of online gambling revenues because it no longer has a contract with the New Kent County racetrack.

The Virginia Racing Commission, which regulates the industry, went into closed session during its meeting Wednesday to discuss “probable litigation” related to the dispute between the track and horsemen’s group. The money represents 5 percent of the online gambling revenue collected by EZ Horseplay, which is a sister company of Colonial Downs, between Nov. 1 and March 31.

A lawsuit could pit Jacobs Entertainment, which owns Colonial Downs, against the horsemen’s group, which represents about 1,200 owners, trainers and breeders of Thoroughbred horses in Virginia.

Stan Guidroz, regional vice president of Jacobs Entertainment and interim president of Colonial Downs, said the company expects that the commission will order the company to pay the horsemen’s group, and that the dispute will wind up in court.

With that dispute showing no signs of ending, and with the commission currently unwilling to license another horsemen’s group to race at Colonial Downs, Guidroz said he does not expect any races will be held there during 2015. The track is laying off its remaining employees, though Guidroz said Wednesday that a few will be retained to secure and maintain the track.

“All negotiations with (the horsemen’s group) have ceased, and all of the lease discussions are done,” he said. “We are looking for a group with different goals and vision. We think we can co-exist with (the horsemen’s group) ... but they don’t want to work with Colonial Downs any further.”

Colonial Downs wants to run the Virginia Derby and a few other high-stakes races while focusing on its profitable betting facilities and online gambling operations.

Wayne Chatfield-Taylor, president of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and owner of Morgan’s Ford Farm in Front Royal, told the commission that Colonial Downs’ model will not work for the horse industry in Virginia.

“We need a lot of racing days. Colonial Downs wanted a six-day ship-in meet with no stabling and training,” Chatfield-Taylor said. “This is an interesting time to redefine racing. The monopoly system did not work.”

Virginia’s horse-racing laws required an unlimited license holder — Jacobs Entertainment, which owns Colonial Downs — to hand over 5 percent of gambling revenue to fund purses that are controlled by the “recognized majority horsemen’s group.” For the past 20 years, that’s been the horsemen’s group.

But when the racetrack and horsemen could not agree on the length of the 2014 racing season, the meet was canceled and Colonial Downs surrendered its unlimited license.

James L. Weinberg, the president of Hirschler Fleisher and Colonial Downs’ attorney, told the Virginia Racing Commission on Wednesday that when the track and horsemen failed to reach a contract last fall, the horsemen’s group lost its status and its access to gambling money, an assertion the horsemen’s group disputes.

Weinberg also said the racing commission lacks the authority to designate who the majority horsemen’s group is, though legislation that passed the General Assembly in February would give the commission that authority as of July 1.

That legislation, which was sponsored by state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, and Del. Edward T. Scott, R-Madison, was designed to restart Thoroughbred racing in Virginia after last year’s canceled season.

But when negotiations between the track and horsemen broke down again in recent weeks, Gov. Terry McAuliffe amended the bill at the request of Vogel, Scott and an alliance of horsemen’s groups. McAuliffe’s amendment says that if Colonial Downs does not seek a license by Aug. 1, a horsemen’s nonprofit group can reopen satellite betting parlors.

Vogel described the amendment as a backup plan that would “let the horsemen move on” and should ensure that the Thoroughbred industry can continue in Virginia at other tracks. Money from online betting pays for the industry’s various operating costs.

Clinton Miller, a member of the commission, said during Wednesday’s meeting that he learned about the proposed amendments from reading the Richmond Times-Dispatch, not from the racing commission’s staff or from the Virginia Equine Alliance, which is the group that wants to take over the betting parlors if Colonial Downs does not renew its license.

Bernard Hettle, executive secretary of the commission, said he had not seen a copy of the proposed amendment, which will be debated by the General Assembly on Wednesday.

The Virginia Equine Alliance is a collaboration of the horsemen’s group, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, the Virginia Harness Horse Association and the Virginia Gold Cup Association, which represents steeplechase racers.

Jeb Hannum, executive director of the alliance, said the group hopes to hold harness races at Oak Ridge in Nelson County in October, with turf racing beginning as soon as next year. The group is also seeking to expand harness racing in Woodstock and to expand the Virginia Gold Cup, a set of steeplechase races held in Northern Virginia in May and October.

The law that is before the General Assembly would give the Virginia Equine Alliance 4 percent of the funds from online gambling. Some of that money would go to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech and to the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington. The rest, Hannum said, would be devoted to developing new racing sites around the state.

Miller, a Republican who served in the House of Delegates for more than 20 years before becoming a commissioner at the State Corporation Commission, said the equine alliance and track should have worked out their differences before taking their “turf war” to the General Assembly this winter. He said he agreed with Colonial Downs that there needs to be more high-purse races with nationally known horses.

But he also said there needs to be a full schedule of smaller races to help Virginia breeders train and improve their horses.

“We have one of the best tracks in the nation sitting in New Kent County, and it’s a shame not to have it being utilized,” Miller said.

Colonial Downs to Immediately Close all Horse Racing Wagering Venues
4/7/2015 10:20:12 AM  -  Paulick Report 

Posted: 04.07.2015


Citing legislation currently working its way through the 2015 Virginia Legislative Session which will deny Colonial Downs approximately $2 million of operating funds annually, Colonial Downs announced today the immediate shutdown of all its remaining pari-mutuel venues. Senate Bill 1097 will reallocate funds previously used to offset Colonial Downs live racing expenses towards a newly-created Northern Virginia horsemen’s coalition. This legislation and the ongoing dispute between Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (VHBPA) have caused Colonial Downs to take the action of closing all racing and wagering venues including EZ-Horseplay.

“It looks to me like VHBPA, as well as members of the Virginia Racing Commission and state legislature have decided to make it a priority to give Virginia horses an opportunity to run against each other in Northern Virginia,” said Jeff Jacobs, CEO of Jacobs Entertainment, owner of Colonial Downs. “To a certain extent that makes sense. However, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the fact that Virginia’s thoroughbred horses cannot compete against most horses from other states. That is why they do not race often in other states, and when they do race it is often at the lowest available purse level. To me this explains why the VHBPA was so strongly opposed to our efforts to hold high-end races with nationally competitive horses at Colonial Downs. They can’t compete at that level. Unfortunately, Virginia’s regulatory and legislative pari-mutuel framework is about to become oriented to subsidizing these horses. That may quiet the voices of the VHBPA; however, it is poor public policy and does nothing to grow the native industry.”

Stan Guidroz, Regional Vice President of Jacobs Entertainment added, “We understand the political desire to accommodate the owners of race horses that reside in Virginia today, however, we don’t think that it should be at the expense of a world class turf course run by people who want to bring world class racing to Virginia for decades to come. We had been hopeful that the Virginia Racing Commission would approve our request to enter into a long-term contract with an alternative horsemen’s group, who unlike VHPBA, shares our goal of high-end racing. Unfortunately, the VRC has shown no willingness to grant such approval. The VHBPA and the Virginia Gold Cup have secured legislative support moving the focus of Virginia horse racing to Northern Virginia. That has come at the expense of our 20-year effort to grow thoroughbred racing in New Kent County. We laid off our remaining employees this week. Previously, we employed over 600 people, and generated millions of dollars each year for Virginia as well as for the industry statewide.”

Jeff Jacobs concluded, “20 years ago political and business leaders of Virginia asked the Jacobs family to make a significant investment in Virginia. We invested over $80 million in an industry that has gone through a significant transition over that time. At a time when many race tracks are closing throughout the country we continue to be committed to running high quality, nationally recognized races at Colonial Downs. We still aspire to return the Virginia Derby to a nationally televised event, creating a new major league sporting event in Virginia. All we need is a level regulatory and legislative playing field. Now that we and the VHBPA have gone our separate ways, there will potentially be two venues for thoroughbred racing in Virginia. I hope the VRC will not look at the industry in terms of winners and losers. There is a potential win-win scenario. We need approval of a contract between Colonial Downs and a group of horsemen who are aligned with our goal of bringing high-end racing to Virginia. We believe the VRC has the authority to allow us to enter into such a contract which would allow us to begin a conversation regarding hosting a 2015 Virginia Derby this fall.”

Information for EZ Horseplay customers

EZ Horseplay customers will need to close their accounts and have 2 choices to withdraw account balances:

1) Withdraw funds at one of the 75 sites around Virginia that has a kiosk before the end of April.

2) Contact the business office 1-877-374-7907 to have a check mailed for the balance of the account.

Is Thoroughbred racing in Virginia on track this year?
3/16/2015 12:11:18 PM  -  Richmond Times-Dispatch 

Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015 10:35 pm

Thoroughbred racing will return to Virginia this year after a one-year hiatus, horsemen say. But will it occur at Colonial Downs in New Kent County, the only track that until last year had the state’s only unlimited license to run races?

“That is up in the air,” said Frank Petramalo Jr., executive director of the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association, referring to Colonial Downs.

Racing will take place at other venues and hopefully at Colonial Downs, he said. Other possibilities are Montpelier in Orange County, Middleburg Training Center and Oak Ridge farm in Nelson County.

“There will be racing in Virginia,” Petramalo said. “We are not sitting on our duffs, waiting for Colonial Downs.”

The next race is the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase May 2 at Great Meadows in The Plains.

Colonial Downs, under new leadership but with the same out-of-state owner, approached the horsemen in late February about the possibility of leasing the racetrack, the satellite wagering facilities and EZ Horseplay, an online wagering account owned by Colonial Downs, Petramalo said.

A decision is expected by April 1, he said.

J. Sargeant “Sarge” Reynolds Jr., chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission, said Colonial Downs would like to lease the track and the off-track betting facilities to the horsemen’s group for a reasonable fee.

“I believe they are negotiating but have not reached a deal,” Reynolds said, adding that the commission is not part of the negotiations.

Jeffrey Jacobs, chairman of the company that owns the track, plans on having a short high-end meet this fall if he can work out the purse details, Reynolds said.

Ian Stewart, former president of Colonial Downs, is semiretired and serving as a senior adviser to Jacobs. He referred questions to Stan Guidroz, interim president of Colonial Downs and vice president of southern operations for Golden, Colo.-based Jacobs Entertainment Inc., owner of the track.

Guidroz could not be reached Thursday and Friday for comment.

Colonial Downs surrendered its operating license last fall and shut down the track after failing to reach a deal with the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association.

The two sides argued over the length of the racing schedule, and the ongoing rift led to no Thoroughbred racing last summer for the first time in the track’s 17-year history. The track wanted fewer race days than the horsemen.

“It’s a shame to keep that place closed if the horsemen think they can make a go of it,” said Bernie Hettel, executive secretary of the racing commission. “The horsemen need to run races. They need to have a cash flow.”

The horsemen formed Virginia Equine Alliance, a nonprofit group with the hopes of designating it to receive gambling money and promote racing in Virginia. The alliance is made up of Petramalo’s group, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and other horse groups.

The alliance does not need formal approval from the racing commission unless it wants a limited license to race, Reynolds said.

Compromise Possible for Racing in Virginia
3/9/2015 10:46:25 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 3/6/2015 11:57:04 AM Last Updated: 3/7/2015 8:28:17 PM

Winter weather didn't just force cancellations of race days this week, it also forced the Virginia Racing Commission to postpone its regular meeting that had been scheduled Thursday, March 5, when it had hoped the future of racing in the state would be shaped through a compromise between horsemen and Colonial Downs.

VRC executive director Bernie Hettel said he hopes to reschedule Thursday's postponed meeting for sometime later this month. He's hopeful that a dispute between Jeffrey Jacobs' Colonial and horsemen that saw the track cancel live racing last year and Colonial lose its racing license can be resolved at the meeting, or at least take a step in that direction.

The dispute has centered on race dates, with Colonial Downs preferring to run a short, high quality meeting with big purses and many stakes races. Local horsemen prefer more race days, which offer additional opportunities to race.

One discussed compromise would see Colonial Downs be reinstated for a racing license and conduct a short meeting, with top stakes races and purses. Under that compromise, horsemen would then lease the property from Colonial ownership and conduct additional race days.

The state's horsemen's group, the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, has joined forces with the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, Virginia Harness Horse Association, and the Virginia Gold Cup to form the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA). Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved legislation that could direct revenues from advance-deposit wagering away from Colonial Downs and to the VEA.

The VEA has said the move will pave the way for racing in the state and it said it will work with Colonial Downs to forge a plan.

"These legislative changes will help us determine the direction and future of Virginia racing, not Colonial Downs," the VEA said in a letter last month. "While Colonial Downs' plan for 2014 called for five to six days of high-end racing that would have had little economic benefit for Virginia, these legislative changes now create a new model for racing in the state."

Virginia Racing May Have a New Voice
12/3/2014 4:20:02 PM  -  Paulick Report 

Posted: 12.03.2014


The seemingly endless battle between Colonial Downs and the Virginia horsemen made flat racing in the commonwealth appear all but dead in mid-October as the track threatened to close. After months of failed negotiations with Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Colonial Downs owner Jeff Jacobs unexpectedly delivered a monologue of disappointment and handed in the facility’s licenses at a Virginia Racing Commission meeting.

Weeks later, Virginia horsemen showed they have no intention of giving up on racing in the state, announcing the formation of the Virginia Equine Alliance. The VEA marks a collaboration between the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, VHBPA, Virginia Harness Horsemen’s Association, and the Virginia Gold Cup in an effort to create a program that will benefit all the groups involved. This kind of teamwork between the three types of racing is somewhat unconventional, but its members believe it will be a game changer.

Contrary to many reports (including one of mine), the departure of flat racing at Colonial would not have left Virginia completely without pari-mutuel racing, as the two single-day Gold Cup steeplechase meets have had pari-mutuel wagering since 2013. “People would stand in line with a drink in their hand for 30 minutes just to place a wager,” said the Virginia Gold Cup’s Dr. Al Griffin, who said Gold Cup officials requested pari-mutuel wagering as a purse boost, not expecting it to become the revenue stream it has.

In contrast to many other race meets in the country, the Gold Cup has seen steadily growing attendance and handle numbers in the past few years. In fact, the spring edition was held before a sell-out crowd of 50,000, which Griffin noted is more than cumulative attendance for an entire season at Colonial Downs. The races are run at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va., one hour outside Washington D.C. and 20 minutes from the state’s Thoroughbred epicenter in Middleburg. The draw for the northern Virginia population is more the picnic-type social atmosphere and wide-brimmed hats than the horses, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t betting.

“Our handle is greater than any day they have at Colonial Downs,” said Griffin. “And our people don’t know how to bet.”

Griffin believes that in a political climate hostile to the concept of Instant Racing, much less slots, (several Instant Racing bills have died in the Virginia House of Delegates in recent years) the conventional model of racing for profit isn’t going to work. A nonprofit meet which has given over $2 million to local charities seems to satisfy politicians while giving horsemen a place to run.

“I was speaking before a subcommittee [in the Virginia legislature] and went through the spiel, telling how we give money back to the community,” recalled Griffin. “There was a Baptist minister behind me who was getting ready to speak against because he envisioned what we did as an expansion of gambling. After he heard what we did, he actually stood up and spoke in favor of our effort. The whole state legislature sat up and took notice.

“That gave us a clue that the nonprofit business model can curry favor where it counts—in the state legislature.”

All of this success made the Gold Cup’s strategy a logical one to emulate. The Virginia Equine Alliance’s proposal would include several short, European-style meets across the state. Preliminary plans would have combined steeplechase/flat meets of six or seven days at Great Meadow, Oak Ridge Estate in Arrington (45 minutes south of Charlottesville), and at the Middleburg Training Center. All three facilities have tracks in place—a seven dirt furlong track is already in working order at the training center and the other two venues have gently undulating turf courses similar to Kentucky Downs.

As a test run, this year’s Gold Cup offered a handful of Virginia-bred flat races, which had to be split because they drew so many entries. The concept going forward would be to offer Virginia-bred restricted or preferred events and possibly to create a restriction for horses based in Virginia, regardless of foaling location.

“We had a lot of people on the VTA and HBPA that were loathe to consider steeplechase meets and flat racing in the same breath,” said Griffin. Seeing the plan in action has changed everything for them, he reported, and the Alliance already has the unexpected support of a few legislators, too.

Alliance officials say the new plan would require a few statutory changes—right now, Colonial Downs has the only unlimited license in Virginia for flat racing. There are exceptions in place to allow for pari-mutuel wagering at Oak Ridge and Great Meadow, holdovers from previous events there.

VHBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo reported this week that horsemen would still be open to running a meet at Colonial, but that the negotiation process ended when the track turned in its license in October.

“If they want to talk, we’re always open to discussion,” he said.

Virginia horsemen are also open to running a few restricted races in neighboring Maryland and West Virginia. Laurel Park offered five Virginia-bred races in September, none of which had less than eight entrants.

What would the Alliance’s plan mean for the state’s struggling breeding industry?

It can’t hurt, Petramalo said. Virginia’s breeding industry has been in decline over the past decade, and the dates war between horsemen and Colonial officials has been coming to a boil for several years. The renewed optimism the Alliance hopes to bring to the dates landscape might provide confidence, though it’s not going to solve the problem completely.

“Our state incentive program is fairly limited because we don’t have the dollars that our neighboring states that have purses fueled by slot machines have,” said Petramalo. “We’re lucky if we have $1.5 million a year in our breeders’ fund, whereas Pennsylvania has probably $14 million or $15 million.”

Virginia saw just 52 mares and 16 stallions bred in 2013, a startling decline from 2003, when there were 465 mares and 78 stallions operational in the state. According to the Jockey Club’s state fact book for Virginia, just 187 Virginia-breds were running in 2012 and most of them fled to states with slots-fueled purses (New York, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania). Petramalo doesn’t anticipate that scattering to deter trainers from shipping down for a reasonable purse, even if the meet is a short one.

“Bottom line is, if you put up money, they’ll show up,” he said.

The Alliance is betting on it.

Colonial Withdraws Request for 2015 Dates
10/16/2014 10:57:14 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 10/15/2014 1:56:30 PM Last Updated: 10/16/2014 8:16:38 AM

The owner of Colonial Downs said Oct. 15 the racetrack has withdrawn its request for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing for 2015, as well as a request to have a new horsemen's group recognized to sign off on contracts at the Virginia facility.

In a letter, Jeffrey Jacobs said he has learned through private conversations there is not support from the Virginia Racing Commission to approve Colonial's contract with the Old Dominion Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. The track has been unable to reach an agreement on a racing schedule with the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

"Rather than putting our industry through a painful public meeting which will benefit no one, and will just serve to polarize all the Virginia stakeholders, I am now withdrawing Colonial Downs' Thoroughbred and Standardbred race day requests and the request for approval of the Old Dominion horsemen's contract," Jacobs said. "I am also at this time turning in Colonial Downs' unlimited pari-mutuel owners and operators licenses to be effective Nov. 1 so as to be able to complete the current harness meet in an orderly fashion."

Because it has no contract with the Virginia HBPA, Colonial Downs didn't have a Thoroughbred meet this year and has been unable to offer Thoroughbred simulcasts at its group of off-track parlors.

"I am sorry that we have come to this day," Jacobs said. "Virginia horse racing must change, and the change must be dramatic, with all the disruption that dramatic change brings. Colonial Downs, however, cannot effect the change alone and it cannot afford to continue to operate in an environment that offers no possibility for improvement.

"Candidly, the horsemen do not have enough purse money to pay their bills, race a healthy summer meet, and grow a high-end, nationally recognized boutique meet. The pari-mutuel wagering system in Virginia does not generate enough purse money to the horsemen to satisfy the objectives of maintaining summer racing and building a high-end, nationally recognized Thoroughbred racing brand."

Jacobs in his letter referenced "statewide elected officials" and said if they "could come up with a way for the horsemen to increase annual purse money from the current $6 million a year to $15 million or $20 million a year, all of the industry objectives could be met." He also said Colonial Downs would work with others "who share our vision."

Frank Petramalo Jr., executive director of the 1,300-member VHBPA, called Jacobs' new horsemen's association a ''sham group.'' He said the dispute is about control rather than economics.

Important Virginia Racing Commission Meeting, October 15th
10/10/2014 9:31:02 AM  -  Virginia TB Assoc. 

Posted: October 9, 2014

Dear Virginia Horsemen,

Last night approximately 80 horsemen turned out for a meeting at Great Meadow to discuss the current status of racing in Virginia. As you are aware, Colonial Downs has threatened to turn in their racing license if the Virginia Racing Commission does not approve Colonial's in house horsemen's group, the Old Dominion Horsemen's Association, at the October 15th meeting. The VHBPA's Frank Petramalo updated everyone on the status of the contract negotiations with Colonial Downs and announced the formation of a new Virginia Horseman's Alliance, between the VHBPA, the Virginia Gold Cup and the VTA. As explained by Virginia Gold Cup director Al Griffin, the goal of the Alliance, which includes all horsemen, is to grow Virginia's Thoroughbred industry. In his presentation, Dr. Griffin laid out the Alliance's vision for the future which he will present again at the upcoming Commission meeting.

Next Wednesday's Virginia Racing Commission meeting is to be hosted by Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Todd Haymore. This meeting will take place at 10 a.m., in the West Reading Room of the Patrick Henry Building, 1111 East Broad Street, Richmond.

Please try and attend this important meeting as the Commission has been asked to make a decision about which organization, the VHPBA or Colonial's ODTHA, will represent Virginia Horsemen. Remember to bring a valid photo ID, in order to gain access to the Patrick Henry Building.


Debbie Easter

Executive Director, VTA

VA Horsemens Meeting Scheduled for Oct 8th
10/2/2014 9:32:27 AM  -  VA Thoroughbred Association 

Posted: 10/1/2014

Dear Virginia Horsemen:As you no doubt know, the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs have been involved in a contract dispute for the last nine months for the following basic reason. Instead of our usual 8 week June/July summer meet the track wants to shrink live racing to a handful of ship-in only weekend race days, including three high end races (the Virginia Derby, the Turf Cup, and a new big race) that would use half of the horsemen’s purse account. Little would be left for overnite race purses, which are the heart and soul of Virginia racing.The VHBPA would not accept that radical reduction of racing, but did propose various compromises during contract negotiations with the track. However, Colonial rejected our proposals, including the last one we made on September 25, 2014 (click for proposal). The Virginia Racing Commission also suggested many compromises during the past nine months, all of which the VHBPA accepted and Colonial rejected. The track even rejected mediation of the dispute offered by state Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore, who has oversight responsibility for the VRC.

Colonial’s current ploy is to push aside the VHBPA, which has represented horsemen ever since the track opened 17 years ago, and contract instead with a sham horsemen’s group set up by the track. It is called the Old Dominion Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ODTHA) and it was incorporated by Colonial’s lawyers. Its President is Tim Valente, a person no one seems to know. To the best of our knowledge he is not a Virginia horseman and has never been licensed as an owner or trainer by the VRC. We are also unaware of any horseman who is a member of this new organization.

Colonial has asked the VRC to approve the track’s purported 10 year contract with ODTHA at the Commission’s October 15, 2014 meeting in Richmond. As horsemen we think it important that you be fully informed about what is going on and where we may be headed. For that reason the VHBPA has scheduled an information meeting on October 8, 2014 starting 6:30 p.m. at the Summer House on the grounds at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA. Refreshments will be served. Please try to attend.


Frank Petramalo

Executive Director, VHBPA

Virginia-breds at Laurel could point to cooperative future
9/17/2014 10:42:59 AM  -  The Racing Biz 

Posted: 9/15/2014

They came, they saw, and they took $360,000 home with them.

That Laurel Park on Saturday hosted five stakes for horses bred or sired in Virginia (one of them, the Jamestown, for juveniles, run in two divisions) was something of an accident, occasioned by the inability of Colonial Downs and Virginia’s horsemen to hammer out an agreement for live racing this year.

But there was an unmistakable sense in the air that the interstate cooperation that led to the day’s racing could be — and perhaps should be — a template for the future of mid-Atlantic racing.

“We’re going to see a lot more of this, in my opinion,” said Maryland Racing Commission member John McDaniel, who participated in the discussions that brought the races to central Maryland. “It will be good for racing, it will be good for the fans.”

Frank Petramalo, executive director of the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, agreed. His group put up most the purse money for the event.

“It’s obvious that what we need is coordinated racing,” Petramalo pointed out. “There aren’t enough horses, there aren’t enough fans, there aren’t enough wagering dollars, to continue running all these days at all these mid-Atlantic tracks.”

And holding the races in central Maryland — significantly closer to most of the region’s horse population — helped make for better and more bettable races.

Certainly, field size told part of the tale. This year’s event attracted 57 starters; last year’s, just 41.

“These are the biggest fields that we’ve ever had for these five Virginia-bred stakes,” said Petramalo. “As a matter of fact, we got so many for the two-year-old Jamestown that they split it.”

“The racing office, they killed it as far as hustling horses,” said Virginia Thoroughbred Association head Debbie Easter. Her organization also contributed to the purses. “We got some quality horses that, unfortunately wouldn’t normally ship down to Colonial Downs that are in the area around here and will ship in here,” she added.

In the Bert Allen, for three-year-olds and up going a route of ground on the turf, the eight horses had made their last start prior to Saturday at six different racetracks, among them Saratoga and Arlington Park. And two of the day’s higher profile horses – hard-hitting multiple stakes winner Embarr, who won the Brookmeade, and graded winner Hard Enough, who ran second in the Bert Allen — both chose other spots last year.

Wagering on the six races wasn’t particularly strong by Laurel standards; they averaged $45,311 in the win-place-show pools, according to the Equibase charts. Still, that was nearly triple the $16,940 they averaged a year ago at Colonial. In the short term, that won’t matter much to Virginians, since all of the takeout stays in Maryland, but it does suggest long-term options.

Long-time Virginia breeder William Backer, who won the second divsion of the Jamestown with his homebred Moon River and bred Rose Brier, the winner of the Bert Allen Stakes, agreed that the future portends more regional cooperation. “John McDaniel and I have been pushing a circuit, the Delmarva, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, for years,” he said. “The customers want it, the bettors want it. And the breeders here want it.”

One reason they want it is the distinct feeling that the state racing industry’s relationship with Colonial Downs and owner Jeff Jacobs is frayed beyond repair.

“Our board… is of the unanimous view that you have to get rid of Jeff Jacobs,” Petramalo said. “Colonial Downs ought to go away.”

Added Larry Johnson, a Maryland native (and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association board member) who now lives in Virginia and won the Oakley Stakes with his homebred, Heaven Knows What, “They know how to put on a racing program here [at Laurel], they know how to do things. I’m not convinced that’s true if you go south of here.”

The region’s compact size makes it ideal for some kind of interstate cooperation, too. Within a few hours’ drive of Laurel Park are at least eight other mid-Atlantic racetracks, to say nothing of the New York tracks.

That led McDaniel to muse on what a regional circuit could do. “It’s really very similar to what they do in Europe,” he said. “They move the horsemen and the horses around to different venues. It’s fresh every few weeks.”

Ultimately, though, the strongest argument for greater regional cooperation is that the future may demand it. If, as seems likely, the future holds fewer tracks operating fewer days (the number of races run in the country has dropped from nearly 80,000 in 1990 to fewer than 47,000 last year), only the strong will survive.

“Each state is too small to make a real splash,” pointed out Backer. “Together, if you just think of it as a region, you could do so much. You could compete with New York. If you don’t think you can compete with New York, you go home and go to bed. You’ve got to be able to think that you could be the best, and this circuit could do it.”

Virginians Take Over Laurel Park Sept. 13
9/12/2014 11:16:29 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/11/2014 9:27:59 AM Last Updated: 9/12/2014 11:01:31 AM

The cooperative spirit between racing and breeding programs in the Mid-Atlantic region will be on full display Sept. 13 when Laurel Park in Maryland offers five stakes for horses bred and/or sired in Virginia.

The special card for Virginia-breds came about after the 2014 live race meet at Colonial Downs, the only Thoroughbred track in the state, was canceled. Each of the stakes for Virginia-bred and/or sired racehorses are scheduled for turf and carry a purse of $60,000 provided by the Virginia Thoroughbred Association.

Topping the field for the Brookmeade Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile grass test for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, is Embarr, who won the race in 2011 and 2012 at Colonial Downs. Bred, owned, and trained by Susan Cooney, the 6-year-old daughter of Royal Academy carries top weight of 124 pounds as she seeks her first win since taking the Dahlia Stakes at Pimlico Race Course April 5.

With a career line of 28-8-1-0 and earnings of $321,959, Embarr is coming off a game fifth, only a length behind winner I'm Already Sexy, in the Modesty Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Arlington International Racecourse.

The Brookmeade also drew Big Lick Farm's Leda's Swan, who had a troubled trip before finishing second, a head behind Lady Olivia, in the 2013 edition of the Brookmeade.

The Oakley Stakes, also for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up at 5 1/2 furlongs, is headed by Wardelle, the 2013 winner of the Pink Ribbon Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. Now trained by Scott Lake for Home Team Stables, the 8-year-old Toccet mare has won or placed in 29 of 62 starts and has bankrolled $393,631.

Back to defend his title in the Punch Line Stakes, also at 5 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up, is John W. Tucker's Boltin' Out. Since taking the 2013 Punch Line at 7-10 odds, the 6-year-old Outflanker gelding trained by Carlos Garcia has one win in nine starts, that coming in allowance/optional claiming company at Delaware Park last out Aug. 21.

Colonial Downs appeals VRC order for 2015 season
8/7/2014 9:54:32 AM  -  Tidewater Review 

9:48 a.m. EDT, August 5, 2014

NEW KENT – The dispute over thoroughbred racing is officially off to court.

Colonial Downs is insisting that the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) overstepped its powers in June when it ordered the racetrack sign a 2015 thoroughbred season contract with conditions.

The track formally filed an appeal in Richmond Circuit Court last week.

According to Michael Kelly, representative for the attorney general's office, the VRC's initial response will be due on Aug. 15.

The VRC ordered Colonial Downs in June to enter into an eight-week and 24-day 2015 thoroughbred racing season contract with the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (VHBPA) by July 1. By doing so, the four Off-Track Betting (OTB) facilities that were closed in January after the two parties refused to sign a 2014 thoroughbred season contract would be reopened.

As part of the proposed agreement, the VRC agreed to recant its request for a 2014 thoroughbred season, meaning that the season would be canceled. "They have right and power to order us to enter into a contract but not with special terms," said Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart in a phone interview last month. "They exceeded their statutory authority."

VHBPA Executive Secretary Frank Petramalo said that his organization is unaffected by the appeal and is anxiously awaiting the result.

The horsemen's association is a nonprofit organization made up of 1,300 thoroughbred owners and trainers who race at Colonial Downs and award purses, or set amounts of prize money, to the winners.

The VHBPA and Colonial Downs have been at odds for six months over the 2014 thoroughbred season schedule. As a result, four of the eight OTB facilities were shut down after arguments over the length of the thoroughbred season led to the contract's expiration in January. The remaining four OTB facilities also cannot take bets on any Virginia thoroughbred racing, since a contract has not been signed between Colonial Downs and the VHBPA.

Virginia dates dispute heads to court
7/3/2014 10:15:27 AM  - 

Posted: Jul 1, 2014

Over the weekend, multiple sources suggested that the dispute over racing days in Virginia would head to court this week.

They were right.

The Roanoke Times reports (here) that the track said Monday it will take its case to the Richmond Circuit Court rather than acquiesce to a Virginia Racing Commission directive that it sign a contract with the horsemen by July 1.

The Commission last week had issued an either-or order: either the sides sign a contract by July 1 clearing the way for off-track wagering facilities to reopen immediately and providing for an eight-week meet, with 24 days of live racing, in 2015 with no live racing in 2014; or abide by the Commission’s earlier order to run 25 days of live racing over five weeks in 2014.

Frank Petramalo, executive director of the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (VHBPA), which represents the state’s horsemen, has said that his group would support either alternative.

Colonial Downs, however, wants what it calls “high quality racing,” which it defines as a very short meet with very high purses. The company has proposed multiple options during the dates impasse, which has dragged on now since December. Those options generally shared a couple of essential features: a very short period of high-end racing centered around the Virginia Derby and a smattering of additional days spread out over several months, with no stabling or training at the track.

“The court will evaluate whether the racing commission acted properly,” Colonial’s president and chief financial officer Ian Stewart told the paper.

That said, it is unclear at this time the viability of the case. Virginia’s enabling legislation grants the state Racing Commission broad authority to regulate the sport and specifically provides it discretion to determine how many days of live racing should be conducted. According to the law, the Commission “shall require the holder of an unlimited license [which Colonial has] to schedule not less than 150 live racing days” except that it can alter that number based on “what the Commission deems to be in the best interest of the Virginia horse industry.”

Under Plan, No 2014 Racing at Colonial Downs
6/24/2014 9:55:34 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/23/2014 4:59:35 PM Last Updated: 6/24/2014 8:25:49 AM

Live Thoroughbred racing appears to be dead for 2014 at Colonial Downs, where the Virginia Racing Commission, horsemen, and track owner Jeffrey Jacobs have turned their attention to an agreement for next year.

In a June 23 meeting, the Virginia Racing Commission asked that horsemen and Colonial Downs come to an agreement on an eight-week schedule for 2015 in a deal that would see no live Thoroughbred racing this year at the New Kent, Va. track.

Under the plan, the VRC would not require the track to offer the 25 dates it had been assigned for this year. With an agreement with horsemen in place for 2015, Colonial Downs would be allowed to reopen its off-track betting facilities to begin to build a purse fund for next year. The OTBs have been closed since February when the track could not reach an agreement with the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association on 2014 race dates.

VRC executive secretary Bernie Hettel said it looks like there will be no Thoroughbred racing at Colonial Downs in 2014, ending a stretch of 17 straight years Colonial has offered live racing.

"Quite frankly, we're so late in the year that even if we could open, we'd have to close by the last weekend of August when Timonium opens back up in Maryland," Hettel said, noting the state has had a good relationship with Maryland racing and doesn't overlap dates. "With all due diligence, if we can get this deal done, we won't race in '14."

Under the plan, the VRC rescinds its requirement to race this year if an agreement to run at least three days a week over eight weeks in 2015. Hettel characterized the June 23 meeting at the track as productive.

"The commission at its conclusion established a resolution for Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA to have a signed contract that would effectuate both 2014 and 2015," Hettel said. "There would be no live Thoroughbred racing in 2014, however the OTBs could open back up for Thoroughbred racing. And secondarily for '15, there'd be eight weeks of continuous racing dates.

"We'll try to grow the product from there."

Virginia HBPA executive director Frank Petramalo Jr. said canceling live racing in 2014 at Colonial Downs is a sad day for Thoroughbred owners and breeders as well as racing fans.

"In terms of my organization, we're not happy with the prospect of no racing this summer," Petramalo said. "But we recognize that here we are looking at July 1st and it would be very problematic to put together five weeks ... We'll take 24 dates over eight weeks next year with no racing this year."

By reaching a contract agreement by July 1, the OTBs would reopen for wagering on Thoroughbred racing. The anticipated opening date for Colonial in 2015 would be shortly after Pimlico Race Course concludes its spring meeting.

Petramalo noted the lack of racing is a shame for fans who turn out each year at Colonial, a crowd he noted skews younger than many racetrack crowds.

Hettel did not see the VRC sanctioning the track or horsemen if an agreement was not reached by July 1 although the VRC could demand that the 25 dates it approved for 2014 be contested. Hettel acknowledged it would be a challenge to pull off a 25-day meeting this late in the year.

"We would really have to get busy to get that done to not have a conflict with Maryland," Hettel said.

The disagreement centered on Colonial's wishes to run fewer dates with bigger purses while horsemen wanted purse money spread out over a longer schedule.

Virginia Racing Commission to meet on June 23rd
6/17/2014 10:58:22 AM  -  The Racing Biz 

Posted: Jun 16, 2014

NOTE: This meeting has been rescheduled for Monday, June 23.

The Virginia Racing Commission will hold a special meeting on Thursday, June 19 at 10:00 a.m. It will take place in the Horsemen’s Building at Colonial Downs.

Presumably on the agenda: trying to resolve the impasse over the shape of the 2014 season that has dragged on since December and verges on spiking the Virginia flat racing season altogether.

“Multiple proposals and combinations of proposals are being contemplated,” Racing Commission executive director Bernie Hettel told Nick Hahn of The Racing Biz. “It’s the accumulation of a fight that’s been brewing for 4-6 years.”

The Commission has spoken — in groups and individually — to the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Colonial Downs, and state Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones. The proposals under consideration would allow for a live meet at Colonial and the reopening of the state’s off-track wagering facilities this year — but whether the sides can reach an accord after a dispute that has been something of a roller-coaster ride for both sides remains unclear.

“There have been times where we thought were close,” Hettel said. “Thursday morning we’ll know where we are.”

Deal for Colonial dates coming down to the wire
6/13/2014 10:33:06 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 06/12/2014 4:18 PM

The Virginia Racing Commission and state government officials are engaged in a last-ditch effort to save the race meet at Colonial Downs this summer as the window to reach an agreement between the track and horsemen rapidly closes.

The racing commission’s executive director, Bernie Hettel; the commission’s chairman, J. Sargeant Reynolds; and Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Maurice Jones, are scheduled to hold a conference call on Friday morning to discuss the options left to the state in the wake of a stubborn dispute between the track and Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association over a live racing agreement, Hettel said Thursday.

“It’s going to take sacrifice on both sides,” Hettel said.

Under the track’s typical race dates in previous years, Colonial would have opened last weekend. However, the dispute between the track and horsemen has prevented the track from opening, and now the racing commission is attempting to come up with a schedule that would satisfy both sides, perhaps by running only on weekends and only on the turf, Hettel said.

Colonial typically draws most of its horses from Maryland, which is on its usual summer hiatus. Laurel Park in Maryland opens on Sept. 5, while at Colonial, the track’s harness meet is scheduled to start on Sept. 17, meaning any Thoroughbred dates would likely need to be held prior to Labor Day.

Colonial and the Virginia HBPA have been without a live-racing agreement since early this year. Negotiations have bogged down on the number of race dates and Colonial’s demand that horsemen compensate the track for losses at its off-track betting locations, which have been unable to offer Thoroughbred simulcasts since February.

The track had initially pushed for a six-day race meet, with horsemen in support of a 32-day race meet. In May, the commission approved a 25-day meet at the track, even though the track did not indicate it supported those dates.

Hettel said the commission and state government have not yet given up hope that an agreement can be reached, but he said the deadline for bringing the track and horsemen together is “fast approaching.”

VA: Colonial Downs reconsiders handing over license
6/2/2014 11:03:21 AM  -  The Virginian-Pilot 

Posted: May 31, 2014

One day after Colonial Downs notified the state's Racing Commission it intended to surrender its license, the commission said the track is reconsidering and has resumed talks with horsemen.

The threat triggered intervention from the state's secretary of commerce and trade, who summoned all sides to a meeting Friday afternoon in Richmond to try to save the commonwealth's only horse track.

After the meeting, only one participant could be reached for comment: J. Sargeant Reynolds Jr., the Racing Commission's president. In an email, Reynolds said that "very good progress" was made during the three-hour meeting and that he's "hopeful that a deal will be reached early next week."

Before the meeting, Colonial Downs was saying it would relinquish its license in 45 days - the latest move in a dragged-out dispute between the track and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

The bad blood has been brewing for months over the amount of live racing the track is willing to offer. The Racing Commission has been hoping for a compromise, reluctant to wield its authority to yank the track's license if it doesn't come to an agreement with horsemen.

"No one wants to see the track go dark," Reynolds said previously.

The commission lost its hammer this week when track owner Jeffrey Jacobs gave notice that after almost two decades of operating Colonial Downs, he's willing to walk away.

Jacobs, a Colorado-based businessman and casino owner, says he's been losing money on the track for years, and he has threatened to close or sell it before.

Without a license, though, he'd have difficulty finding a buyer to pay full price. The track is valued at around $60 million.

The horsemen characterized Jacobs' notice of surrendering his license as a bluff aimed at driving them back to the negotiating table.

They say he's angry that the dispute has cut off cash flow from Colonial Downs' lucrative off-track betting parlors. State law requires the track to have a contract with Virginia horsemen before it can accept satellite wagers on thoroughbred races held elsewhere.

Virginia Racing Commission meeting canceled
5/30/2014 9:58:07 AM  - 

Posted: May 29, 2014

For the second time in recent days, the Virginia Racing Commission has canceled its scheduled meeting, leaving the state’s dispute over 2014 racing dates in limbo. The Commission meeting, slated for Friday morning, will not take place. However, according to a message obtained by The Racing Biz, Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones will convene a smaller meeting at his office tomorrow morning. That gathering will include representatives from the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Colonial Downs, and the Virginia Racing Commission. The Racing Commission is an agency of the Department of Commerce.

The first two of those groups — the state’s horsemen and Colonial Downs — have been locked in an increasingly bitter and thus far unresolved struggle over the length — in live racing days and weeks — of the 2014 Thoroughbred meeting (here).

In perhaps the oddest plot twist in what has already been a long, strange battle, multiple sources with detailed knowledge told The Racing Biz that Secretary Jones’s intervention was prompted by the possibility that Colonial Downs would announce its intention to relinquish within 45 days its so-called “unlimited” license at tomorrow’s Racing Commission meeting.

Calls to the Commission and to Colonial Downs were not immediately returned.

That unlimited license allows Colonial Downs to operate a race meet, with pari-mutuel wagering, of longer than 14 days and to maintain a network of off-track wagering facilities. Colonial has the state’s sole unlimited license. It currently operates eight off-track wagering facilities, though 10 are permitted under state law; because the ongoing dispute prohibits Colonial’s facilities from accepting wagers on Thoroughbred races, four of the OTBs are currently shuttered.

Colonial Downs typically has run between 30 and 45 days of live racing each year. In 2013, the track conducted 25 days of live racing over a five-week period, a meet that the horsemen viewed as a one-time concession but which Colonial saw as the beginning of a needed change. In addition to the length of the meet, the sides have been unable to agree on whether, and to what extent, Colonial should be held harmless for losses it has incurred as a result of the shutdown in Thoroughbred wagering.

Colonial Downs 2014 Meeting in Jeopardy
5/23/2014 12:24:13 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 5/23/2014 10:01:11 AM Last Updated: 5/23/2014 10:53:03 AM

Racing at Colonial Downs this year appears to be unlikely as horsemen in the state and the track have failed to reach an agreement on the schedule.

On Friday, May 23, Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association executive director Frank Petramalo Jr. said the two sides had made no progress in meetings on May 22.

"I'd say we're a two on a scale of one to 100 on reaching an agreement," Petramalo said.

The Virginia Racing Commission, which has pushed back the deadline for an agreement several times, canceled Thursday's scheduled special meeting in which the regulator had hoped to announce a 2014 race schedule. The VRC has approved a 25 race dates for 2014 but the track and horsemen have failed to reach an agreement.

A high hurdle has been that the track wants compensation for revenues from handle it lost when, because an agreement wasn't reached with horsemen, it could no longer take in Thoroughbred simulcast signals and was forced to shut down off-track outlets. The track said it suffered a $1.5 million hit because of the closings.

Petramalo has disputed the amount of losses reported by the track and noted that horsemen also lost money because of the closures.

The initial dispute was over the nature of the meeting. The track favors fewer race days with higher daily purses while the Virginia HBPA has called for the purse money to be spread out over more race dates.

Colonial Downs offers funding for new horsemen’s group
5/16/2014 10:44:25 AM  -  The Racing Biz 

Posted: 5/15/14

For the second time in a little over a month, Colonial Downs has ended discussions with the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) via press release, the latest distributed on May 13, less than a week before an upcoming May 19 Virginia Racing Commission meeting. That meeting was called in an effort to end the now-six month impasse over racing days for 2014.

What’s more, the track reiterated its call for a new horsemen’s group to supplant the VHBPA — and it sweetened the pot by offering to “make a $2 million interest-free loan to a new, to-be-formed horsemen group.”

“It’s highly unprofessional, especially when you have a 17 year history of bargaining across the table,” claimed Virginia HBPA executive director Frank Petramalo of Colonial’s decision and offer.

The release followed a Monday morning sit-down of Colonial Downs and the VHPBA representatives that included Colonial owner and CEO Jeffrey Jacobs over speakerphone. The brief meeting was held in response to a proposal drafted by the VHPBA late last week and circulated among the meeting’s participants.

“Neither one said that they had a deal,” commented Virginia Racing Commission Executive Director Bernie Hettel after the meeting but prior to the release. “The Commission will develop a strategy to take action. We’re in the racing business, we need to race. The Commission is expecting a favorable response.”

At this point, how it will get one remains unclear.

Colonial entered the meeting looking to be reimbursed for $1.5 million it claims it has lost as a result of the impasse. With no contract in place, the state’s horsemen have prevented the track and its off-track wagering network from accepting bets on Thoroughbred races — during the most lucrative time of the year.

Horsemen had proposed a 25-day, five-week meet, coupled with $120,000 in reimbursement of what Colonial Downs officials deemed as speculative money. The VHBPA was willing to pay $70,000 in shuttle costs to try to attract horses from Maryland, which has been dark in past summers during Colonial meets. The horsemen were also willing to waive Colonial’s annual $50,000 contribution to capital improvements on the backstretch.

Sources said that Colonial was willing to forgive all but $500,000 of its lost revenue during the Thoroughbred signal shutdown if a new and stretched schedule was run — a schedule that would largely shutter the track’s backstretch.

According to Colonial’s estimates, the horsemen themselves have lost about $670,000 in funds that would have gone to the purse account as a result of the shutdown.

At a meeting earlier this month, the Virginia Racing Commission reaffirmed its December 2013 order for a 2014 season that mirrored the 2013 summer meet. Though that order made neither side happy, at the time Colonial was willing to accept it; the VHBPA balked.

Now the sides have traded places.

In this week’s release, Colonial Downs points to the VHPBA as the cause of the dispute after the horsemen “boycotted the Racing Commission award and eventually brought about the cessation of all wagering on thoroughbred racing in Virginia’s off-track wagering facilities.”

“We can’t force people to agree. That’s the whole problem,” commented Colonial’s president Ian Stewart about the ordeal that has ended the summer Colonial meet, at least as fans and horseplayers know it.

As far as the horsemen are concerned, it’s time to “run or revoke” — revoke, that is, Colonial’s license to operate OTBs and the racetrack. The VHBPA is calling for the Commission to enforce its order, which, were it to do so, would likely lead to a lengthy legal battle.

One Colonial proposal would have scheduled 19 days of live racing stretched over four months, with mostly weekend racing in June, July, September, and October. The idea was believed to generate some interest with the horsemen but never matured past the $500,000 Colonial Downs demand in lost revenue.

Colonial’s latest proposal, outlined in the press release, includes 25 days of live racing, beginning July 3 and ending November 2. That schedule would include just two days of live racing in August.

“I think there are benefits to the horsemen,” said Stewart in an interview. “There are more opportunities to race where the dates are spread out over a several month period. It’s something the horsemen have emphasized as a concern about the five week meet, that is, that there aren’t enough opportunities to start.”

In the release, Jacobs claims that “a high end meet is the future of Virginia thoroughbred racing if it is to thrive.” His suggestion is that a “high end meet” would be a very short meet with very high purses.

But Petramalo counters that Colonial is less interested in a quality meet and more interested in cutting costs by running a ship-in meet, rather than enduring the expenses of allowing stabling on the grounds. What’s more, he said, seeing the press release was the first time he’d seen this specific proposal.

Stewart acknowledges that the modified schedule would have “a lot of things we would have to develop over time.”

“The new model looks different from the old model. It concentrates race days in events where we can draw crowds which should be good for everybody.”

Stewart claimed that horseplayers would prefer “extending the schedule, which would give horses a chance to run more often. You don’t get that in a shortened meet. It provides a better idea on how the horses perform.”

He added, “The new and expanded schedule is more cost effective for Colonial Downs. Don’t have to pay full time staffs of people, we don’t have expenses like running around the clock security and we put it in front of more people.”

Many horsemen and racing fans contend that the track’s biggest problem has been its focus on cutting costs, rather than growing revenues — a claim that Stewart rejects.

“Just keeping it going has been plenty of outreach,” Stewart claimed. ”It’s been losing money for 17 years.”

Petramalo contests that conclusion when depreciation is removed from the equation.

Thus, the sides remain far apart. How Colonial’s hoped-for new horsemen’s group would operate — whom it would represent, whether it could control the purse account, how it would get the Thoroughbred signal turned back on — are questions with no clear answers. Likewise, it is unclear what tools the Commission possesses — and is willing to use — to end the impasse. The Thoroughbred meet at Colonial Downs has enjoyed national recognition for its turf course, Virginia Derby, and laid-back summer atmosphere. As dismal as handle and attendance figures have been in recent harness meets over the last several years, many would have believed the harness meet at Colonial would have been the first to go, yet….

“Since our off-track facilities are closed to thoroughbred racing from the VHBPA’s actions, Colonial Downs currently is in effect a harness horse track for 2014,” Jacobs states in the release.

VA: Talks Break Down on Colonial Downs Meet
5/14/2014 10:05:20 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 5/13/2014 9:38:11 PM Last Updated: 5/14/2014 8:55:11 AM

This summer's Colonial Downs meeting may be in jeopardy after the New Kent, Va. track broke off talks with horsemen Tuesday, May 13.

In a release sent out Tuesday afternoon, Colonial Downs officials said they had proposed two different 25-day schedules to horsemen in the state that were rejected. The track said it has suspended further negotiations with the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Last week the two sides seemed to be headed toward a 25-date compromise, as suggested by the Virginia Racing Commission, but after Tuesday's developments live racing this year at the New Kent, Va. track could be in jeopardy.

One sticking point is the track wants compensation for revenues from handle it lost when, because an agreement wasn't reached with horsemen, it could no longer take in Thoroughbred simulcast signals and was forced to shut down off-track outlets. The track said it suffered a $1.5 million hit because of the closings.

Last week Virginia HBPA executive director Frank Petramalo Jr. disputed the amount of losses reported by the track and noted that horsemen also lost money because of the closures.

Petramalo said under one plan the track wanted to cut purses by $1.5 million. Under another plan, the track wanted to cut purses $500,000 and not open stables, offering racing for shippers only. Petramalo said the Virginia HBPA rejected both offers because it already suffered an $800,000 hit to its purses due to the closure of the off-track outlets.

"Both sides have to live with the consequences of their decisions," Petramalo said.

The two sides appeared to be moving closer together last week when the Virginia Racing Commission approved a 25-day race schedule over five weeks, the same schedule as last year. Petramalo Jr. sent a proposed contract similar to last year's meeting on May 8.

But the losses from the closed off-track sites is proving a high hurdle and the track has encouraged horsemen in the state to form a new horsemen's group. Petramalo said his group was working on counter offers when the track sent out its release announcing it would no longer talk with the Virginia HBPA.

"In light of the damage done by the VHBPA's decision to shut down wagering, Colonial Downs is unable to bring about a high-end meet this fall," said Colonial owner Jeffrey Jacobs in Tuesday's release.

Colonial said it would offer a $2 million interest-free loan to facilitate 25 days of Thoroughbred racing with one day dedicated to graded stakes races to any new horsemen's group interested in the offer. The track previously has suggested, to no avail, a new horsemen's group be formed in the state.

The VRC had asked the two sides to have an agreement in place before its May 19 meeting. Petramalo said the track could lose its license to offer off-track wagering if it does not accept the 25-date schedule the Virginia Racing Commission approved in December, when it noted the two sides could work on a different agreement.

Virginia Dates Battle Raises Legality Questions
5/9/2014 2:34:05 PM  -  Paulick Report 

Posted: 05.09.2014


The immediate future of racing in Virginia, the birthplace of Secretariat, continues to be in doubt as Colonial Downs ended talks with the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association last month. The Virginia Racing Commission has since ordered the track and the horsemen to come to an agreement in hopes of salvaging this year’s racing season.

The two sides have been at war over 2014 race dates since the end of last year, and the disagreement has gotten so bad that a professional mediator hired to help reach a conclusion ended mediation in a matter of hours.

“There’s just not enough revenue, period, in Virginia, because we’re surrounded by alternative gaming everywhere but here,” said Debbie Easter, executive director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, which acts as a promotional and lobbying entity for the commonwealth’s Thoroughbred industry.

The horsemen would prefer to use the full $5 million in their purse account to finance the usual 25 to 30 days of racing. Track management instead wants to use $3 million and shorten the meet to a “boutique” event spanning six race dates over a few weekends.

“I don’t think people conceptually have a problem with Jeff Jacobs (owner of Colonial Downs) having a boutique meet, but here’s the problem: $3 million of the $5 million we have (on account) in six days of racing … that doesn’t really fulfill everyone’s needs,” said Easter, who remained hopeful that the Commission’s order would result in a resolution.

The dispute has continued long enough that the contract between the two sides to allow betting on Thoroughbred racing at Virginia’s network of OTBs expired months ago.

Colonial has struggled to get attendance numbers during its weekday cards, despite moving to evening post times. The track is located 28 minutes from downtown Richmond and 30 minutes from Williamsburg in New Kent County (population 19,507). Those times do not take traffic, which is often gridlocked as city dwellers go to and from the beach, into account. Track vice president Jeanna Bouzek remained optimistic that the shorter meet could become a destination.

“Just look what happens to the area around Keeneland and Saratoga during meets,” she said. “With the right marketing, combined with the other wonderful attractions which exist for tourists throughout this region of Virginia, we believe our vision for Virginia thoroughbred racing can quickly become a ‘Destination Meet.’”

Frank Petramalo, executive director of the Virginia HBPA, feared that such a short meet, with drastically increased purses, will favor out-of-state shippers and leave little money available to locally-bred or trained horses.

“Colonial’s vision is unrealistic,” he said. “The racing that we’ve had at Colonial hasn’t varied an awful lot over the years. Eighty percent of our races are claiming races, just like any other track in the country.”

Petramallo requested a pro-forma condition book for the proposed boutique meet and was disappointed at what he found when it arrived.

“I passed it around to trainers in Mid-Atlantic … nobody’s got any horses that would qualify for those races! And how does that help us?”

With the situation still unresolved, Colonial Downs is seeking a new horsemen’s group with which to sign a simulcast contract.

“Colonial Downs is speaking with Thoroughbred horsemen who want to work with us to provide opportunities for Virginia Thoroughbred horsemen, elevate the quality of Virginia thoroughbred racing to the high level it deserves, build a nationally recognized Virginia Thoroughbred racing brand, and participate in future meets,” said Bouzek.

The prospect of launching a new horsemen’s group to solve the problem raises some sticky technical questions.

The legal recognition of the horsemen’s group in authority varies, like much else in racing, from state to state. Some state codes recognize a specific, long-standing group, while others default to the definition given in the Interstate Horseracing Act. There, the horsemen’s group is defined as that which represents “a majority” of owners and trainers racing on a given date in that state. According to Petramalo, there is no further definition given for Virginia’s group.

“Any trainer or owner who is licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission to participate in the race meet is automatically a member of the HBPA,” said Petramalo, who estimated that the group’s membership around 1,300, 75 percent of whom live out of state. “What Colonial is attempting to do is say, ‘We really should only be concerned with owners and trainers who reside in Virginia,’ which of course makes no sense.”

This isn’t the first time a track has tried to circumvent the reigning horsemen’s group.

In the early 1990s, the Kentucky HBPA filed suit against the Turfway Park Association when the two sides could not come to an agreement about the amount of money that should go to the horsemen’s purse. Turfway, stagnant without the approval of the horsemen to broadcast or receive signal, inserted a paragraph into stall applications asking owners to approve the signal broadcast. In retort to the lawsuit, Turfway claimed the Interstate Horseracing Act violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and was unconstitutional. In that case, the sixth circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found the Interstate Horseracing Act’s definition vague and confusing but ultimately upheld its constitutionality, solidifying the KHBPA’s standing.

The tricky issue of defining horsemen’s groups reared its head again with when barrel racing came to Florida.

Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling said that the owner of Gretna Racing, the barrel racing facility in Florida’s panhandle, formed the North Florida Horsemen’s Association to serve as the nominal horsemen’s group.

“This would be right up the alley of the guys who run the track [in Virginia],” said Stirling. “They could do a dummy contract with a dummy horsemen’s group, and now they can send a signal across the state line and make money.”

That of course, wouldn’t likely be what the Interstate Horseracing Act intended.

“The main consideration is that the horsemen’s group represent the interests of the horsemen, and the track and the horsemen generally have competing interests,” said Peter Ecabert, legal counsel for the National HBPA, who said it was possible Virginia’s interest groups could take the dispute to court, also. “To me that would be a blatant conflict of interest.”

In the end, horsemen’s groups fall into the same sink trap as many other legal issues in racing: without a highly specific universal definition they are open to interpretation, for better or worse.

VA Commission directs Colonial Downs and HBPA to sign contract
5/8/2014 10:50:34 AM  -  Tidewater Review 

Posted: 5/7/14

NEW KENT — The Virginia Racing Commission turned up the heat Wednesday when it requested Colonial Downs hold 25 days of racing during five weeks this summer.

The commission expects a contract between Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) to be delivered to them at their next meeting May 19.

The impasse that seemed likely to cancel the 2014 thoroughbred season at Colonial Downs resulted when the parties failed to reach an agreement in April over the length of the race season after multiple rounds of negotiations. Colonial Downs' contract with the horsemen's association expired Jan. 29.

“Quite frankly, it's time for the talking to stop and it's time for action,” Virginia Racing Commission Chairman J. Sargeant Reynolds said.

The role of the commission is to promote and grow racing in Virginia, and control betting, according to its website.

Wagers made at off-track betting (OTB) sites from Feb. 1 to May 4 in 2013 totaled $17 million, which included revenue from thoroughbred and harness racing wagers. Since the contract expired, and thoroughbred wagers could not be made, revenue loss is projected to be $622,000.

That revenue is shared by not only the operator of the facility and the purse account, but portions also go to the Racing Commission, Breeder's Fund, localities, Virginia Tech College of Veterinary Medicine, and other boards and foundations supporting Virginia horse racing.

Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart said that the track is down $1.5 million from its operating plan.

“Due to the loss of operating funds, returning to the status quo is not possible unless HBPA is prepared to reimburse Colonial Downs for the loss,” Stewart said. “People have lost jobs.”

Frank Petramalo Jr., executive director of the horsemen's association, said that during negotiations, there had been some willingness to compromise. Colonial Downs' previous contract was for 25 days of racing over five weeks. Colonial Downs initially agreed to 28 days of racing over seven weeks proposed by the HBPA.

But Colonial Downs asked for $300,000 toward the added racing days and HBPA only agreed to $280,000. Colonial Downs did not accept that offer, according to Petramalo Jr.

Another roadblock to reaching a workable compromise came when Colonial Downs wanted an option to use a third of the purse account for reimbursement of the $1.5-million loss.

“My board won't agree to using purse money that way,” Petramalo Jr. said. “... We're not happy with five weeks and 25 days, but we will run those days and we will cooperate.”

Stewart said, “It's admirable that they appear to realize the futility of their destructive actions.”

Stewart stressed that even with 25 days of racing, operating at a cash-flow loss is not an option.

The commission cannot force either side to sign an agreement, but can mandate other action. If the two sides do not sign a contract by May 19, Colonial Downs could lose its license to run OTBs.

The track has several off-site betting locations, including one in Hampton, which has remained open for wagers on harness racing. Four sites in southwest Virginia have closed.

Karen Godsey is a horse trainer who counts on racing at Colonial Downs and is feeling the impact of the stalled season, which typically includes two high-purse races.

“If we don't have racing this year, I'll have to send 15 of my horses out of state. People lose jobs,” she said.

“To go dark and not have live racing invites disaster,” said Virginia Racing Commissioner vice-chair D.G. Van Clief.

VA: Wire coming up fast on Virginia racing dates dispute
5/2/2014 11:03:26 AM  -  The Racing Biz 

Posted: 4/29/14

As April moves into May and a nation’s Thoroughbred eyes are focused on Churchill Downs, the wire is coming up fast on racing stakeholders as they haggle over Virginia racing dates. The outcome appears now to hang on how Colonial Downs’s leadership responds in deep stretch.

“I don’t know where we are,” said Virginia Racing Commission executive director Bernie Hettel about the latest proposal on the table. “Colonial is taking it under advisement.”

According to several sources, the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (VHBPA), the recognized entity representing Virginia horsemen, has ended its opposition to a 25-day, five week racing schedule; it has agreed in concept to such a format, the sources said. That format was initially awarded by the Virginia Racing Commission at its December 11, 2013 meeting.

The question now is whether Colonial Downs — which in December accepted the five-week, 25-day format — remains willing to do so. A lot has happened since then.

Colonial Downs, despite initially proposing 12 days of racing prior to the December meeting, had been willing to move forward in the five-week format after the Commission adopted it.

The VHBPA’s reluctance came as it maintained that the 2013 meet — the state’s shortest since 2001 — had failed to attract horsemen, impacting average field sizes, attendance and handle.

The Commission, for its part, had hoped that such a “status quo” approach would enable the stakeholders to defer the issue for a year until a “blue ribbon” committee could reconvene to develop a long-term plan.

At the beginning of February with no contract between the horsemen and Colonial in place, the VHBPA pulled the Thoroughbred signal from the eight off-track wagering facilities Colonial Downs operates in Virginia. The VHBPA has also banded with horsemen brethren in other states to limit the signals offered by Colonial’s advance deposit account wagering platform, EZ Horseplay. Among the tracks not available on EZ Horseplay are Gulfstream, Tampa Bay, Oaklawn, and Hawthorne.

As time went on, the Commission advanced several different proposals — typically with a similar or slightly lower number of days but spread over more weeks — that the VHBPA accepted but which Colonial rejected.

In response, Colonial offered three proposals focused on a six-day racing festival — with scattered additional days — that were rejected by the VHBPA.

A March attempt at mediation failed miserably, with the mediator himself calling a halt.

Colonial Downs has even attempted to form a new horsemen’s group that it hoped would supplant the VHBPA at the bargaining table and which would, presumably, be more amenable to the track’s goals.

“I’ve spent the entire winter and spring dealing with that subject and that subject only,” said Hettel.

Now, the Virginia Racing Commission will meet again on Wednesday, May 7, and the status of the racing dates in this latest proposal is sure to be on the agenda for discussion and debate in hopes of ending an impasse that began at the conclusion of the 2013 meet.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” commented Colonial President Ian Stewart. “It would have been nice if they agreed to it three months ago. We’ve lost a lot of money in the last three months.”

Colonial’s biggest asset, its Secretariat Turf Course, just received its spring treatment of fertilizer in preparation for the summer growing and racing season after having been torched by track superintendent J.D. Thomas in a controlled burn earlier this month.

“It’s hard to start over again,” added Stewart. “The world’s a little different place, but I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

Colonial Downs once agreed to the five-week, 25-day format. Will they do so again?

Colonial Downs Ends Talks with Virginia HBPA
4/8/2014 7:21:06 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 4/8/2014 4:41:14 PM

While acknowledging its decision could jeopardize Thoroughbred racing in the state for this year or even several years, Colonial Downs says it has ceased negotiations with the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

The track said going forward it is seeking horsemen who share its vision of racing fewer days with larger purses, including a six-day Virginia Derby Festival in September with purses exceeding $500,000. The track did not sound optimistic about reaching any type of agreement with horsemen on race dates this season.

In an April 8 release, the track said it is in the process of identifying a group of horsemen who share its vision and who want to implement the track's racing dates plan by entering into a new horsemen's agreement with Colonial Downs.

"In light of the damage done to Virginia racing by the Virginia HBPA's unilateral actions, Colonial Downs realizes that, unfortunately, there may be no Thoroughbred racing in Virginia this year," said track owner Jeff Jacobs. "There may be no Thoroughbred racing in Virginia for several years. Nevertheless, I bet you even money that when Colonial Downs brings Thoroughbred racing back to Virginia, it will be the beginning of a new era of stability, growth, and pride. On the turf, the great Thoroughbreds often come from behind to win. That is exactly what Colonial Downs will do."

Virginia HBPA representatives could not immediately be reached for comment April 8.

In March the two sides failed to reach an agreement after a two-hour meeting with an arbitrator in a meeting that also included Virginia Racing Commission executive director Bernie Hettel.

In an April letter sent by Colonial Downs president Ian Stewart to VHBPA president David Ross, the track contends that the HBPA did not give serious consideration to the track's proposed racing calendar which offered options of a 27-day meeting or a 23-day meeting focused on weekend racing.

The Virginia HBPA is seeking a longer meet and said it believes there would be enough money for an eight-week meet with average daily purses of $200,000. The horsemen's group contends a longer meet is necessary to persuade stables to justify shipping from other states, with potential for some horses to possibly race three times at Colonial Downs.

With no agreement in place, several Colonial Downs off-track betting locations were closed in late January and have not reopened.

"It appears that these negotiations have lead us nowhere," Stewart said in the letter. "The VHBPA's strategy of inflexibility and economic pressure will not achieve anything other than create permanent damage to Thoroughbred racing in Virginia, damage that could ultimately lead to its demise."

Colonial Downs, horsemen inch towards solution
3/28/2014 10:32:25 AM  -  The Racing Biz 

Posted: 3/27/14

The Virginia Racing Commission met today in New Kent, and early reports are that there may be movement on the shape and length of the 2014 Colonial Downs meet.

Following a relatively brief meeting of the Commission, Colonial Downs personnel and horsemen’s representatives, including the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, reconvened behind closed doors, possibly with a Commission representative present, to continue negotiations, once stalled, that reportedly lurched back to life at a meeting in Florida earlier this week.

Recent negotiations had left the sides far apart, with Virginia’s horsemen seeking as much as 32 days over eight weeks, and Colonial countering with as few as six days of live racing. Though the Commission had approved, at its December meeting, a five-week, 25-day meet, the sides had not been able to reach accord.

More recently, a compromise floated by the Commission, of 21 days of live racing over a period of seven weeks, had not gained traction.

Over the last several days, the shape of a possible compromise has begun to emerge. It would entail fewer days spread over more weeks — to some extent horsemen value the weeks as much as the days, since it gives them the ability to get more starts. It might also involve splitting the meet into two shorter meets, one in the summer and one in the fall, possibly with differing purses to create a short “boutique” type meet.

More to come on this story.

Colonial Downs: Meeting set for March 27 over live-racing dates
3/18/2014 10:45:56 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 03/17/2014 3:46 PM

The Virginia Racing Commission scheduled a meeting for March 27 to consider live-racing dates at Colonial Downs this year after adverse weather prevented many commissioners from attending a meeting Monday at the New Kent racetrack, the executive director of the commission said after the meeting.

Despite the lack of a quorum, representatives of Colonial and of the state’s horsemen’s group, the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, each gave presentations at the meeting in support of their own notions for the length of the 2014 live meet at Colonial. A dispute between the two groups on the number of live race dates for this year’s meet has resulted in a stalemate in negotiations for a live-racing agreement and the blackout of Thoroughbred signals at the state’s off-track betting facilities.

Bernie Hettel, the executive director of the racing commission, said the presentations supported the positions staked out by the track and horsemen’s group last week during a negotiating session with a mediator. During those talks, Colonial insisted on a six-day meet with purses of $500,000 a day, while horsemen pressed for 28 days over eight weeks. The mediator left the meeting after one hour, saying the two sides were too far apart to make any progress, multiple officials said.

Hettel said the commission will continue to hold meetings with Virginia racing constituents in advance of the March 27 meeting. In December, the racing commission approved a 25-day meet for Colonial in 2014, even though Colonial did not seek approval for the dates. Hettel said it was unclear if the commission will attempt to hold Colonial to the 25-day meet.

Colonial Downs, VHBPA to Meet with Mediator on Days
3/10/2014 9:47:23 AM  -  Virginia TB Association 

Posted: 3/7/2014

The Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs will meet with a mediator from the McCammon Group on Wednesday to try to reach an agreement on days. The mediator is retired federal magistrate judge Dennis Dohnal, who has worked with both groups on other cases prior to this mediation.

Newly-appointed Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones has also gotten actively involved (although the Virginia legislature recently voted to move the Virginia Racing Commission from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Agriculture, the change will not take place most likely until summer 2014; the dispute therefore remains under the purview of the Department of Commerce).

On February 14, Jones had a conference call with representatives from Colonial Downs, the VHBPA and the VRC, and has subsequently met with both Colonial Downs and the VHBPA individually. According to VHBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo, at that stage, the VRC decided to recruit a professional mediator to try to resolve the dispute.

According to Petramalo, at that stage Colonial Downs was willing to run a seven-week, 28-day meet if the horsemen paid approximately $300,000 of Colonial’s normal overhead expenses, such as the cost of the ambulance, manure removal and stall rent. The VHBPA countered with “savings we thought would yield $150,000,” according to Petramalo.

Petramalo is “pessimistic” that Colonial will accept a deal due to the losses Colonial has likely experienced following the shut-down of its simulcast wagering facilities (which began with the horseman’s contract expired after several extensions on January 29).

“My estimate is that is cost the horseman’s purse account in excess of $200,000, and it probably cost Colonial Downs a little more,” Petramalo said. “My feeling is that the first thing out of Ian Stewart’s mouth on Wednesday, is that he wants to recover his lost money, which is going to make reaching a deal for 2014 even more difficult than it currently is.”

“The impression I have is that Colonial is digging its heels in,” Petramalo continued. “I don’t think they’re in the mood to be conciliatory.”

VRC Executive Secretary expressed similar doubts surrounding the future of a 2014 deal:

“A month ago, I thought we would have made better progress than we’ve made,” Hettel said. “I’m disappointed in everyone that we haven’t come to a conclusion. I’m beyond speculating (on the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting).”

The meeting will take place at 9 AM in the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond on Wednesday, March 12.

2014 Virginia Racing Dates Still Unresolved
2/27/2014 9:58:03 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/26/2014 2:13:49 PM Last Updated: 2/27/2014 8:42:10 AM

The 2014 racing schedule for Colonial Downs remains in limbo due to a contract stalemate over dates between track management and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

The Virginia Racing Commission last fall ordered the New Kent track to conduct the same 25 days of racing over a five-week period that were raced in 2013. The Virginia HBPA, however, is seeking a longer meet and said it believed there would be enough money for an eight-week meet with average daily purses of $200,000.

In addition to holding up approval of dates, the dispute has resulted in the closure of four satellite wagering facilities that conduct Thoroughbred simulcasting. Though those four facilities were closed because they could not accept Thoroughbred wagers when the contract between Colonial and horsemen expired Jan. 31, four other satellite sites remain open for Standardbred simulcasts.

Wagers on Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds are still allowed through advance deposit wagering providers.

Earlier the week of Feb. 23, the two sides met with Virginia Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones, whose cabinet oversees the racing commission, in an effort to reach a compromise.

Frank Petramalo Jr. said the discussions with Jones centered on whether both sides could agree on a 28-day meet over seven weeks. The Virginia HBPA's executive committee met Feb. 25 but did not take any action on a proposed schedule for 2014.

"Things are pretty much in a stalemate," Colonial Downs president Ian Stewart said Feb. 26. " I haven't heard anything new."

Last year's Colonial Downs meet began June 8.

Though Colonial was willing to race the same number of days this year as last, Stewart said that as the contract dispute has dragged on, the situation changed.

"Obviously, at the time the racing commission awarded 25 days, we said we would do that, but a lot of time has passed and the situation is almost back to square one," Stewart said.

Stewart said the lack of satellite wagering on Thoroughbred simulcasts in the state is costing the track and horsemen money, but he declined to say how much.

In Virginia, Cold Weather and a Heated Disagreement
2/4/2014 9:55:56 AM  -  The Racing Biz 

Posted: 2/3/2014

One of the coldest Virginia winters in decades has left racing leaders in Virginia in a bad mood and made an impact on the 2014 meet at Colonial Downs in a developing dispute.

It might even make you long for one of those sweltering Colonial summer days.

“It has done nothing to help the cause,” acknowledged Virginia Racing Commission executive director Bernie Hettel about the frosty January.

Hettel has been working to resolve the dispute and hosted at least three recent meetings seeking common ground between the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (VHPBA), which represents Virginia horsemen, and Colonial Downs, Virginia’s sole flat track operator and sole holder of a so-called “unlimited license,” allowing it to operate off-track betting facilities and to host a meet longer than 14 days.

The difference of opinion has left horseplayers without Thoroughbred signals in at least of portion of the off-track betting network across Virginia. Four OTBs have closed for the duration of the dispute in Virginia (Vinton, Alberta, Martinsville and Scott County), while four others remain open (Richmond, Hampton, Chesapeake and West Richmond-Hurley’s).

There appears to be some difference in opinion on whether and how long Colonial can accept Thoroughbred wagers in the open OTBs.

“Without a contract, Colonial has to shut down,” cited Hettel about the Thoroughbred signals in the OTBs.

As of Monday morning, however, Colonial President Ian Stewart reported that the open OTBs are continuing to take wagers on Thoroughbred racing. At issue are the format of the upcoming 2014 meet and the cost of lengthening the meet past the five weeks that the Virginia Racing Commission adopted in a December meeting.

“The Commission has come to decisions we didn’t agree with but we complied,” said Stewart. “The horsemen don’t want to accept it and want to force a different solution.”

With the horsemen-racetrack agreement originally set to expire at the end of the 2013 calendar year, the horsemen agreed to extend their contract with Colonial through the first commission meeting of 2014, set for January 21. Severe cold and the threat of snow forced the Commonwealth to close state offices, delaying the meeting until January 29. That meeting, too, was postponed for inclement weather.

Seeking to modify a Commission-approved meet format of five days of racing per week with a meet duration of five weeks, the horsemen now appear to have had enough of both Mother Nature and Colonial Downs.

The dispute appears to center on the $300,000 to $500,000 that extending the meet from five weeks to the horsemen’s preferred length of eight weeks would cost. Those costs, typically paid by track operators, include items such as jockey insurance, manure removal, stall rents, ambulance costs, advertising, even the cost of printing racing programs.

Colonial maintains that, if the horsemen want a longer meet, they should pick up the added expenses. The horsemen, for their part, believe that they should not be forced to pay for expenses typically within the purview of the track.

“When parties reach an impasse, parties are left to their economic resources,” noted HBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo of the horsemen’s position.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this, but we can do only what we can do,” said Stewart.

“Restricting content hurts the VHBPA, but it hurts Colonial more. Every horsemen’s group in the country has an interest in what’s happening in Virginia.” — HBPA director Frank Petramalo

The horsemen, at least, believe Colonial Downs is willing to run in a revised format of eight weeks with 3 racing days per week, but not without those expenses being covered by the horsemen.

A decade ago, the horsemen and racetrack worked together to expand the state’s OTB network, with the horsemen reducing their share of wagering commissions to aid in OTB construction. That led the network to grow from four facilities to 10 and facilitated the lengthening of the Colonial meet, to as many as 45 days, prior to the economic downturn in 2008.

There are currently 8 OTBs in Virginia, but they have been losing popularity to advance deposit wagering (ADW). Many of the operating OTBs have seen their annual handle fall by 50 percent or more in recent years, according to Racing Commission reports, while advance deposit wagering, which essentially did not exist in Virginia a decade ago, accounted for over 40 percent of handle in the state in 2012.

Advance deposit wagering in Virginia is not directly affected by the lack of a contract but could be impacted by horsemen in other states. Petramalo may rely on his horsemen brethren as play a role and said that it’s “not unlikely” for horsemen in other states to start shutting off signals into Virginia.

“It could impact how much signal comes back into the state,” observed Hettel.

The ADWs that generate purse money but do not add to Colonial’s revenue stream — Xpressbet, TVG and Twin Spires — would likely not be impacted. EZ Horseplay, an ADW operated by Colonial Downs to which the VHPBA is a partner, may not enjoy the same immunity, even at the horsemen’s expense.

“Restricting content hurts the VHBPA, but it hurts Colonial more,” commented Petramalo. “Every horsemen’s group in the country has an interest in what’s happening in Virginia.”

Making logistics worse is a pending previously planned trip for Petramalo who will be out of the country for several weeks but plans to keep his IPad handy.

Colonial is set to perform its annual burning of it signature turf course on April 11 prior to the scheduled start of the summer meet on June 7. Perhaps moods will be warmer by then.

Several Virginia OTBs Closing During Dispute
2/3/2014 10:51:28 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 1/31/2014 11:40:52 AM Last Updated: 2/1/2014 10:52:06 AM

With Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association failing to reach a contract agreement on this year's race schedule, the track has decided to temporarily close several off-track betting locations.

The current contract between the horsemen and track expired at midnight Jan. 29. The track said that without a contract its ability to accept wagers on Thoroughbred races is severely restricted. Colonial Downs will close its Alberta, Vinton, Martinsville, and Scott County satellite wagering facilities Jan. 31 until a contract is reached that will allow them to reopen.

In a statement, the VHBPA said the OTB sites could not lawfully accept Thoroughbred wagering until the track and horsemen have an agreement in place.

"Every effort has been made to work with the VHBPA and I am very disappointed that we have reached this point," said Colonial president Ian Stewart. "I hope this interruption of normal business will be brief and that a mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached."

The track said customers will still be able to wager on Standardbred races at Richmond West Broad Street, Richmond Hurley's, Chesapeake Indian River Road, and Hampton locations. Also, Colonial said it believes customers still will be able to wager through its associated advance deposit wagering site, EZ Horseplay, as well as TVG, Xpressbet, and Twinspires.

Late last year the Virginia Racing Commission ordered 25 days of Thoroughbred racing over five weeks for 2014, which is the same schedule Colonial Downs conducted in 2013. VHBPA executive director Frank Petramalo said the VRC schedule would be a last resort and the horsemen still hope to negotiate a deal that would include more race days, more racing weeks, or both.

The VHBPA release said there likely will be enough money in the purse fund to conduct an eight-week schedule with average daily purses of $200,000.

Va: VRC unanimously approves racing dates deal that no one likes
12/18/2013 3:45:37 PM  -  The Racing Biz 

Posted: 12/11/13

At its December 11th meeting, the Virginia Racing Commission imposed race dates for the 2014 summer meet at Colonial Downs after the track operator and Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (VHBPA) failed to reach an agreement on scheduling the meet. The Commission, defaulting to last summer’s racing calendar, officially awarded 25 days of racing over five weeks.

That decision to some extent split the difference between the two sides’ proposals.

Colonial Downs submitted a proposal offering 12 days of racing over four weeks, what it called a “boutique Thoroughbred meet.” That meet would have half of last year’s 25 days, with the average daily overnight purse more than doubling to more than $31,000, according to a prepared statement submitted by Colonial Downs President and Chief Financial Officer Ian Stewart.

The VHBPA, representing Virginia horsemen, had requested 32 days of racing over eight weeks. But the organization’s counsel, Frank Petramalo, wasn’t shy about offering a compromise to 24 days over the same time span.

What is clear is that, to some extent, the battleground is not the traditional racing sticking point — the number of days — but instead the number of weeks. The horsemen, especially the smaller outfits, prefer having the gates open over the longer length of time to produce more starts.

Frustrated with the impasse, Commissioner J. Sargeant Reynolds, Jr. moved to approve 5 days a week over 5 weeks, the same format Colonial ran in 2013. “As far as racing dates go for this year, I have studied both proposals thoroughly and clearly the two proposals are worlds apart,” Reynolds read from a prepared statement.

Other Commissioners echoed Reynolds’ dissatisfaction with the status quo, as well as his hopes that a recently formed Blue Ribbon panel chaired by Commissioner D.G. Van Clief may divert such disagreements in future years. The commission unanimously approved Reynolds’ motion on days, though some said that they would have preferred a more harmonious solution.

But as Van Clief put it, “The conversation here didn’t yield compromise.” The next commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 21st. In the interim, the sides could decide to continue negotiating in search of an amicable resolution, resign themselves to conducting the 2014 meet as agreed to by the Commission, or continue to escalate the battle.

“If the two parties can get together on a new concept, I’m sure the VRC would listen,” nudged Reynolds.

The commission ruling is not conclusive; rather, it only set the format for the meet leaving the precise dates to be determined. It appears Colonial will begin moving forward with preparations, as Stewart said that he anticipates a similar meet with an early June opening, perhaps on Belmont Stakes day as was the calendar last summer, and running until mid-July.

“Everyone didn’t get what they wanted,” stated Stewart after the meeting. Asked about the possibility of the sides hammering out an 11th hour alteration to the format, he replied, “I don’t want to rule that out, but I don’t anticipate it either. I’m not sure there is a better idea out there.” Both constituencies were well represented in the meeting, as breeders and trainers traded volleys with track employees in attendance during the public comment period on the motion. The dialogue would have made for a good horse race itself as both groups took turns looking to “out-nod” each other in favor of their partisan proposals.

Colonial Downs president Ian Stewart restated a common axiom that “an unsustainable financial model can’t go on indefinitely” prior to a video presentation of a wide range of Colonial employees supporting management’s proposal.

“I think it is important that [the employees'] voice be heard,” said Stewart, “for the sustainable financial model that Colonial Downs seeks is the opportunity for a stable employment environment for them.”

If the Commission’s decision remains in place, Petramalo and the horsemen will end up with an extra day, but not the extra week they coveted. That may prove pivotal in filling Colonial’s backstretch.

As an example, Florida based trainer Kathleen O’Connell, a regular at Colonial meet’s in recent years, was absent on the backstretch last summer. Shipping horses in for the Commonwealth Turf Festival on closing day last summer, O’Connell stated that adding an additional week to the term in a four-day, six week season would have allowed in many situations for at least one more start for many in her stable, justifying her annual migration north.

Notes from the Commission

In other matters, the Commission awarded the management of the Virginia Breeder’s Fund to the Virginia Thoroughbred Association for one year. The VTA has managed the fund since the onset of pari-mutuel wagering in Virginia. Equisport Solutions, headed by former VTA Executive Director Glenn Petty, had vied for the management contract.

The Commission also awarded two days of pari-mutuel racing to the Virginia Gold Cup which will operate one-day steeplechase meets in 2014 on May 3rd (Virginia Gold Cup) and October 25th (International Gold Cup).

VA Commission Adopts Model Drug Rules
9/25/2013 3:55:26 PM  -  Blood-Horse  

Date Posted: 9/25/2013 1:47:36 PM

The Virginia Racing Commission Sept. 25 unanimously adopted the Association of Racing Commissioners International model medication rules, which set uniform thresholds for a list of 24 controlled therapeutic medications.

The effective date of implementation will be Jan. 1, 2014.

"I commend chairman Stuart Siegel and fellow commissions as well as executive director Bernard Hettel for advancing these reforms in a timely manner," RCI president Ed Martin said in a release. "Racing commissions across the country are moving to implement the new model medication rules, and many hope to have them in place by Jan. 1, 2014. This is yet another positive step for an industry that has been wrestling with these issues for years."

Virginia is one of several Eastern states that have adopted the uniform rules. Virginia also incorporated by reference the new RCI penalty guidelines that provide for a points system to track medication violations in order to assist regulators in determining whether an additional enhancement is appropriate for licensees with multiple violations of the medication rules.

Potomac Horse Fever Cases Confirmed in Virginia
7/17/2013 9:54:33 AM  -  The Horse 

Date Posted: 7/15/2013 9:52:07 AM Last Updated: 7/15/2013 11:00:15 AM

Several cases of Potomac horse fever (PHF) have been confirmed in central Virginia, prompting the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) to release an outbreak alert. The alert was posted on the school's Facebook page on July 13.

PHF is caused by Neorickettsia risticii, an organism found in some flukes (a wormlike parasite) that infect aquatic snails and insects (such as caddisflies, mayflies, damselflies, and dragonflies).

"Horses become infected by inadvertently ingesting infected snails, snail slime, and/or aquatic insects through grazing and drinking," the alert stated. "Due to the abnormally rainy weather, there may be an increased number of aquatic insects and snails exposing horses to this disease."

Elsewhere, the Hagyard Equine Medical Institution reported via Twitter that PHF cases were confirmed in Kentucky in May.

While there's no "absolute" way to prevent PHF, the VMRCVM suggested several methods to help reduce the risk or severity of infection:

Consider vaccinating against PHF. In the alert, the VMRCVM noted that while several of the horses that developed the disease had been vaccinated in the spring, the vaccine "may reduce the severity of illness in infected horses and may improve the outcome of these cases. For this reason it is recommended that horses receive a booster in areas where the disease has been reported."

Reduce horses' risk of exposure to aquatic insects by cleaning water sources frequently and locating buckets and troughs away from light sources that could attract insects.

Restrict horses' access to streams, ponds, and other standing water sources—including low-lying pasture areas—to reduce their risk of coming in contact with snails.

In a recent study on PHF survival, researchers examining the records of 50 horses diagnosed with PHF over 15 years identified clinical signs including diarrhea in 66% of horses, fever in 48%, lack of appetite in 42%, depression in 40%, and colic in 38%. Laminitis developed in 32% of the cases; 88% of these horses were affected in all four feet.

That research team learned that 76% of all PHF cases survived to discharge but those with laminitis were less likely to survive. Additionally, they found that treating affected horses with the antibiotic oxytetracycline improved survival odds twelvefold.

"Contact your veterinarian if horses develop a fever or become depressed, as early treatment increases survivability and reduces the severity of clinical signs associated with PHF," the alert read.

Colonial Set to Host New Steeplechase Event
10/18/2012 12:14:38 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 10/18/2012 11:20:50 AM

Steeplechase runners will compete at Colonial Downs as central Virginia's new spring racing event will kick off in April 2013, according to a track release.

The first ever Dogwood Classic will be held Saturday, April 6. Colonial Downs will produce the new event and oversee all operational aspects. A number of National Steeplechase Association races are expected to take place on the Secretariat turf course and tailgating will be available on the track's dirt track.

The name "Dogwood Classic" was obtained through a contest and promoted by Cox Radio stations in Richmond. Of all potential names submitted, five were chosen by a panel and posted for online voting. Dogwood Classic received 33% of the votes while Commonwealth Spring Classic was second with 20%. The next three in order were Colonial Downs Spring Fling, Kentland Races and Brick House Races.

"We want to kick off the inaugural Dogwood Classic with an immediate vibrancy," said Colonial Downs president Ian Stewart. "We're excited to offer this event at the beginning of the spring festival season when nice weather has arrived and everyone is ready to shake off winter and enjoy terrific racing in a great party atmosphere."

More event details and tailgating information will be available in the coming days via A logo will be unveiled soon and a "launch party" is being planned for Nov. 15.

Colonial Downs’ Summer Race Meet
5/19/2012 10:59:26 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2012 

Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia opened its 32-day summer meet on Saturday, June 2. Racing continues through July 28, with racing on Thursday through Sunday each week. During the meet, the Virginia HBPA is providing its traditional stable area benevolence services and is hosting social events for horsemen.

Our office/classroom building next to the track kitchen is the center for most stable area activity. It is open from 5:00 a.m. to midnight every day and features a big screen television with simulcasting, satellite channels, and a DVD player. Computers, printers, scanners, and fax machines are also available without charge, as is Internet access. For those with laptops or tablets, the entire building – and the outside patio area – is a WiFi hot spot for 24-hour Internet connection.

This year, the Groom Elite 101 training program will be offered from noon to 3:30 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday dark days. The six-week course, taught in English and Spanish by Dr. Reid McLellan with the assistance of local trainers, combines classroom instruction in the Virginia HBPA building with hands-on work in the barns.

Because of the track’s remote location east of Richmond, the Virginia HBPA has a 12-passenger van for transport seven days a week from the dormitories to shopping and recreation areas. Free meal tickets for use in the track kitchen are available in the Virginia HBPA office. Sports equipment is also on site.

Walk-in urgent medical care is provided by MedExpress in nearby Williamsburg from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily. Dental care is available in Providence Forge, down the road from the track entrance. Treatment expenses are paid by the Virginia HBPA.

All grooms are eligible to participate in the best-turned-out program. A $20 prize is given by the paddock judge before each race to the groom with the best-turned-out horse. The Virginia HBPA also awards a weekly $100 prize for the best-kept barn.

For interested trainers, the Virginia HBPA pays half of the rental fee for large walk-in mobile containers that can be used for tack and feed storage. The containers are usually placed at the end of shedrows.

Last, but by no means least, Chaplain Nick Lapcevic is at the track for counseling and prayer services. He also conducts a Bible study class one evening a week that includes a complimentary supper at a nearby restaurant.

Turning to social events, the Virginia HBPA is sponsoring an Owners’ Day reception on June 16 prior to the Saturday evening card featuring the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup for three and up and the $100,000 Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes (Gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares. The reception starts at 4:30 p.m., with cocktails and snacks in the Virginia HBPA’s building. All horse owners and their guests are invited to attend. Ceremonies honoring winning owners, with special trophies commemorating the day, will take place on the front side during the race card.

The eighth annual Shannon Campbell and Disabled Jockeys’ Fund Benefit Golf Tournament is scheduled for Thursday, July 19 as part of festivities leading up to the $600,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) on the following Saturday. The Virginia HBPA, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, and Colonial Downs are again sponsoring the tournament at the Royal New Kent golf course in Providence Forge, minutes away from the track. Tee time is 11:00 a.m.

Jockey Shannon Campbell, a Virginia native, rode at Colonial Downs. Several years ago, Shannon was paralyzed from the waist down in a riding accident at Charles Town. She is one of more than 50 jockeys in the country who are permanently disabled. All proceeds from the tournament are for these jockeys’ living and medical expenses.

2012 Race Dates for Colonial Downs
2/21/2012 12:17:49 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2012 

The Virginia Racing Commission approved a 32-race day schedule for the summer meet at the New Kent, Virginia track, as requested by the Virginia HBPA. Colonial Downs’ season starts on Saturday, June 2 and runs through Saturday, July 28. Racing is four days a week, Thursdays through Sundays.

Though the number of race days is the same as last summer’s meet, there are two unique features for 2012. First, the lights on the main dirt track have been moved to the huge mile-and-an-eighth turf course, where at least 80 percent of all races are run. That will allow night turf racing with a post time of 7:00 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays instead of a 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. post as in prior years. The first two races will be on the mile-and-a-quarter dirt track before it gets dark, with the remainder of the race card on the grass under the lights. Sundays will have a 1:00 p.m. post.

The track and the horsemen expect night racing will generate increased attendance and signal sale revenue, the latter because turf racing attracts large fields and substantial wagering handle. It should also bring cooler temperatures for both horses and race fans.

Any race card cancelled because of rain and the inability to move races off the turf to a dark main track will be rescheduled for the following Wednesday, with one exception. If the Virginia Derby card on Saturday evening, July 21 is rained out, it will be run Sunday afternoon, which is being held open for that purpose.

The targeted average daily purse amount during the 32-day meet is $203,000, up from last year’s $197,000. Once again, registered Virginia-bred or Virginia sired horses running in open competition and finishing first through fifth will receive a 100 percent bonus from the Virginia-Breeders’ Fund.

For the second unique feature for 2012, the track and the Virginia HBPA agreed with the State Fair of Virginia to schedule the historic Strawberry Hill steeplechase races on the opening Saturday of the Thoroughbred meet. The Strawberry Hill races usually are run on the Colonial turf course long before the Thoroughbred meet opens and draw crowds of around 20,000 people. This year, Colonial’s opening Saturday will start at 1:00 p.m., with a mixed card of five steeplechase races at two-and-a-quarter miles over 11 hurdles and seven flat races at various distances.

Strawberry Hill adds a third “big day” during the meet to go with the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup on June 16 and the $600,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) on July 21.

2012 Race Days
11/21/2011 5:12:26 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2011 

The Virginia HBPA and the management of Colonial Downs reached agreement on a proposed schedule for next year’s racing at the New Kent, Virginia track. There will be two months of racing—June and July—with four race days each week—Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That schedule is similar to this past summer’s schedule with one significant change. Racing on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays will be at night, with a 7:00 p.m. first post, instead of in the afternoon. Sundays will keep the usual 1:00 p.m. starting time.

Night racing is possible for the first time because over the winter, the track plans to install lights on its huge turf course, where 80 percent of Colonial’s races are run. At present, only the main dirt track has lights.

The horsemen and the track think night turf racing will attract larger crowds and also generate greater simulcast wagering on Colonial’s races.

Purse levels are expected to equal this year’s daily average of $197,000.

The agreed upon 2012 schedule is subject to approval by the Virginia Racing Commission.

Something New
11/21/2011 5:11:09 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2011 

The fall harness meet also featured the opening of a new grandstand wagering area devoted to video games with a wagering twist. In one of the simulcast areas, Colonial installed 30 touch screen video game machines. Games include a slot-like spin wheel and poker. On the wall are the traditional simulcast screens with races broadcast from across the country.

By making a $10 trifecta wager at designated flat and harness tracks—on opening Sunday, Philadelphia Park was the selected track—a patron is given a plastic card with 1,000 points on it. Swiping the card in one of the video game machines then entitles the bettor to play the video games, with the possibility of winning a $10,000 prize or accumulating points that can be cashed in at penny a point.

A player who uses up 1,000 points without winning can make another $10 trifecta wager, thereby adding 1,000 points to his or her plastic card. The card does not expire and may be used at subsequent visits to the track.

The business plan from the point of view of track management and the Virginia HBPA is quite simple: increased handle by promoting trifecta simulcast wagering at certain tracks, which would not normally occur, results in more revenue for Colonial and the horsemen’s purse account. That is achievable because the commission, or take out, on trifecta wagers at certain tracks, like Philadelphia Park, is a relatively high 30 percent. The takeout on win/place/show wagering at most tracks (including Colonial) is around 18 percent, and takeout is usually in the 20 percent range for “exotics” like exactas, trifectas, and pick four wagering. The difference between a 30 percent trifecta takeout at certain tracks and lower takeouts on wagers at other tracks makes it feasible to pay video game winners without hitting the track’s pocketbook too hard.

Additionally, of course, if the bettor hits the trifecta funding his video game playing, so much the better. When it comes to revenue, churn is the name of the game in pari-mutuel wagering.

If the video games prove popular, Colonial will keep the grandstand simulcast area open year-round instead of closing it when there is no live racing at the track.

Mixing Them Up
11/21/2011 5:09:01 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2011 

Colonial’s main track is probably the last one in the country that changes surfaces every season to accommodate Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing on the same oval. After the summer flat meet, hundreds of tons of the sand and clay cushion are scraped from the surface, exposing the stone dust base on which the harness horses race in the fall. Come spring, the cushion – stored in he stable area – is reapplied before the Thoroughbred meet.

Harness racing this fall started with a one-day salute to the two breeds that race at the track, sponsored by the Virginia HBPA and the Virginia Harness Horse Association. The inaugural Sunday card had a flat turf race, a steeplechase race, and ten harness races. The first was a mile-and-a-half flat contest for Thoroughbreds on Colonial’s turf course inside the main track. It was won by Virginia-bred multiple stakes winner Researcher, owned by Kinross Farm and trained by Neil Morris.

The next race, also for Thoroughbreds on the turf, was a two-and-a-quarter-mile steeplechase event over ten hurdles. Debra Kachel’s Lake Placid, trained by Ricky Hendriks, was the winner.

The card then shifted to the main track for Standardbred racing. Winning the first of ten harness races was Take The Field, owned and trained by Henry Lewis.

Colonial Downs Meet Ends With Positive Numbers
8/22/2011 11:28:57 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2011 

Colonial Downs’ 15th season of Thoroughbred racing in New Kent, Virginia ended on July 31, with all economic indicators rising above 2010 results. Even though racing during the eight-week meet was scaled back – at the Virginia HBPA’s request – to four days from the usual five days, total attendance actually increased, with the daily average jumping 28 percent to 1,894 patrons from last year’s 1,477. Moving the Saturday post to 5:00 p.m. from the standard 1:00 p.m. start to avoid beach traffic and oppressive summer heat contributed to increased attendance.

More importantly from a horsemen’s standpoint, daily purses averaged $193,424, 15 percent higher than last season’s $168,757. That was helped by Virginia’s unique 100 percent bonus program. The owners of all Virginia-bred or sired horses finishing first through fifth in all open races received double the regular purse share.

Turning to wagering, all-source handle increased from a daily average of $830,857 to this year’s $844,441. And the on-track portion of that handle number increased by 19 percent over 2010 results.

The four-day race week also helped boost field size to an average 8.8 starters, compared to last year’s 7.7 average. Looking just at turf races (78 percent of all races), Colonial averaged 9.3 starters per race. Were it not for rainy weather causing a move to the main track on five race days, the overall field size would likely have been a good bit higher than 8.8 horses.

Owners’ Day at the Races
8/22/2011 11:27:37 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2011 

The Virginia HBPA held its annual Owners’ Day tribute at Colonial Downs on June 18 as part of the Saturday race card, featuring three stakes’ races on the turf – the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (three years old and up at 1 3/16 miles), the $100,000 Edward P. Evans All Along (Gr. IIIT, three years old and up, fillies and mares, at 1 1/8 miles), and the $50,000 Da Hoss Stakes (three years old and up at a mile).

The event began with a reception in the Virginia HBPA building in the stable area. Owners, trainers, and friends of Virginia racing were served a banquet of food and drink while they watched the racing from the Virginia HBPA’s patio.

After the first few races, ceremonies moved to the grandstand. All winning owners received a special Virginia HBPA engraved glass picture frame to hold the traditional winner’s circle photo.

Students at Colonial Downs
8/22/2011 11:26:17 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2011 

Each year during Colonial Downs’ summer meet, the Virginia HBPA sponsors programs, organized by Virginia HBPA Board member Diana McClure, to introduce youngsters to the horse racing industry. This year, two young women spent the summer at the track as interns. Marshall Blevins, a sophomore in the University of Kentucky’s equine studies program, and Madison Scott, a high school senior from Austin, Texas, got first hand racing experience working with veteran trainer Hamilton Smith and his string of horses stabled on the grounds. That included learning training procedures, as well as hot walking, mucking stalls, and leading horses to the paddock.

The interns got a look at the administrative and regulatory side of racing by tagging along with Jillian Tullock, who in the mornings worked in the racing secretary’s office coordinating entries of Virginia-bred horses and in the afternoons served as a placing judge in the grandstand.

The Virginia HBPA also hosted a group of students and their family members from the North Carolina State University equine education unit. The Sunday visit included a tour of the track – front side and stable area – and a lecture on racing economics from the prospective of horsemen and track ownership.

Disabled Jockeys’ Golf Benefit
8/22/2011 11:24:56 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2011 

Along with the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and Colonial Downs, the Virginia HBPA sponsored its seventh annual Shannon Campbell and Disabled Jockeys’ Fund golf tournament on the afternoon before Virginia Derby Day. It took place at the Royal New Kent Club near the racetrack. Owners, trainers, jockeys, gate crew members, and assorted racetrackers played in the tournament.

Shannon Campbell is a Virginia native who was paralyzed from the waist down in a riding accident. She is one of more than 50 jockeys in the country who are permanently disabled.

This year’s benefit raised nearly $7,000, all of which goes to help pay living and medical expenses for the disabled jockeys.

Stable Area Social Events
8/22/2011 11:23:27 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2011 

Due to Colonial Downs’ rural central Virginia location, providing entertainment for grooms, hot walkers, exercise riders, and others who spent seven days a week in the stable area was a priority for the Virginia HBPA. Volleyball, basketball, and horseshoes in the dormitory areas proved very popular. So, too, was unlimited access to computers and a large screen television in the Virginia HBPA building.

Getting away from the track, if only temporarily, was provided by our Virginia HBPA shuttle. The 12-person van regularly took horsemen to shopping malls, amusement parks, and the beach.

The summer’s two entertainment highlights were the backstretch picnic and the hot dog eating contest. The picnic was catered professionally by Phat Boyz BBQ. Ribs, chicken, hamburgers, and all the fixings for 300 people were served under a tent in the dormitory area.

The hot dog eating contest was in the winner’s circle on the front side. Edward “Fast Eddie” Schottroffe won for the third year in a row.

Finally, the Virginia HBPA introduced a new chaplain to the backside. Pastor Nick Lapcevic of the New Kent Christian Center took over from the long-serving Reverend Marjorie Bevans, who moved to West Virginia. In addition to counseling in the stable area and the jockey’s room, Pastor Lapcevic held worship services in the grandstand on Sunday mornings.

Colonial Meet to Begin With Large Turf Fields
6/7/2011 5:16:47 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/7/2011 11:50:06 AM

If entries for the first two programs are any indication, Colonial Downs in Virginia should have a strong meet from a wagering perspective.

The track begins its 2011 meet June 8 with nine races that attracted 122 entries. The June 9 card lured 109 entries for nine races.

On both days eight races are scheduled for the turf, as is the custom at Colonial Downs. Opening day has seven 14-horse fields on the turf.

“It’s as strong an opening-day card as I’ve seen here,” director of racing Tyler Picklesimer said in a statement. “You couldn’t ask for a better way to kick off the meet.”

Last year’s numbers were an anomaly for Colonial Downs, with average field size of only 7.71 horses per race for a 40-day meet, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. In 2009 average field size was a more common 8.90 horses per race over 40 days.

Purses last year averaged $161,399 per day, down from $174,545 in 2009. This year’s meet was trimmed to 33 days to boost purses.

Colonial Downs will race four days a week through July 31. Live racing will be held Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 5 p.m. EDT, and Sundays at 12:55 p.m.

Purses are comparable to those of last year, with maiden special weight events going for $23,000 and entry-level allowance races for $24,000. The minimum purse, for $5,000 maiden claimers, is $7,600.

Each open race will offer a 100% bonus to winning Virginia-bred horses. The Virginia Thoroughbred Association said the owners’ bonus is the highest in the United States.

The races as usual have a decidedly Maryland flavor. Maryland and Virginia are the two Mid-Atlantic states that have “circuit” arrangement; the Pimlico Race Course meet ended May 21, and live racing won’t be held again until the Maryland State Fair at Timonium meet in late August.

The $600,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) for 3-year-olds is scheduled for July 16. The $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup, formerly a grade II event for 3-year-olds, is now open to older horses, so it won’t carry a grade this year.

New on the schedule is the “Commonwealth Turf Fest,” which will feature five $50,000 grass stakes for Virginia-bred runners July 30.

For ontrack patrons,Colonial Downs has constructed a viewing platform on top of the infield tote board that will offer betting windows, tables, and concessions. The idea is to allow fans a better view of races on the turf course.

Welcome to the Races
5/21/2011 9:22:42 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2011 

On June 8, Colonial Downs will begin an eight-week summer race meet at its New Kent, Virginia track. The meet concludes on Sunday, July 31. Racing is four days a week – Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays – with an added day on Monday, July 4. Post time is 5:00 p.m. every day except Sunday, which has a 1:00 p.m. post.

Owners and trainers competing will see positive changes in purse levels. Because racing has been reduced to four days from the usual five, average daily purses are expected to rise to about $200,000. In addition, this year there is increased bonus money for racing Virginia-bred or Virginia-sired horses (“Virginia-breds”).

The owners of all Virginia-bred horses running in open competition (not including stakes races) finishing first through fifth will receive a 100 percent bonus from the breeders fund – the highest percentage in the country. That means, for example, Colonial’s standard $23,000 open maiden race becomes a $46,000 race for Virginia-breds in the race. Last year’s Virginia-bred owners’ bonus paid just 60 percent for first through fourth.

The breeder’s fund also provides a 25 percent purse supplement for all Virginia-bred restricted races other than stakes races. Taking an example from the lower end of competition, a $5,000 claiming race normally carrying a purse of $8,600 gets bumped to $9,850 when restricted to Virginia-bred horses. There will be 16 Virginia-restricted overnight races during the 33-day meet, in addition to six Virginia-bred stakes races with $50,000 purses.

Each year, Racing Secretary Tyler Picklesimer struggles to fill dirt races because of the popularity of Colonial’s signature turf course. Last year, 90 percent of the races were on the turf. This year, to encourage more entries, all dirt races with a field of nine or more starters (i.e. betting interests) will see purses boosted by 15 percent. For example, an allowance race on the main track with a $24,000 purse increases to $27,600 if there are nine or more betting interests.

Supporting the drive for more dirt races, the Virginia HBPA is again sponsoring its “down and dirty” trainer bonus program. Trainers entering claiming races on the main track, $10,000 or less, receive for their finishes: $200 (1st), $100 (2nd), $75 (3rd), and $50 (4th through last). Bonuses will be paid by the Virginia HBPA in a lump sum to each trainer at the end of the meet.

The racing secretary also created a new entry preference for dirt starters. All horses starting on the main track during the meet are preferred in all overnight turf races, provided the race is a similar distance (under or over a mile) and within a claiming price range of $2,500, either way. That preference, however, is second to the preference given to all registered Virginia-breds in all overnight races. Each preference must be claimed at the time of entry.

The purse distribution scheme for overnight races established last summer—paying through last place—is in effect this year as well. Purse shares in order of finish are: 58/20/10/6 percent, with the remaining six percent of the purse split equally among all finishers beyond the first four. While the “beyond fourth” share is small, it does cover a jockey mount fee and helps defray expenses for daily shippers.

Colonial’s stakes program this summer includes 17 races, highlighted by two big Saturday cards: the Colonial Turf Cup ($500,000, G2) and the All Along ($150,000, G3) on June 18, followed by the Virginia Derby ($600,000, G2) and the Virginia Oaks ($150,000, G3) on July 16. Rounding out the program are the Zeke Ferguson Steeplechase ($50,000, G3) and 12 ungraded $50,000 stakes contests.

All horses shipping to Colonial Downs must have a health certificate, dated within 10 days showing an EHV vaccination between seven and 90 days, and the usual 12-month Coggins test, before they will be allowed on the grounds.

The Colonial Downs condition book is on the track’s website at (click “horsemen”) as well as the Virginia HBPA’s site at

Benevolence and Amenities
5/21/2011 9:19:01 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2011 

The Virginia HBPA is again furnishing benevolent services for backstretch workers during Colonial Downs’ summer meet. The first step, before the stable area opened, was cleaning the six dormitories and replacing worn mattresses and air conditioners.

During the meet, the Virginia HBPA classroom building next to the track kitchen is the center of activity for training programs, referral to medical and dental care, van transportation to shopping and recreation, distribution of meal vouchers for those in need, and our chaplaincy program. The 2,000 square foot building also has a kitchen, large screen television, computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, Wi-Fi, and sports equipment, all of which are free for use by owners, trainers, and backstretch workers.

The building is open every day from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The telephone number is (804) 966-1234. The fax number is (804) 966-2410.

Turning to amenities, all Virginia licensed horsemen and guests are entitled to free grandstand admission on every race day. That includes complimentary access (except Virginia Derby Day) to the third floor Jockey Club Horsemen’s Section, with a lounge and simulcasting areas.

In addition, free access to the Virginia HBPA’s suite on the fourth floor Turf Club level is available every day except Saturday. Turf Club bar seats and unsold dining tables are free every day (except Virginia Derby Day).

Horsemen enter through the Pass Gate by showing their license. Red wristbands for the Jockey Club and green ones for the Turf Club areas are obtained at the Guest Service Upgrade window immediately to the right after entering through the Pass Gate.

Casual attire is fine for the Jockey Club, but the Turf Club level has a dress code – no jeans, tank tops, or flip-flops.

Leadership Changes at the Virginia Racing Commission
5/21/2011 9:17:12 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2011 

The Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) has five members appointed by the Governor for five-year terms. Peter Burnett, a Leesburg horsemen and lawyer, served eight years as a member of the Commission, including the last four as its chairman, but was not reappointed when his term expired in December.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) replaced Burnett with J. Sargeant Reynolds, Jr., a Richmond real estate developer. Burnett was the Virginia HBPA’s vice president when he was selected for the VRC in 2003 by former Governor Mark Warner (D).

The Commission also hired Bernard J. Hettel as executive secretary. He replaces Victor Harrison, who left to work for Penn National Gaming. Hettle, a University of Louisville graduate, was employed for 20 years by the Kentucky Racing Commission, leaving in 2004 as its executive director and chief steward. He later worked as Gulfstream Park’s director of racing.

2011 Colonial Downs Meet
2/18/2011 11:58:09 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2011 

The Virginia HBPA and the management of Colonial Downs, Virginia’s only pari-mutuel track, have agreed on a 2011 schedule that calls for 33 race days from June 8 through July 31. Racing is four days a week—Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays (including also Monday, July 4). That schedule represents a decrease in race days from last summer’s 40-day meet. The Virginia HBPA agreed to the reduction in days in order to increase average daily purses, which fell to $169,000 in 2010. The seven-day cut, if approved by the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC), would likely boost the purse average to $205,000, with the average overnight purse increasing to $15,000 from last year’s $12,880. All of this assumes no further erosion in Virginia on-track and year-round simulcast handle that funds purses.

A Virginia HBPA mail survey of all trainers licensed in Virginia shows that more than two-thirds support cutting days to increase purses. Similarly, the VRC staff report on race days backs the reduced schedule.

Nonetheless, the VRC is reluctant to reduce race days. The Commission prefers to maintain a 40-day race meet with a daily average of $169,000. However, the VRC would boost overnight purses to the above $15,000 average by cutting stakes purses from $2,050,000 to $1,360,000. The VRC’s preference does not indicate which stakes races should be reduced or eliminated. Colonial’s current 17-race stakes program, to which the Virginia HBPA is contractually committed, includes the $600,000 Virginia Derby (GIIT), the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (GIIT), the $150,000 Virginia Oaks (GIIIT), the $150,000 All Along (GIIIT), the $50,000 Zeke Ferguson Steeplechase (GIII), and 12 ungraded $50,000 stakes contests, six of which are limited to Virginia-breds.

A final decision on Colonial’s 2011 schedule was expected no later than March 1.

Virginia Wagering Handle
2/18/2011 11:55:44 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2011 

Pari-mutuel wagering handle, the engine driving purses and race days throughout the country, is sputtering. According to the “Jockey Club Fact Book,” nationwide handle dropped a little more than 16 percent from 2007 through 2009. Purses dropped seven percent, and the number of races declined nearly four percent. The trend continued in 2010.

The nationwide drop in purses over the last three years would have been much greater if not for the infusion of slot machine revenue in a number of racing jurisdictions. The experience in Virginia, not now and never likely to be graced with slots revenue, is illustrative.

The chart above, based on Virginia Racing Commission data, shows what occurred in Virginia affecting racing at Colonial Downs. From 2007 through 2010, handle dropped 21 percent, with Thoroughbred purses down 25 percent over the same period (the VRC data includes Standardbred handle that accounts for about 20 percent of the total).

Unlike the big racing states, Virginia’s annual wagering handle depends heavily on importing races year-round into ten off-track betting shops in central and southern Virginia. The handle generated during Colonial’s short two-month summer meet provides only a small portion of purse money awarded during the meet. The horsemen’s share of simulcast wagering the other ten months of the year provides the lion’s share of the purse account.

One way to stop the decline of handle and purses in Virginia, to say nothing of increasing them, is to expand off-track wagering. However, by statute Colonial is limited to its current 10 off-track locations. Even were that not true, the above chart shows a significant and growing shift in wagering to the four advance deposit wager (ADW) Internet providers licensed in Virginia by the state racing commission (Twin Spires, TVG, XpressBet, and Colonial’s own EZ Horseplay). That shift suggests traditional and expensive “sticks and bricks” stand-alone betting shops are not a cost effective wave of the future.

Fortunately, the shift to online ADW wagering has not substantially impacted the Virginia horsemen’s purse account. Because of a recent amendment to the state racing act, designed and promoted by the Virginia HBPA, as a condition of ADW licensing, five percent of all ADW handle generated anywhere in Virginia is paid by a licensee to our horsemen’s purse account. An additional one percent goes to the breeders’ fund, and another five percent to the track.

Recognizing the migration of wagering to Internet providers, Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA are partners in a venture that takes Internet wagering into existing bars and private clubs like the VFW, the Moose Club, the Elks Club, and the Lion’s Club. At present, there are 31 such locations in Virginia, with 60 projected by the end of the year. In the bars and clubs, EZ Horseplay, Colonial’s on-line wagering platform, is set up to operate on computer touch screen terminals that can be placed anywhere in those venues.

These inexpensive devices permit account wagering and live viewing of races from around the country, all courtesy of the Internet. And if they prove to have limited success in a particular club or bar, the touch screens can be moved to another location at little or no cost. Unlike a traditional off-track betting shop, Colonial Downs has no investment in a building or a staff of employees.

Because wagering in the bars and clubs is limited to EZ Horseplay, account holders kiosks are in place, alongside the touch screen terminals, which allow any patron to open an account instantly. The kiosks also print racing programs and accept and dispense cash to accounts holders.

In a certain respect, the Virginia HBPA and its racetrack partner are taking a page from the Virginia lottery. The state lottery generates a huge “handle” by continuously increasing the number of locations where lottery tickets are sold, currently about 5,000 convenience stores and gas stations.

Maybe we can do the same for racing, albeit on a smaller scale. For without an increase in year-round wagering handle, the prospects for the continued success of Virginia racing are dim.

Instant Racing Bill Passes Virginia Senate
2/8/2011 3:14:56 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/8/2011 9:10:51 AM

The Virginia Senate has again approved legislation authorizing Instant Racing—wagering on historical races—but the bill’s reception in the House remains uncertain.

The Senate passed the bill Feb. 7 on a tight 21-19 vote after it sailed through the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology on a 14-0 vote Jan. 26, according to Virginia legislative records. The measure has passed the Senate before only to fail in the House.

Instant Racing machines, currently in use in Arkansas, resemble video lottery terminals but are pari-mutuel in nature because they rely on the results of previously run horse races, and all bets are pooled unlike video lottery terminals or slot machines.

A 2006 study referenced in a 2011 fiscal impact statement from the state Department of Planning and Budget claims about $660 million in revenue could be produced from 10,000 machines at 11 locations in Virginia—Colonial Downs and the off-track betting parlors it operates. The Virginia Racing Commission, however, believes no more than 1,500 machines would be used, and that revenue would total about $78 million.

The bill passed Feb. 7 gives 42% of the revenue to the state and 45% to the licensee. In addition, 6% would go to Thoroughbred and Standardbred purses (up to $30 million a year) and 2% to breed development, again no more than $30 million. The racing commission would determine the breed splits.

Based on the VRC estimates, purses would get $4.7 million a year, breed development programs $1.6 million a year, and Colonial Downs $35.2 million a year.

The VRC, which would develop regulations for Instant Racing, would get 0.5% of revenue from the machines, according to the legislation.

Secretariat Screening
12/2/2010 11:41:01 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2010 

The Virginia HBPA, along with the Virginia Thoroughbred Association (VTA), sponsored a private screening of the new Walt Disney film “Secretariat.” The movie features Big Red, Virginia’s most famous native son, and his owner, Penny Tweedy.

The event, at a theater in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., was preceded by a reception and book signing for “Secretariat’s Meadow—The Land, The Family, The Legend” and “The Simple Game, An Irish Jockey’s Memoirs.”

Tom Foley, author of “The Simple Game,” played Secretariat’s exercise rider, Jimmy Gaffney, in the movie. Foley also rides and trains in Virginia.

Over 240 supporters of the Virginia horse industry attended the reception and screening, along with a number of Virginia General Assembly members. The legislators were invited with a specific purpose in mind. The Virginia HBPA and the VTA hope to use the movie’s popularity, and in particular its highlighting of a glorious chapter in Virginia’s racing and breeding history, to garner support for legislation necessary to aid that industry.

In the upcoming 2011 session of the General Assembly, both organizations plan a major push to amend the state’s racing act to allow expansion of year-round off-track wagering, the lifeblood of purses and breeders’ fund awards. Current law permits only ten off-track betting facilities, and then only in locations that pass an authorizing referendum. That legislative cap has been reached by four sites Colonial Downs operates in Richmond and six it has in southern part of the state. There are no off-track betting locations in the heavily populated northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Current ideas for legislative amendments include allowing the Virginia Racing Commission to license and regulate smaller off-track wagering outlets in existing facilities like sports bars and billiard rooms. These “lite” versions of off-track betting parlors require little capital expenditure and would not be subject to a cap on their numbers, nor would they require a referendum.

Facilities of this sort would, however, be subject to local government laws and regulations, such as zoning requirements.

12/2/2010 11:38:50 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2010 

An old fashion county fair came to Colonial Downs on the opening weekend of the fall harness meet. The ground floor of the grandstand was given over to competition for jams, jellies, pies, and handcrafts. Additional displays of craftsmanship, together with booths celebrating the Bible, the environment, at least two political parties, patent medicines, and various other causes, were set up in a large tent bordering the homestretch. Outside were rides and amusements for children.

The 3,000 or so fair goers were also treated to a Saturday afternoon race card that featured 13 mixed breed races. Unlike the combination of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races occasionally found at flat tracks, Colonial mixed Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.

The first race was a mile-and-a-half flat race on Colonial’s inner turf course. The victor, He’s a Conniver, is owned and trained by Virginia HBPA Board member Ernie Oare. In the winner’s circle, Oare quipped he was “100% Virginian” after hearing the track announcer proclaim it was the start of a mixed breed day of racing. A month later, He’s a Conniver went on to win the $50,000 International Gold Cup, a three-and-a-half-mile steeplechase race at the Great Meadow course near Middleburg, Virginia.

Two steeplechase races at two-and-a-quarter-miles over ten hurdles on the Secretariat outer turf course followed. Oare also won one of the jump races with Rockon Rockoff.

The Standardbred horses then took over with their sulkies for ten races on Colonial’s main track. Winning the first was Linda Magnusson’s Nicota, trained and driven by Daniel Maier.

Colonial is one of the few tracks in the country that routinely changes surfaces to permit Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds to race on the same oval. After the summer Thoroughbred meet, Colonial literally scrapes hundreds of tons of sand and clay from the track—the foot thick “dirt” cushion— exposing the stone dust base on which the harness horses race. The dirt cushion is stored in a huge pile in the backstretch stable area waiting reapplication and spreading in the spring before the Thoroughbred season.

12/2/2010 11:36:23 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2010 

The Virginia HBPA sponsors a scholarship program that annually awards education grants to individuals for use in college, vocational school, or in any other formal course of study. To be eligible, an applicant must be a Virginia resident employed in the horse industry, either at a racetrack, training facility, or on a horse farm, or be the child of a person so employed.

This fall, the Virginia HBPA Board of Directors awarded $1,000 grants to Emily Baker, Audrey Boslego, Sherman Chavis, Ray Figgins, Jr., Jessica Jones, Ellen McWade, Sara Murphy, Sarah Simmons, Justin Thomas, and Patrick White.

Five of the students worked in various jobs at Colonial Downs, including hot walker, test barn catcher, and security guard. The others have parents employed in the horse industry.

All are in college or vocational school. Their goals include careers as veterinarians and horse trainers, as well as employment in non-industry jobs such as guidance counselor, automotive technician, and musical theatre performer.

2011 Race Dates at Colonial Downs
12/2/2010 11:35:21 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2010 

Even though it seems like Colonial Downs’ 2010 meet just ended, the Virginia HBPA is in talks with racetrack management and stakeholders about next year’s meet. We are exploring a number of options with the goal of raising purses and increasing average field size.

This year’s numbers were disappointing and, in large part, reflected nationwide industry trends for racetracks without slot machines or alternative gaming supplementing purses. Daily purses for Colonial’s 40-race day meet averaged about $158,000 (without breeders awards), down from approximately $171,000 in 2009. Average field size dropped from 8.9 starters per race to 7.7 starters this year.

To boost purses, the Virginia HBPA is considering a proposal to race four days a week, instead of the usual five days, during an eight-week period. That means cutting race days from 40 to 32, which could increase purses to a daily average of $200,000 or more. Racing fewer days in a week may also increase field size by making it possible for a horse to make more starts during the meet.

Another option under discussion is moving Colonial’s meet from a summer schedule to a fall one. In the late 1990s when the track first opened, it raced in the fall, albeit with limited success.

Another option is night racing, which would require portable lights for the turf course. The main dirt track already has permanent lights.

The above proposals are in the preliminary discussion stage. Any final plan for 2011 requires agreement between the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs, as well as approval by the Virginia Racing Commission.

Colonial Downs Meet - Attendance Down, Handle Up
8/25/2010 1:24:45 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2010 

The eight-week summer meet at Colonial Downs, Virginia’s only Thoroughbred racetrack, ended on July 21 with mixed results. Like the trend at tracks across the country, attendance was down 11 percent compared to 2009. However, unlike the national picture of wagering decline, all-source betting on Virginia racing was up more than 11 percent, from a 2009 daily average of $745,320 to $830,857 for this year’s 40-day meet.

Attendance at the Colonial meet dropped from a daily average 1,655 fans to 1,477 this summer. That drop was caused by the track’s switch of a non-racing dark day from Wednesday to Friday. This year’s total attendance on formerly dark Wednesdays was a paltry 4,786 (a Wednesday average of 598) compared with 14,289 (an average 1,786) for last year’s Friday racing.

The dark day Wednesday/Friday switch, as expected, did payoff in greater handle. Last year, Friday all-source handle averaged $377,860. This summer, Wednesday handle was more than two-and-a-half times as great, averaging $988,731. The sizeable handle jump came from less Wednesday competition for Colonial’s simulcast signal sent to other tracks and to online wagering companies like XpressBet and YouBet.

Turning to racing, an unprecedented 90 percent of all races were run on Colonial’s signature turf course. That was possible because every five days, portable rails on the 180-foot wide surface were moved to create new racing paths.

Once again the expansive turf course drew some of the top stakes horses in the country. Three-year-old Paddy O’Prado won both the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. IIT) and the $600,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT). Six Virginia-bred $50,000 stakes races and ten Virginia-bred overnight races were also contested on the turf. In addition, the state breeders’ fund paid a 60 percent bonus to the owners of Virginia-breds finishing in the top four spots in open competition.

Virginia HBPA Board member and Treasurer David Ross again won leading owner honors for the meet. Rosemary Homeister, Jr. and Hamilton Smith took the top jockey and top trainer awards, respectively.

On a disappointing note, average field size dropped to 7.7 horses per race from last year’s 8.9 average. The cost of shipping, the absence of the formerly free shuttle from Laurel, Pimlico, and Bowie in Maryland, and competition from tracks in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware with higher purses supplemented by slot machine revenue no doubt contributed to Colonial’s drop in field size.

Average daily purses also declined from about $182,000 to approximately $170,000 this year. That reflects the ongoing decrease over the past three years in year-round wagering at Colonial’s nine off-track betting shops. Revenue from those locations accounts for nearly 85 percent of the purse money offered during Colonial’s summer meets.

The Virginia HBPA, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, Colonial Downs, and the Virginia Racing Commission are now discussing ways to reverse the effects of that trend and to increase purses and breeder’s fund resources.

Benefit Golf Tournament
8/25/2010 1:20:50 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2010 

In the last week of the Colonial meet, the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs sponsored their sixth annual golf tournament to benefit Shannon Campbell and the national Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. Shannon Campbell is a Virginia resident who was paralyzed in a racing accident at Charles Town.

Nationwide, there are more than 50 jockeys permanently disabled by riding injuries.

Fifty-three golfers competed at the Royal New Kent course next to the racetrack. At the 19th hole – amidst levity, tall tales, and imbibing – prizes were awarded to the winning team and individual players, male and female, hitting the longest drives and making the longest putts. Nearly $9,000 was raised for injured jockeys.

Groom Elite Program
8/25/2010 1:19:06 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2010 

The Virginia HBPA again offered the popular Groom Elite 101 training class during the summer meet. The program, sponsored by the National HBPA and directed by Dr. Reid McLellan, ran for six weeks on dark days (Thursdays and Fridays) from noon until 3:30 p.m. Instruction was a combination of classroom work in the Virginia HBPA’s building and hands-on learning in the barn.

Lunch beforehand was catered by the track kitchen.

Topics covered included equine behavior, conditioning, leg anatomy, nutrition, bandaging, grooming, tacking, test barn protocol, and safety.

While Reid McLellan did most of the teaching, he was assisted by local horsemen certified as instructors by the Elite program. This summer’s group of 20 students ranged from teens to seniors. Some were new to the racetrack, and others were veterans. At the end of the six weeks, 12 students earned a score of 70 percent or better on both the written and skill examination.

They were certified as Groom Elite graduates. That carried with it a special identification card and a Groom Elite jacket, presented with ice cream and cake at a graduation ceremony.

Colonial All-Source Wagering Up 13.2%
7/23/2010 4:42:41 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 7/23/2010 1:39:07 PM Last Updated: 7/23/2010 1:44:03 PM

Boosted by a 20% increase in import simulcasting handle, Colonial Downs concluded its 40-day meet July 21 with a 13.2% increase in all-source wagering.

The track in New Kent, Virginia reported all-source handle of $34.4 million for a daily average of $860,765. During the 2009 meet, all-source wagering averaged $760,340 from a total $30.4 million. Import wagering totaled $29.3 million, compared $24.4 million one year ago.

The import wagering more than made up for declines in on-track wagering, which fell 15.2% to a daily average of $126,301 from a total of $4.3 million. With the track racing on Wednesday rather than having a Friday twilight card, average daily attendance of 1,499 represented a decline of 11.5%.

For the second consecutive year, Rosemary Homeister Jr. was leading jockey, with 43 wins, and Hamilton Smith won the trainer’s title for the sixth time, with 29 victories. The leading owner was David Ross.

Colonial reported 7.73 average starters per race, down from the 8.89 figure one year ago. Of the 381 total races contested during the meet, 342 were run over the Secretariat turf course.

Paddy O'''' Prado dominates Colonial Turf Cup
6/21/2010 5:12:18 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 6/19/2010, 6:30 pm

Paddy O'Prado made a sensational return to grass Saturday by dominating the Grade 2, $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va.

Third in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness after racing primarily on turf, Paddy O'Prado reestablished himself as a major force in the 3-year-old turf division by drawing clear to win the 1 3/16-mile Colonial Cup by three lengths as the favorite. Kent Desormeaux was aboard for owner Donegal Racing and trainer Dale Romans.

"The colt ran a spectacular race," said Romans, who traveled from Louisville, Ky., for the day. "He's a really exciting racehorse, just the way he does things so well."

Always in a comfortable spot while saving ground a few lengths off the pace, Paddy O'Prado rushed up to challenge Two Notch Road and Workin for Hops leaving the far turn, then pulled away with authority to notch his first victory since he captured the Grade 3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park in March. He returned $5 after finishing in 1:54.20 over a firm course.

Workin for Hops, a 9-1 shot, was second, another 1 3/4 lengths before Two Notch Road in a field of seven. Doubles Partner, the 2-1 second choice, was fourth.

Romans said Paddy O'Prado, a gray El Prado colt, will run next in the July 17 Virginia Derby and Aug. 21 Secretariat at Arlington Park. The colt earned $294,000 to lift his bankroll to $758,497.

In earlier Saturday races at Colonial:

* Shared Account ($6) got a good stalking trip under Edgar Prado and wore down her opposition to post a one-length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 All Along Stakes.

Trained by Graham Motion for Sagamore Farm, Shared Account finished the 1 1/8-mile turf race in 1:49.16 for her fifth victory from 12 lifetime starts. A 4-year-old Pleasantly Perfect filly, Shared Account was a presence in her division last year and was making just her second start of 2010.

Dynaslew rallied belatedly to get second by a nose in a very tight three-horse photo, with front-running Tizaqueena and Casablanca Smile dead-heating for third.

* Lady Rizzi ($10.60), with Alan Garcia riding for trainer Linda Rice, held off 23-1 shot If Not for Lust to post a head victory in the $50,000 Buckland Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Libor Lady, the 7-5 favorite in a field of 11 fillies and mares, was prominent throughout before settling for third, another length back.

Racing at Colonial Downs
5/30/2010 5:57:27 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2010 

On May 29, Colonial Downs kicked off its fourteenth annual Thoroughbred race meet in New Kent, Virginia. Racing continues for eight weeks, five days a week, until July 21. Post time on Saturdays and Sundays is 12:55 p.m. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, racing starts at 4:00 p.m., an hour earlier than last year to accommodate more racing on the unlit turf course. There is no racing on Thursdays and Fridays.

Meet highlights include the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. IIT) on June 19 and the $600,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) on July 17. Both are route races on the turf for three-year-olds. The $150,000 All Along Stakes (Gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares is paired with the Turf Cup. The $150,000 Virginia Oaks (Gr. IIIT) for three-year-old fillies runs on Derby Day. Those two stakes are also distance races on the grass.

Scattered throughout the meet are 12 more stakes races, each with a $50,000 purse. Six are restricted to Virginia bred or sired horses.

Steeplechase races, including the $50,000 Zeke Ferguson Memorial Hurdle (Gr. III), are scheduled on alternate Sundays starting on June 13.

The standard overnight races feature a 60 percent owners’ bonus paid for Virginia bred/sired horses finishing among the top four in open competition.

Each week, there are also two Virginia restricted races with a 25 percent purse supplement. All overnight races pay through last place.

To encourage larger fields in dirt races, the Virginia HBPA is once again paying a trainers’ bonus for all runners in races on the main track with a claiming price of $10,000 or less. The bonus is: $200 (win), $100 (place), $75 (show), and $50 (fourth through last).

Each weekend, Colonial Downs features special events like Owners’ Day on Saturday, June 19. At noon, the Virginia HBPA will host a reception in the stable area for owners and their guests. Ceremonies with special owner trophies continue through the afternoon card, which includes the Colonial Turf Cup and the All Along Stakes.

Saturday, June 26 is Ladies Day, with free admission for women. Tonic Jane, an all-girl band, will provide music, while various women’s organizations hold charitable fundraisers on the grounds. The race card features an all-female amateur jockey contest and the $50,000 Brookmeade Stakes for Virginia bred or sired fillies and mares.

Concerts and fireworks are scheduled for the 4th of July weekend.

Virginia HBPA Backstretch Services
5/30/2010 5:55:48 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2010 

During the summer meet, the Virginia HBPA provides its usual benefits and services for everyone working in the stable area. Its office/class room building next to the track kitchen is the hub for nearly all activity. The facility is open from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day. It has a big screen television with simulcasting, DirectTV, and a DVD player. Computers, scanners, printers, and fax machines are available without charge. For those with laptops, the entire building and the outside patio areas around it are a WiFi hot spot for 24-hour access to the internet.

The Virginia HBPA also has a 12-passenger van for regular transportation from the dormitories to shopping and recreation areas. Sports equipment— balls, bats, gloves, soccer balls, basketballs, volley balls, and horseshoes—is on site. Complimentary tickets for meals in the track kitchen are available for those who would like them, including daily shippers.

The Reverend Marjorie Bevans, our Virginia HBPA chaplain, is at the track daily for counseling and prayer services. She is a former jockey who is at home on both the front side and in the stable area. Reverend Bevans also conducts Bible study classes one evening a week, with complimentary supper, at a local restaurant.

Urgent medical and dental care is provided through nearby clinics. The Virginia HBPA pays for both services, including prescription drugs, and provides free transportation.

All grooms participate in the Virginia HBPA’s awards program. A $20 prize is given in the paddock before each race to the groom with the best turned-out horse. Weekly $100 prizes go to the best kept barn.

The National HBPA Groom Elite 101 course is once again being taught at Colonial Downs by Dr. Reid McLellan and local volunteers. The six week training program runs from noon to 3:30 p.m. on dark days, Thursdays and Fridays. The Virginia HBPA provides lunch beforehand for all students. Instruction is in English and Spanish.

During the meet, the Virginia HBPA also accepts applications for its annual scholarship program that provides grants for vocational school, college study, and other types of formal education. Last year, 14 scholarships of $1,000 were awarded in September. To qualify, an applicant must be: (1) a Virginia resident; and, (2) a race track or Thoroughbred horse farm employee, or the child of the same. Applications are available in the Virginia HBPA building and online at

Spring Race Series
5/30/2010 5:53:28 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2010 

As a run-up to Colonial’s 40-day summer meet, and to provide racing opportunities beyond that short meet, the Virginia HBPA sponsored a series of Virginia-bred flat races at Spring steeplechase meets in Northern Virginia. The races, each with a purse of $2,000, were route races on the grass.

The series will continue in the Fall after Colonial ends its meet.

Alternative Gaming
5/30/2010 5:51:51 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2010 

The drive to get Instant Racing at Colonial Downs once again stalled in the Virginia legislature. A bill authorizing installation of Instant Racing machines like those at Oaklawn Park at the New Kent, Virginia track and Colonial’s eight off-track betting shops around the state made it through the Virginia Senate with the active support of the Virginia HBPA. That bill allocated eight percent of Instant Racing revenue to horsemen, with six percent to purses and two percent to the breeders’ fund. Unfortunately, the bill died in the House of Delegates because of opposition by the Speaker, who is anti-gaming.

The absence of alternative revenue sources like Instant Racing puts Virginia at a disadvantage to its neighbors in the Mid-Atlantic circuit—West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland—all of whom who have purses supplemented by slot machine revenue.

Summer Race Days for Colonial Downs
3/4/2010 5:01:50 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2010 

The Virginia Racing Commission approved an eight week, 40 race day schedule for Colonial Downs this summer. The meet begins on Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 29, and runs through Wednesday, July 21. Racing is five days a week, Saturday through Wednesday. In a break from the past, Friday rather than Wednesday will be dark, along with the usual no racing on Thursday.

The weekday post time switches to 4:00 p.m. from the normal 5:00 p.m. slot. The weekend post stays at 1:00 p.m.

With an early Memorial Day start, Colonial Downs hopes to attract a big holiday crowd to kick off its Thoroughbred season. Another big weekend is planned for July 4th, including music and fireworks. Post time on Saturday July 3 and Sunday July 4 is 5:00 p.m. Monday, July 5, is set for 1:00 p.m.

The June 19 $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. IIT) and the July 17 $600,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) highlight the racing season. Once again, they serve as the first two legs of the $5 million Grand Slam of Grass, sponsored by Jacobs Entertainment, Colonial Downs’ parent company.

Daily cards will likely have 80 percent of the races on Colonial’s huge turf course, where the rail is moved every five days. Last year, the percentage of races on the turf dropped to 70 percent because of wet weather. Overnight purse levels will be at least the same, if not slightly higher, than 2009’s $181,000 daily average for a number of reasons.

At the Virginia HBPA’s request, the Virginia Derby purse was reduced from $750,000 to $600,000 to put more money into overnights. More importantly, there is peace in the Virginia simulcast and internet wagering world, revenue from which accounts for nearly 90 percent of the Virginia horsemen’s purse account (see below).

Last year TrackNet, on behalf of Churchill and Magna tracks, boycotted Colonial’s simulcast signal because of a dispute over fees payable by online wagering companies doing business in Virginia like Churchill’s Twin Spires and Magna’s XpressBet.

Earlier this year, a similar dispute between TrackNet and the MidAtlantic Cooperative, which includes Colonial Downs and 16 other tracks, limited simulcasting revenue at Colonial’s eight off-track betting locations. Both disputes are settled for the current year.

Purse Economics
3/4/2010 4:57:58 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2010 

There are four sources of revenue for the Virginia HBPA horsemen’s purse account. In order of magnitude, they are: (1) year-round wagering on out-of-state races at Colonial’s eight satellite wagering facilities (SWFs) in central and southern Virginia, of which the horsemen receive about five percent of handle; (2) year-round internet wagering at home on out-of-state races by Virginia residents having accounts with advance deposit wagering companies (ADWs) like TVG, YouBet, TwinSpires, XpressBet, and Colonial’s own EZ Horseplay, of which the horsemen receive source market fees of five percent of handle; (3) wagering on live races at Colonial Downs during the 40-day summer race meet, of which the horsemen receive about 8.5 percent of handle; and, (4) out-of-state wagering on Colonial’s races during the 40-day summer meet, of which the horsemen receive about 1.5 percent of handle as a signal fee.

Revenue from the first two—SWF and ADW handle on out-of-state races—makes up close to 90 percent of the horsemen’s purse account on an annual basis. Simply put, Virginia is an importing state. Our horsemen’s purse account depends on races simulcast to us from other jurisdictions. Racing in the state cannot exist based solely on wagering on Colonial’s live races.

The following chart illustrates Virginia’s purse economics. Over the past three years, simulcast import handle and the resulting contribution to the horsemen’s account, in round numbers, were:

Year - SWF Handle - ADW Handle - Purse Account Share
2007 - $159 mil. - $33 mil. - $7.4 mil.
2008 - $142 mil. - $47 mil. - $7.2 mil.
2009 - $119 mil. - $50 mil. - $6.5 mil.

The drop in SWF handle, occasioned in part by a depressed national economy, has been offset somewhat by an increase in ADW handle. On a positive note, starting January 1 of this year, the horsemen’s share of ADW handle (called “source market fees”) increased from a negotiated rate of approximately four percent to a flat statutory rate of five percent by virtue of a 2009 legislative amendment to the state Racing Act. Going forward, that rate increase could annually add an extra half-million dollars to the purse account.

The amendment to the Racing Act also requires a one percent handle contribution to the Virginia breeders’ fund by all ADW companies licensed in Virginia. In the past, the breeders’ fund received one percent of SWF handle, but nothing from the growing ADW internet handle. The recent legislative change may generate an additional $400,000 annually for the fund and may help increase purses.

For the past two years, the breeders’ fund supplemented purses with a 100 percent bonus payment to the owners of Virginia-bred or Virginia-sired horses winning in open company at Colonial Downs. Bonus money exceeded $1 million in 2008 but was reduced to nearly $500,000 in 2009 because of the dip in SWF handle.

The Virginia HBPA has proposed continuing the 100 percent owners’ bonus program in 2010, hopefully using the new breeders’ fund revenue stream to restore bonuses to 2008 levels.

Strawberrry Hill Races
3/4/2010 4:54:57 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2010 

The Virginia state fair’s Strawberry Hill steeplechase meet, previously held in early April at Colonial Downs, moves to a later date, May 15. The April date always brought uncertain weather for a crowd of 25,000 attendees. This year, the organizers anticipate better weather and plan to have pari-mutuel wagering on the jump races as part of a simulcast card coordinated with the Preakness at nearby Pimlico in Baltimore.

The event should be a good run-up for Colonial’s season that starts two weeks later. During the meet, Colonial will card two steeplechase races every other Sunday.

Strawberry Hill’s new date will present a challenge to the track’s ground crew. The crew will have only a week to clean up and reapply hundreds of tons of sand and clay to the main track base before the stable area opens on May 17 for the summer meet. That foot-thick sand and clay cushion is removed each year before the fall harness meet and piled on the backstretch because the Standardbreds race on the track’s stone dust base. The following spring, Strawberry Hill’s tailgaters conduct their merriment on that stone base. In prior years, when the steeplechase meet was in April, the ground crew had at least a month before the summer race meet to reapply the cushion.

Owner and Trainer License Fees
3/4/2010 4:51:49 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2010 

The Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) changed its licensing fees effective January 1, 2010. The owner and trainer permit fees increased from $10 to $50. Most other fees (groom, exercise rider, etc.) increased to $25. All existing permits, regardless of when they were issued, expired on December 31, 2009.

The VRC will not be sending out renewal notices. However, applications can be printed from the VRC website ( and mailed in with the appropriate fee.

The VRC stewards will not allow a horse to run unless an owner is currently licensed or, prior to the race, a new owner has on file an application and has paid the license fee while awaiting completion of the fingerprint process. Fingerprints are necessary for new applicants and every five years thereafter.

Board of Directors Elections
3/4/2010 4:49:05 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2010 

At the end of December, the Virginia HBPA held an election for its 14-member (seven owners and seven trainers) Board of Directors. Board member terms are for three years. Twenty candidates competed for the 14 seats.

Ballots were mailed to nearly 1,900 members. Returns were tallied by an independent accounting firm.

President Robin Richards, Vice President Jill Gordon-Moore, Secretary Diana McClure and members Randy Rouse, David Ross, Susie Chatfield Taylor, Susie Hart, Susan Cooney, Nellie Cox, Donna Dennehy, Stephanie Nixon, and Donna Rogers were reelected.

Longtime member and Treasurer John Hanna retired. He did not seek reelection, nor did member Jim Carter. Well known trainers Carlos Garcia and Ernie Oare were elected to fill those two seats.

The Board of Directors meets each month in Warrenton, Virginia.

Bert Allen Wins Email Address Raffle
3/4/2010 4:39:52 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2010 

Bert Allen, a Virginia HBPA owner member and longtime supporter of Virginia racing, won the Virginia HBPA’s email address $1,000 raffle prize. He is the father of trainer Ferris Allen, a frequent winner of the leading trainer title at Colonial Downs. Bert lives in Richmond, Virginia.

The raffle was based on postcards sent in by Virginia HBPA members listing their email addresses. Bert Allen’s name was drawn from a box containing about 300 cards.

The Virginia HBPA is using the email addresses to create a new system for communicating with its members on racing issues. Anyone interested in Virginia racing can take part by sending his or her email address to the Virginia HBPA at

Colonial Downs Amends Racing Schedule in 2010
1/28/2010 2:20:46 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 1/28/2010 8:13:16 AM Last Updated: 1/28/2010 8:40:37 AM

For the first time in 10 years, Colonial Downs has amended its weekly race schedule, adding Wednesday cards in place of Fridays.

In addition to the weekday schedule change, the New Kent, Va., track will also have the earliest opening in its 14-year history, beginning the 40-day meet May 29 with afternoon racing over the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

Following the opener, daily post time for the first race will be 4 p.m. (Eastern) on weekdays and 12:55 p.m. on weekends.

“The change in weekday post time will give us a chance to increase out-of-state simulcast handle by providing a true bridge signal,” said Tyler Picklesimer, director of racing, said in a press release. “We’ll also have more flexibility to program where dirt and turf races are scheduled now that we’re racing completely during daylight hours. In the past, the last couple of races had to be carded on dirt since they took place after the sun went down.”

While the main track at Colonial Downs is lighted, the turf course does not have lights.

The meet, which concludes July 21, will be highlighted by the $600,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) July 17 and the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT) June 19.

Mixed Breed Day at Colonial Downs
12/15/2009 5:56:48 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2009 

Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia is one of the few venues in the country where Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds share the same racing oval. After the usual June-July 40-day Thoroughbred meet ends, the foot deep sand and clay cushion is removed from the main track and stored in a gigantic pile in the stable area (Colonial’s huge turf course, of course, remains undisturbed though its Bermuda grass cover is at its best in the fall). Harness horses then race over the main track base during their September through November, 36-day meet. The main track cushion is reapplied in May of each year before the Thoroughbreds return for training and racing.

On the first Sunday of this year’s harness meet, Colonial Downs, with the cooperation of the Virginia HBPA and the Virginia Harness Horse Association, carded a novelty event, a combined 11 Standardbred and Thoroughbred races.

The afternoon started with eight harness races contested on the main track. It ended with three races for Thoroughbreds on the turf course.

A highlight of the day for fans was a mixed breed multi-event Pick-3 wager that included a harness race, a steeplechase race, and a flat race. It was quite likely a nationwide first. The Pick-3 started with the eighth race, a one mile contest for Standardbred pacers. Next up in race nine was a 2 ¼ mile, 11-hurdle maiden steeplechase race for Thoroughbreds. Rounding out the Pick-3 in race ten was a 1 ½ mile allowance flat race.

Racegoers seemed to enjoy the mixed card, evidenced in part by their crowding around the paddock to watch the Thoroughbreds being saddled and paraded. Harness racing has no similar opportunity for that sort of interaction between fan and contestant. The paddock at Colonial for trotters and pacers is in the receiving barn in the stable area, far removed from fans.

Additionally, of course, watching horses run and jump over four-and-a-half foot hurdles was a novelty for most harness horsemen and fans.

The unique mixed card was an effort by the horsemen’s groups and Colonial Downs to attract more fans by experimenting with a new entertainment product. As is true throughout the country, horse racing in the fall suffers from competition with other weekend sporting events, most notably high school, college, and professional football.

From the Virginia HBPA’s prospective, the mixed card also provided another opportunity for its members to race on Colonial’s excellent turf course.

Old Dominion Turf Championship
12/15/2009 5:54:31 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2009 

The Virginia HBPA again sponsored a fall series of four Virginia-bred flat races at steeplechase meets in the state. The races, for three year olds and up with a weight allowance for maidens, were carded at Foxfield (Charlottesville), Virginia Fall (Middleburg), Morven Park (Leesburg), and the International Gold Cup (The Plains). The distances varied from six-and-one-half furlongs to a mile-and-an-eighth.

The first three races carried purses of $5,000 and served as qualifiers for the $20,000 championship race at the International Gold Cup on October 17.

Complete results and charts are available at

During the year, the Virginia HBPA and the Virginia Thoroughbred Association use their resources to promote breeding in Virginia by sponsoring racing opportunities for Virginia-breds at various venues before and after restricted races held at Colonial’s short summer meet.

Medical Monitoring
12/15/2009 5:51:47 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2009 

In 2009, there were only four race-related horse fatalities during Colonial’s summer Thoroughbred meet. That was half the number of fatalities compared to last year. One of the factors that no doubt contributed to that reduction was medical monitoring provided by the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC). Dr. Rich Harden, the VRC’s equine medical director, headed a staff of 11 professionals who monitored horses stabled at the track every day, as well as daily shippers, to insure the horses were fit and sound both pre- and post-race.

A typical summer race day started early in the morning, with Dr. Harden and one of his two assistants, Dr. Robert Calley or Dr. Rosemary Borkowski, going through the stable area to examine horses scheduled to race that day. They flexed joints, examined legs and ankles, and watched horses jog.

The pre-race exams continued throughout the day in the receiving barn as horses not stabled on the grounds shipped in to race. On an average day, 80 or so horses were examined. Charts were kept, and possible areas of concern were noted for each horse.

At post time in the afternoon or evening, Dr. Harden or one of his assistants went to the paddock before each race to again check for soundness as the horses were saddled and then jogged in the post parade. Another staff veterinarian was stationed at the starting gate for the same purpose. Both had available information for each horse recorded during the morning round of examinations.

Based on their observations and judgment, there were occasionally scratches in the paddock or at the gate by the stewards for the welfare of the horses.

The two veterinarians remained on the track during and after each race to watch for post-race signs of injury or distress. A third staff veterinarian was stationed in the test barn, either Dr. Harden or one of his assistants, to supervise post-race drug testing. After every race, the stewards selected two horses, always the winner and usually the second place finisher, for testing.

Here, too, the 2009 meet statistics were good. Of the nearly 800 horses tested, only six samples were positive for the presence of impermissible drug concentrations. With one exception, all “positives” were for Class 4 therapeutic medications, mostly anti-inflammatory drugs routinely used in racehorses.

The one exception, a positive for the Class 2 drug mepivacaine, showed Dr. Harden in his role as medical sleuth. Mepivacaine is a commonly used local anesthetic for suturing wounds or minor surgery, but it is also used as a nerve block to desensitize a horse’s foot, joint, or limb. For that reason, among others, it is not permitted in a horse’s system on race day because of the risk of serious injury during the race.

Because the horse’s trainer credibly denied administering the drug, Dr. Harden went looking elsewhere for the source of mepivacaine. After some investigation, including interviews of the horse’s groom and a veterinarian who cared for another horse, Dr. Harden concluded the likely origin was environmental contamination.

On race day, the winner that tested positive was in a stall occupied the day before by an injured horse. That horse was lacerated by a groom removing a leg bandage with a knife. The veterinarian called to treat the horse administered a large quantity of mepivacaine to numb the area for suturing. The horse was fractious and bled profusely in the stall.

The next day, the winner was seen nibbling the stall floor before his race. Among his nibbles were large clumps of dried blood present from the day before.

Considering the mepivicaine concentration in the winner detected by the laboratory, the quantity used by the suturing veterinarian on the injured horse, the probability of exposure four or five hours before race time, and the ability of mepivicaine to absorb through the tongue and gums of the winner, Dr. Harden reasoned that this unusual chain of events likely accounted for the mepivicaine found in the post-race test.

The stewards accepted that conclusion in their decision, spelling out the consequences of the positive test. Because the winning horse had a prohibited substance in his system, regardless of how it got there, the winner’s purse was forfeited. However, because of the extenuating circumstances described by Dr. Harden, the stewards did not suspend the trainer as would otherwise have been the case with a Class 2 medication violation.

Board of Directors Election and Christmas Raffle
12/15/2009 5:48:44 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2009 

This month, the Virginia HBPA will hold a mail ballot election for seats on its Board of Directors. The Board has 14 members, seven trainers and seven owners. All owners and trainers actively licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission who race at Colonial Downs are eligible for a Board seat. President Robin Richards, Vice President Jill Gordon-Moore, and Secretary Diana McClure are running for reelection.

The term of office is three years. All elected member terms end at the same time. The Board meets monthly in Warrenton, Virginia, usually in the afternoon of the second or third Tuesday of the month. More information about Board activities is available at

The Virginia HBPA enclosed a self-addressed postcard with the approximately 2,000 ballots mailed to its members. The postcard asked members to fill in their email address and return it to the Virginia HBPA to take part in a Christmas raffle. If at least 400 cards with email addresses are received, the Virginia HBPA will raffle off a $1,000 cash prize by drawing a winner on Christmas Day from the returned cards.

Colonial Downs Summer Meet
8/31/2009 1:18:38 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2009 

The Colonial Downs eight-week summer meet ended July 28th on a mixed note. Daily average attendance (1,722) and average on-track handle ($128,141) were up three percent and one percent, respectively, over last year’s averages at the New Kent track. However, all source handle for the 40 days of racing was down 31 percent, due in large part to a boycott orchestrated by TrackNet Media.

Racing drew full fields and was very competitive. The major stakes attracted the top three-year-old turf horses in the country, with Jeff Mullins’ Battle of Hastings (GB) and Alan Goldberg’s Straight Story finishing first and second, separated by a head, in both the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (GIIIT) and the $750,000 Virginia Derby (GIIT).

Overall, nearly 75 percent of the Friday through Tuesday race cards were on Colonial’s huge turf course, even though rain kept horses off the turf for 5 1/2 days of the meet. Turf races averaged 9.5 starters. The average for all races was 8.9. Both numbers represented significant increases over last summer’s meet.

Virginia HBPA Board member David Ross again was the meet’s leading owner, with 11 wins from 42 starts. Hamilton Smith, with 26 winners from 118 starts, edged out Ferris Allen for his sixth leading trainer title in Colonial’s 13 years of racing.

Rosemary Homeister, Jr., a first time member of the Colonial jockey colony, won the leading rider title with 51 victories. In doing, so she became the second leading female rider in history, surpassed only by Julie Krone.

Tracknet Boycott
8/31/2009 1:17:09 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2009 

TrackNet Media, a corporate joint venture of Churchill Downs, Inc. and Magna Entertainment Company, boycotted Colonial Downs’ signal for the entire 40-day meet. On behalf of Churchill’s Twin Spires online wagering company and its tracks (Churchill Downs, Calder, the Fair Grounds, and Arlington Park) and Magna’s XpressBet and its tracks (Laurel, Pimlico, Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Thistledown, Lone Star, Golden Gate Fields, Remington Park, Portland Meadows, and the Meadows), TrackNet refused to take Colonial’s export signal even though it had done so in prior years. Practically speaking, it was almost impossible for horsemen and fans in states like Florida, Maryland, and Kentucky to watch or wager on horses sent to race in Virginia.

Based on historical wagering patterns, the boycott caused an estimated $10 million drop in Colonial’s handle., not affiliated with TrackNet, joined the boycott. TVG was the only national online company that carried Colonial’s races.

The professed reason for the actions of TrackNet and YouBet were their dissatisfaction with Virginia’s law regulating online wagering. This past Spring, the Virginia legislature set a statutory 10 percent source market fee on Virginia handle payable by all online wagering companies doing business in the state.

Under prior contracts between Twin Spires, XpressBet, and YouBet, on the one hand, and Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA, on the other, those companies paid source market fees between 8 and 8 ½ percent on all wagers by Virginia account holders. That source market fee was then split equally between the track and the horsemen in Virginia. The new law, effective July 1, 2009, increased the source market fee to 10 percent.

Even though Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA agreed to honor the old 8 to 8 ½ percent contract rates for the rest of 2009, TrackNet and YouBet nonetheless refused to accept wagering on Colonial’s races. They did, however, continue to accept wagers from their Virginia customers on all other racing throughout the country, and so far they have not paid the new 10 percent source market fee.

That failure to pay the new rate is now being considered by the Virginia Racing Commission. It will no doubt become a major factor on January 1, 2010 when Twin Spires, XpressBet, and YouBet seek renewal of their annual licenses to do business in Virginia. They will likely have two choices: pay the 10 percent fee or cease doing business in Virginia.

Owner''s Day
8/31/2009 1:15:00 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2009 

The Virginia HBPA started the 2009 race meet by hosting its annual Owners’ Day reception at Colonial Downs prior to the June 20th race card, featuring the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (GIIIT). From noon until 1:00 p.m., food and drink were served in the Virginia HBPA building in the stable area to owners, trainers, and friends of Virginia.

After each race, winning owners were given a commemorative beveled glass frame to hold the winner’s photo. Virginia owners Patrick Nuesch, Larry Johnson, and Mede Cahaba Stables were among the recipients. Because their winners were bred in Virginia, Nuesch, Johnson, and Mede Cahaba received double the stated purse amount under the season long 100 percent Virginia-bred owners’ bonus program sponsored by the Virginia HBPA.

Golf Benefit for Disabled Jockeys
8/31/2009 1:13:54 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2009 

Near the end of the Colonial meet, the Virginia HBPA sponsored for the fifth year a charity golf tournament to benefit Shannon Campbell and the national Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. Jockey Shannon Campbell, a Virginia resident, was paralyzed from the waist down in a riding accident at Charles Town. She also rode at Colonial Downs. The national Fund helps more than 50 other jockeys throughout the country who are also permanently disabled.

The tournament at the Royal New Kent golf club next to the racetrack drew 51 golfers. Through it, we raised more than $8,400 for permanently disabled jockeys.

Retired Racehorses
8/31/2009 1:12:49 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2009 

The James River Chapter of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) sponsors a rehabilitation and vocational training program at the James River Correctional Center, west of Colonial Downs and Richmond. Retired Thoroughbreds spend their leisure days on 50 acres of rolling pasture land being cared for by inmates learning to become skilled grooms.

Vocational training for the inmates is modeled on the National HBPA Groom Elite Program (GEP), offered by the Virginia HBPA at Colonial Downs. Dr. Reid McClellan, the GEP’s national director, helped design and implement the James River program.

During the Colonial meet, participants in the program visited the track to observe what might be in store for them in the future. Their visit was coordinated by Virginia HBPA Board member Stephanie Nixon.

Robin Traywick Williams, director of TRF’s James River Chapter, summarized the program by saying, “I had gotten into this to save horses, but I realized an even greater gift would be to save the life of a human being. Happily, we are doing both.”

Smith Earns Sixth Training Title at Colonial
7/30/2009 10:14:01 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 7/29/2009 2:46:24 PM

Colonial Downs’ 40-day summer race meet came to a close the night of July 28, as the leading trainer, owner, jockey, and apprentice rider were all awarded for their successes.

After a tight battle between trainers Hamilton Smith and Ferris Allen for leading trainer, Smith walked away with his sixth title at Colonial Downs. With 26 winners from 118 starts, Smith’s horses earned $500,725 during the meet. The two trainers traditionally battle here annually. In the 13 seasons of racing in Virginia, either Smith or Allen has won the title 12 times.

Owner David Ross once again dominated at Colonial Downs, earning his fifth straight leading owner title with 11 wins from 42 starts. His checkered maroon and white silks became a familiar site in the winner’s circle. Mrs. Arturo Peralta-Ramos finished second in the standings, with seven wins from 22 starts.

Leading jockey for the season, Rosemary Homeister Jr., booted home 51 winners and became the second leading female rider in history during the summer meet, her first ever at Colonial. Her 2009 Colonial mounts earned more than $713,000. She put an exclamation point on the meet by collecting four wins on closing night.

Second in the standings behind Homeister was young rider Sheldon Russell, who earned the title of top apprentice rider. Crossing the line first on 36 of his 221 mounts (25 of those wins with his bug status), Russell had a solid comeback meet after breaking his hand early in Colonial’s 2008 season.

From a business standpoint, average on track attendance and handle actually rose over the prior year in a tough economic climate. The 2009 average attendance of 1,722 and on track handle of $128,141 were 3% and 1% better than last season’s 1,668 and $126,194 figures respectively.

Import and total handle numbers fell, though, when compared to 2008. This year’s average daily import handle of $627,560 was 35% off the prior season’s mark of $960,834, while average total handle of $780,365 was 31% off the 2008 average of $1,118,743.

On the track itself, full fields held up throughout the 40-day summer meet. Of the 379 races carded, 272 were held over the Secretariat Turf Course, while the other 107 were run on the 1 1/4-mile dirt oval. Turf races averaged 9.49 starters per race, up over the 8.18 average in 2008, while dirt races averaged 7.5 starters per race, the highest figure in the past six years.

Colonial had 8.93 starters per race overall, the second highest figure in the past six years. The track lost five and a half days of racing on turf due to weather conditions.

Racing at Colonial Downs
6/10/2009 2:15:24 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2009 

On June 5, Colonial Downs began its 40-day summer meet that runs through July 28. Racing at the New Kent, Virginia track is five days a week, with a 5:00 p.m. post on Monday and Tuesday, 6:00 p.m. on Friday, and 12:55 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Jacobs Investments, Colonial’s owner, is again sponsoring the Grand Slam of Grass. The series offers a bonus worth $5 million to the three-year-old winner of four turf races: the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. IIT) on June 20th; the $750,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) on July 18th; the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (Gr. IT) at Arlington Park on August 8th; and the $3 million Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Turf (Gr. IT) on November 7th at Santa Anita.

Colonial is also carding the $150,000 All Along (Gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares on June 20th, as well as the $150,000 Virginia Oaks (Gr. IIIT) for three year old fillies on July 18th. In addition, there are twelve $50,000 stakes races, with six restricted to Virginia-bred/sired horses.

Steeplechase races are run on alternate Sundays, including the $50,000 Zeke Ferguson Memorial Hurdle (Gr. III) on July 12th.

The 100% owners’ bonus for Virginia-bred/sired horses running in open races returns in 2009. However, because of the sagging economy, the bonus applies to winners only, where last year it applied through sixth place. During the 2008 meet, the newly inaugurated bonus attracted about twice the number of Virginia-bred/sired horses than usually compete at Colonial.

The standard purse distribution system, which starts with a 57% share for the winner and pays through sixth place, will also be modified at the Virginia HBPA’s request to reward all finishers. Under the new formula, purse money will be distributed through last place. In an eight horse race, the split will be: 58/20/10/6, with 1.5% for fifth through last places. Under that formula, even in a low level $10,000 claiming race, the last place finisher receives $150, which at least covers jockey fees.

Because of the early June start, Colonial’s huge 160-foot wide turf course may not be ready for racing during the first week or so. Its Bermuda grass surface requires a good stretch of hot weather to mature. For that reason, more dirt races will be carded at the start of the meet. However, by season’s end, track management expects 80% of the races will have run on the turf.

To encourage horsemen to bring their dirt runners to Colonial, the Virginia HBPA will again run its popular “down and dirty” trainer bonus program. Trainers in dirt races with claiming prices of $10,000 or less will receive the following awards from the Virginia HBPA: $200 (1st); $100 (2nd); $75 (3rd); and, $50 (4th through last). Last year, nearly $20,000 was given out to trainers.

Benevolent Services
6/10/2009 2:13:22 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2009 

The Reverend Marjorie Bevans, our Virginia HBPA chaplain and a former jockey, will be at the track regularly for services and counseling. One evening a week, she leads a bible study session during supper at a local restaurant. This year, Reverend Bevans’ will have an assistant chaplain who speaks Spanish working with her.

The meeting room in the Virginia HBPA building next to the track kitchen is open from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. It has a large screen TV with simulcasting, a DVD, and card tables. Computers, printers, scanners, and fax machines likewise are available. For those with personal laptops, the building is a WiFi hot spot for internet access. After normal building hours, internet access is available on the outside terrace.

The Virginia HBPA also has a ten-passenger van for regular transportation from the dormitories to shopping and recreation areas. Soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, and horse shoe equipment are on site.

On race days, all grooms are eligible for $20 “best turned out” awards given in the paddock before each race. One hundred dollar “best kept barn” awards are made weekly.

Groom meal tickets redeemable for lunch or dinner in the track kitchen are distributed by the Virginia HBPA to daily shippers and backstretch residents.

During the meet, the Virginia HBPA is accepting applications for its scholarship program that provides grants for college, vocational school, or other formal courses of study. Last year, fifteen $1,000 scholarships were awarded. To qualify, an applicant must be: (1) a Virginia resident; and, (2) a racetrack or Thoroughbred horse farm employee, or child of the same. Applications are available in the Virginia HBPA office and online at

For interested trainers, the Virginia HBPA pays half of the $550 cost of large mobile containers that can be used for tack and feed storage. Delivery and lease arrangements are through A-Box Containers, (804) 550-9966.

Social Events
6/10/2009 2:11:55 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2009 

On Saturday, June 20, the Virginia HBPA hosts Owners’ Day, which starts with a noon reception in the Virginia HBPA building. Food, drinks, and gifts for owners and their guests are complimentary. Ceremonies honoring owners continue throughout the afternoon race card, featuring the Colonial Turf Cup and the All Along Stakes.

During the entire eight-week meet, except for the July 18th Virginia Derby, the Virginia HBPA has facilities on the fourth floor in the grandstand for complimentary use by horsemen. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, we have a sky suite. On the weekends, the Virginia HBPA has two tables in the Turf Club.

On a yet to be scheduled date in July, the Virginia HBPA will again sponsor a golf tournament benefiting Shannon Campbell and the Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. Tee time is noon at the Royal New Kent Golf Club near the track. Last year, the benefit raised nearly $10,000 for disabled jockeys.

Medication Rules
6/10/2009 2:10:59 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2009 

The Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) modified its rule on prohibited levels of phenylbutazone in post-race blood tests. The previous standard of 5 micrograms per milliliter of plasma has been lowered to 2 micrograms, which brings Virginia in line with medication rules in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Most other racing jurisdictions, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Florida, still use a 5 microgram standard.

The VRC stewards will impose progressive penalties on trainers for phenylbutazone positives depending on quantified levels of the medication found in test samples. They are: (1) verbal warning (levels above 2 mg. but below 2.6 mg.); (2) $500 fine (2.6 mg to 5 mg.); and, (3) $1,500 fine and loss of purse (above 5 mg.). The penalties increase for repeated violations within a 365-day period, including violations in other jurisdictions.

The VRC’s medication rules continue last year’s revised ban on all anabolic steroids, except for trace amounts having no pharmacologic effect on race day, of four therapeutic drugs (stanozolol, boldenone, nandrolone, and testosterone). During Colonial’s 2008 meet, there were no anabolic steroid positives found in post race testing.

Because withdrawal times vary for those four substances, the VRC will again offer free pre-race testing for horses stabled at Colonial Downs, as well as those stabled elsewhere who wish to race in Virginia.

Colonial Downs Ready to Launch 2009 Season
6/3/2009 10:25:07 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/1/2009 3:21:36 PM Last Updated: 6/2/2009 10:48:56 AM

Opening day at Colonial Downs comes a week earlier this year when live racing returns June 5. The following day, Colonial Downs will be open for the first time ever on the same day as a Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

The 40-day meet has five fewer days than in 2008. Colonial Downs, which cards a large percentage of its races on the turf, will race Fridays through Tuesdays. Post time is 6 p.m. EDT Fridays, 5 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, and 12:55 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Early nominations for the Virginia track’s two signature races, the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT) June 20 and $750,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) July 18, closed May 27 with fewer nominations than last year. Emerging turf colts have used the Virginia Derby as a springboard to future successes.

Gio Ponti, the 2008 winner, continues to collect graded turf wins. Red Giant(2007) has the world record at a mile and a quarter on the turf. Go Between(2006) has fared well on synthetic surfaces after a solid turf career.

English Channel(2005) gave the four-race Jacobs Investments $5-million Grand Slam a run for the money, while Kitten's Joy(2004) provided the inspiration for the Grand Slam. Even Silver Tree(2003) continues to race at age 9.

Colonial Downs racing secretary Tyler Pickelsimer believes this year’s class is capable of meeting high expectations despite the decrease in nominations.

“We’re in good shape quality-wise,” Pickelsimer said. “We had fewer nominations (16) than last year, but it should be a strong race.”

Among those on the list are Triple Crown starters Chocolate Candy, Summer Bird, Take the Points, and Atomic Rain. Others are El Crespo, Affirmatif, Orthodox, Sleepless Knight, Battle of Hastings, and Giant Oak.

The sentimental choice among the nominees is Nicanor, Barbaro’s full brother who won by more than 15 lengths on the Delaware Park turf May 13. Barbaro didn’t get a chance to compete in the Colonial Downs turf races, but his owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, won the Colonial Turf Cup with Showing Up in 2006.

As the live racing season gets under way, racing industry officials are paying more attention to “gray slots” in Virginia. The computerized gaming machines are being played in truck stops and Internet cafes with PCs or phone-card machines.

In several cases, parlors with the devices have been opened near off-track betting outlets operated by Colonial Downs, one in the same shopping center. The Virginia Racing Commission May 20 heard several accounts by visitors to the slots parlors.

With almost no written advertising, gray slots operate for short periods of time, relying on word of mouth to attract players. Gray slots, which take cash or vouchers, have attained enough weekend popularity to generate long lines and necessitate waiting rooms, officials said.

VRC executive director Vic Harrison forwarded concerns about the machines’ legality, regulation, and taxation to the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. One truck stop near Virginia’s border with North Carolina was found to have more than 20 pre-paid phone card machines. In another, a Colonial Downs employee reported to have won $500 in her first visit to Williamson Plaza Internet Café in Roanoke.

Virginia law only allows for wagering by means of state-operated lotteries, charitable gaming such as bingo, and pari-mutuel horse racing.

Neighboring West Virginia was home to thousands of gray slots, but several years ago began licensing them to generate revenue. The devices are located in small cafes, some of which are near the state’s racetracks, which have video lottery terminals.

Turf Stakes Highlight Colonial Downs Season
5/4/2009 2:54:08 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 5/4/2009 12:19:03 PM Last Updated: 5/4/2009 12:26:30 PM

Colonial Downs will host 17 stakes races, including a pair of grade II turf stakes, during the 2009 summer Thoroughbred meet which runs from June 5 – July 28. A total of $2.2 million will be doled out in stakes purses over the eight week, 40 day season.

Highlight of the meet again will be the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT) on June 20 and the $750,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) on July 18, which make up the first two legs of the $5 million-plus Jacobs Investments "Grand Slam of Grass Series." Both races are for 3-year-old turf horses at respective distances of 1 3/16ths and 1¼ miles.

The Grand Slam Series continues with the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington on Aug. 8 and the $3 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita. Any horse that can sweep all four “Slam” legs will earn combined purse and bonus monies of over $5,000,000, making it the richest Grand Slam in sports.

The Colonial Turf was elevated to grade II status for the first time in 2009. The fourth running last June was captured by Sailor’s Cap in a downpour. The Virginia Derby, which has had eleven editions thus far, was won by Gio Ponti in 2008.

Both marquee races have a pair of stakes on their respective under cards. Turf Cup Day features the $150,000 All Along Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. III) and $50,000 Buckland Stakes, while Derby Day has the $150,000 Virginia Oaks (gr. III) and $50,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes as part of the lineup.

“In order to keep the overnight purse level in line with past years, we had to cut some of the stakes purses marginally,” said Colonial’s director of racing Tyler Picklesimer. “The local weekend stakes will go for $50,000, down $10,000 from last summer. The Turf Cup purse dropped to $500,000 (from $600,000 in ‘08) while the All Along and Virginia Oaks purses will be $150,000 (compared to $200,000 in ’08). The Virginia Derby’s $750,000 purse though will remain the same as it was last year,” added Picklesimer.

Colonial’s 13th annual thoroughbred season will be feature racing every Friday thru Tuesday. Post times will be 6 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. on weekend days, and 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. The only exception will be on Saturday July 4, when an evening card will be held starting at 6 p.m..

Colonial Downs Owner Hurt by MTR Gaming
3/20/2009 4:09:46 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 3/19/2009 11:21:31 AM Last Updated: 3/19/2009 11:27:17 AM

The owner of Colonial Downs said it lost $4.1 million during 2008, due in part to its investment in MTR Gaming Group, it was reported March 19.

Jacobs Entertainment, which owns five casinos and 18 truck plaza gaming operations in addition to Colonial Downs, recorded a $6.6-million impairment charge on its equity investment in MTR Gaming, according to an annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both Jacobs Entertainment and MTR Gaming are chaired by Jeffrey P. Jacobs.

Annual net revenues for Jacobs Entertainment in 2008 were $362.5 million, a 3.6% increase over 2007, when the company produced a profit of $5 million.

Jacobs Entertainment directly owns 3% of MTR Gaming stock, and affiliates related to the founding Jacobs family own another 15%. The company said it recorded the $6.6-million impairment on the shares because it determined "We and our affiliates had reached a level of significant influence on the operations of MTR," and was required to account for its investment.

The company said its total investment of $7,943,000 in MTR Gaming stock carried a value of $1,367,000 at the end of the 2008.

Steve Roark, president of Jacobs Entertainment, said in a March 20 conference call with financial analysts that there wasn’t much he could comment on in regard to the company’s stake in MTR Gaming. “We continue to watch our investment in MTR,” he said.

In 2006, Jacobs Entertainment and affiliates began investing in MTR Gaming, whose shares traded as high as $16.72 in 2007, but in 2008 tumbled like those of many other companies. MTR Gaming shares closed 2008 trading at $1.68, and closed March 18 trading at 80 cents. MTR Gaming, which recently reported an annual loss of $17.7 million for 2008, includes in its portfolio Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in Chester, W. Va; and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, Pa.

Jacobs Entertainment, a privately-held company headquartered in Golden, Colo., reported a 6% decrease in pari-mutuel revenues to $38.7 million for Colonial Downs, its eight satellite off-track wagering locations, and related advance deposit wagering. The company attributed the overall drop in pari-mutuel revenues to a $3.6 million decrease at its OTBs, and a $200,000 decline at Colonial Downs, which is located in New Kent, Va. Revenues from account wagering increased $1.1 million.

In addition to Colonial Downs, holdings of Jacobs Entertainment include two casinos in Colorado; three casinos in Nevada; and 18 truck plaza video gaming facilities in Louisiana, which are collectively referred to by the company as “Jalou.”

Summer Racing at Colonial Downs
3/4/2009 11:59:32 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2009 

After months of squabbling between the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs over the appropriate number of summer race days, the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) seems to have settled the matter. At its regular monthly meeting in January, the VRC conditionally awarded 40 days of racing from mid-June to early August at the New Kent, Virginia track. Purse levels should be slightly higher than last year’s $210,000 daily average. The popular 100% owner’s bonus for Virginia-bred or sired horses running in open races will also be in place.

Track management requested 25 days, 20 fewer than last year’s meet. There was no readily apparent reason for that radical cut other than Colonial’s desire to concentrate on low overhead year-round wagering at its eight offtrack betting sites and on website wagering with the five advance deposit companies licensed in Virginia (Twin Spires, XpressBet, TVG, YouBet, and EZ Horseplay, Colonial’s own account wagering company).

The Virginia HBPA initially requested 45 days, the same as last summer, but later proposed 40 days in recognition of a sagging national economy and a first ever 10% drop in state-wide wagering. The VRC accepted the 40 day compromise, over the track’s objections, provided the Virginia HBPA agreed to reimburse Colonial $115,000 to cover claimed additional overhead expenses for running a 40 day meet. That condition was readily accepted by the Virginia HBPA’s Board of Directors because the horsemen are due more than that sum from Colonial under past horsemen’s contracts.

Still unresolved is the issue of stakes races. The Virginia HBPA wants to cut the purses of the Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) from $750,000 to $600,000 and the Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. IIT) from $600,000 to $500,000, with the savings going into overnight purses. The track is resisting.

That matter will be settled if and when agreement is reached on a new horsemen’s contract replacing the one that expired on December 31, 2008. The horsemen do have a bit of leverage here because the state Racing Act does not permit Colonial to operate its eight OTBs without a current horsemen’s contract. So far, the Virginia HBPA has not asked the VRC to exercise the “nuclear” option of shutting the OTBs.

Account Wagering
3/4/2009 11:57:12 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2009 

Advance deposit wagering (ADW) is the only growing economic segment in Virginia racing and nationally. Last year, Virginians lawfully wagered more than $45 million online, which benefited our horsemen almost as much as wagering at traditional off-track betting parlors. Here is why.

As a condition of licensing by the state racing commission, each ADW company must have a source market fee agreement with the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs. Last year, those contracts yielded a state-wide source market fee of about 8.5%, which was shared equally by the horsemen and the track.

TVG, YouBet, XpressBet, and EZ Horseplay are under contract for the New Year. Twin Spires is not. It is at an impasse in negotiations with Colonial and the Virginia HBPA, who on this issue are on the same page. While Twin Spires is willing to pay the same fee as last year, its sister corporation, Track Net Media, is raising host fees on Churchill and Magna content for all ADWs in Virginia. Because source market fees are net of host fees, any increase in the latter decreases revenue for the horsemen and Colonial.

Under Virginia law, “baseball arbitration” will settle the matter. The VRC must select the last best offer of either Twin Spires or the Virginia horse industry. That becomes the new contract for 2009. In the mean time, Twin Spires is operating under a temporary license requiring it to pay a fixed source market fee, irrespective of host fees, which is the average paid by all other ADWs doing business in the state.

Pending in the Virginia legislature is a bill that may resolve future impasses. A proposed amendment to the Racing Act establishes a fixed 10% source market fee, irrespective of host fees paid by an ADW, and requires a 1% handle contribution to the Virginia breeders’ fund.

EZ Horseplay
3/4/2009 11:55:37 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2009 

Reflecting the national trend away from “sticks and bricks” betting parlors to online wagering websites, Colonial Downs, with the Virginia HBPA’s active support, is expanding access to its EZ Horseplay wagering platform.

Colonial is furnishing private social clubs in the state with touch screen monitors that allow EZ Horseplay account holders to make wagers and watch races in an away-from-home social setting. To make the touch screens more accessible, Colonial developed an ATM-like machine that permits social club patrons to open an EZ Horseplay account if they are not already members and to deposit and withdraw cash. The device also prints racing forms and other handicapping information.

If the touch screens prove popular, EZ Horseplay may expand into the public sports bar market.

Another Eclipse Award
3/4/2009 11:52:59 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2009 

Virginia HBPA member Harold “Sonny” Via, Jr. won a second straight Eclipse Award for his champion steeplechaser, Good Night Shirt. The now eight-year-old gelding won five Grade 1 races in 2008, for a single season record of $485,520 in earnings. His lifetime mark is $934,493, third on the National Steeplechase Association’s all-time earnings list.

Good Night Shirt returns for the 2009 steeplechase season that starts this month. He aims to become the first horse to win three consecutive runnings of the Iroquois (Gr. 1), run this year on May 9 in Nashville. Like most jumpers, Good Night Shirt began his racing career on the flat.

Horsemen''s Groups Working and Racing Together in Virginia
11/23/2008 7:37:41 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2008 

The Virginia HBPA, representing Thoroughbred owners and trainers racing at Colonial Downs, and the Virginia Harness Horsemen’s Association (VHHA), representing Standardbred owners and trainers racing at the same course, have a long history of working together for their mutual benefit. That includes lobbying the Virginia legislature for changes in the law to promote growth of the state’s horse racing industry.

Two notable results of that cooperation were increasing the number off-track betting sites from six to ten and authorizing on-line advance deposit account wagering. Other efforts like seeking legislative authority for slots-like gaming at Colonial Downs, called Instant Racing, failed in the legislature, but not for lack of harmony among the two horsemen’s groups.

The Virginia HBPA and the VHHA also coordinate their race schedules to optimize the quality and success of both flat and harness racing at Colonial Downs. Thoroughbreds run in the summer from June into August, while Standardbreds race in the fall from September into November.

This fall, the two organizations went from working together to racing together. The opening weekend of the harness meet included a mixed card of Thoroughbred and Standardbred races.

The first race of the day, sponsored by the Virginia HBPA with a $10,000 purse, was a mile-and-a-quarter flat race over Colonial’s turf course. It drew a field of 14 and was restricted to Virginia-bred Thoroughbreds. The course looked and rode even wider than usual because the middle rail, present during the summer Thoroughbred meet, was removed.

Second on the card was a steeplechase race at two-and-a-quarter miles over NSA national fences set up on the outer portion of the turf course. The third event was a mile harness race on the main track, minus the top cushion that is regularly removed in the fall for harness racing. Another steeplechase race followed, as did eight more harness races.

The response of the crowd, which was larger than usual because the New Kent County fair was on the race track grounds, was enthusiastic. Most satisfying in the Virginia HBPA’s view was the positive reaction of the harness horsemen, many of whom had never before seen Thoroughbreds race over jumps.

A week or so later, the VHHA and Colonial Downs invited the Thoroughbred horsemen back to the track for an evening social event that included an exhibition harness race before the start of the regular card, with Thoroughbred horsemen as drivers.

After being outfitted with safety equipment and receiving instruction from professional drivers, the Thoroughbred horsemen were let out on the track with some seasoned Standardbred horses.

Ferris Allen, III, the leading trainer at Colonial’s 2008 summer meet, was favored to win. Like many favorites, he finished a well-beaten third behind horses driven by Thoroughbred trainer Karen Dennehy and her mother, Virginia HBPA Board member Donna Dennehy. Virginia HBPA President Robin Richards and Executive Director Frank Petramalo finished “up the track.”

Brandon Benson Scholarship Awards
11/23/2008 7:36:03 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2008 

This fall, the Virginia HBPA awarded $1,000 scholarships to 14 individuals to help pay the cost of college, vocational school, and other formal courses of study. All recipients are Virginia residents who worked this summer at Colonial Downs or elsewhere in the Thoroughbred industry, or who are the children of such workers. The winners are: Jaqualine Jenkins, Jason Levi, Ellen McWade, Cory Philp, Catherine Kelly, Ana Rogos, Cristina Meredith, Austin French, Anthony Emana, Emily Baker, Gail Figgins, Justin Thomas, Christopher Thomas, and Sherman Chavis.

Use of the scholarship money by the winners includes veterinary technician vocational training, community college courses, and traditional four-year colleges at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The awards are not restricted to horse industry careers.

This year, the fifth in which the Virginia HBPA has given out scholarships, the awards were named in honor of Brandon Benson. He died in May of this year.

Brandon was one of the original teenage participants in the Kids to the Cup program, sponsored for the last six years by the Virginia HBPA. Under that program, youngsters spend time working and learning at Colonial Downs during its summer race meet.

Despite being only 21, Brandon was an award-winning equine photographer at NYRA. His work was featured in publications like The Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, The Blood-Horse, Thoroughbred Times, and the Daily Racing Form.

Just prior to his death, Brandon Benson won the Jerry Frutkoff Preakness Photography Award. It was presented to him at the Alibi Breakfast in Baltimore on May 15, 2008.

Old Dominion Turf Series
11/23/2008 7:34:31 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2008 

In September and October, the Virginia HBPA, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, and the Virginia Racing Commission sponsored a four-race Old Dominion Turf Series for Virginia-bred or sired horses. It followed their support of a popular series of turf races for Virginia-bred or sired horses at spring point-to-point steeplechase meets.

The first three fall races, each with a $5,000 purse at distances from six-and-a-half furlongs to a mile-and-an-eighth on the flat, were run a week apart at the Foxfield steeplechase meet in Charlottesville, the Virginia fall meet in Middleburg, and the Morven Park meet in Leesburg.

The final race, the Old Dominion Turf Championship, at a mile-and-a-quarter with a $20,000 purse, was at the International Gold Cup in The Plains.Spring Hill Farm, Virginia’s leading breeder, also sponsored that race.

In what turned out to be a reprise of the earlier Virginia fall race at Glenwood Park, I’m A Hokie beat Plymouth Rock (owned by Wolver Hill Farm and trained by Ricky Hendriks) for the championship by half a length, much to the delight of Virginian Gordie Keys.

Keys bought the five-year-old gelding as a yearling at Virginia Tech’s Middleburg Agricultural Research & Extension Center annual auction. For that reason, and because the horse was bred by the Virginia Tech Foundation, Gordie Keys named the horse I’m A Hokie. The Virginia Tech “graduate” has now won over $56,000, making Keys’ $1,100 purchase price seem quite a bargain.

Altogether, the Virginia HBPA-sponsored spring and fall series offered 12 races for Virginia-bred and sired horses, which nicely supplemented the limited number of Virginia restricted races available during Colonial Downs’ short nine-week summer meet.

2009 Race Meet
11/23/2008 7:32:21 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2008 

Discussions with Colonial Downs and the Virginia Racing Commission are ongoing for next summer’s racing schedule. The Virginia HBPA has proposed to again run for 45 days from early June to early August, with daily purses in excess of $200,000. We also hope to continue this year’s 100% owners’ bonus program for Virginia-bred or sired horses. In 2008, the Virginia breeder’s fund paid out over $1 million in bonus money to Virginia-breds finishing through sixth place in open races.

Backstretch Benevolence
9/3/2008 5:55:35 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2008 

The Virginia HBPA kept up with the racing action by providing its regular benevolence programs on the backstretch. We started the meet with Groom Elite 099—the basic training program for hot walkers. Most of the 15 students were new to the industry and had little experience with horses. The class was taught in English and Spanish by Groom Elite Program Executive Director Dr. Reid McLellan. All graduates subsequently were licensed by the VRC and obtained work on the backside.

As the meet went on, we provided backstretch workers with free medical and dental care through arrangements with professionals in the New Kent area. In addition to acute care, those services included drug and alcohol counseling.

The Virginia HBPA also supplied mattresses and air conditioners for the six dormitories in the stable area, along with meal tickets redeemable in the track kitchen for those who wanted or needed them. Our organization made the track kitchen a bit more comfortable by installing a 50-inch flat screen satellite television to go with the smaller sets used for simulcasting.

The backstretch once again benefited from the services of our chaplain, the Reverend Marjorie Bevans. She offered counseling, regular prayer services, and evening bible studies during the meet. Reverend Bevans has a unique insight into racetrack life because she is a former jockey.

One of our most used services was free Internet access. The Virginia HBPA office/classroom building is a WiFi hot spot 24 hours a day. For those without their own laptops, we provided desktop computers, printers, and a fax machine. Even after the building closed for the night or before it opened in the morning, anyone could sit on the surrounding patio to access the internet.

Much needed social events for those without transportation again proved popular. The Virginia HBPA van regularly shuttled backstretch workers to shopping malls, amusement parks, and Atlantic beaches. We also hosted a 4th of July barbecue for over 200 workers that went long into the night.

Our organization honored owners with its annual Owners’ Day weekend celebration. Festivities began two hours before the start of a Saturday afternoon card with a champagne and canapés reception attended by over 125 owners and friends. Ceremonies moved to the front side once racing started. Special trophies were presented to winning owners, five of whom were native Virginians.

The Virginia HBPA again sponsored the fourth annual Shannon Campbell and Injured Jockeys’ Fund benefit golf tournament. Shannon Campbell is a Virginia native who was permanently injured while racing at Charles Town. The event raised over $8,000 for disabled jockeys.

In the last week of the meet, the Virginia HBPA gave a party in its building for the racing secretary’s office, the stewards, the security staff, the gate crew, the licensing office, and the test barn to show the horsemen’s appreciation for their work and to invite them back for next summer’s racing at Colonial Downs.

Summer Racing
9/3/2008 5:53:19 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2008 

Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia ended its 2008 nine-week summer meet on August 6 with somewhat mixed results. On a positive note, the 45 race day meet was the longest in the track’s 12-year history. Purses averaged $210,000 a day.

The Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) highlighted summer racing at the track. On July 19, a record crowd of over 9,000 fans, along with a CBS national television audience, saw Catleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti, ridden by Garret Gomez, prevail by a nose over IEAH Stables and Winstar Farm’s Court Vision, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, in the $750,000 mile-and-a-quarter turf race for three-year-olds.

Gio Ponto is trained by Christophe Clement, and Court Vision is trained by Bill Mott. The $4,546,756 all-source handle for the day also set a record.

Handle for the entire 45-day meet exceeded $50 million, but that was about the same as last year’s shorter 40-day meet. For that reason, 2008 average daily handle ($1,118,743) was down about 11% compared to 2007. Daily attendance (1,668) was also down compared to last summer (1,996), probably due to a weak economy, the price of gas, and the track’s remote location.

The track’s average field size of 7.9 horses, though respectable, fell short of last year’s 9.1 starters. Nonetheless, Colonial continued to excel in grass racing. Eighty-one percent of all races were on the turf. At the end of the meet, the course was still in good condition despite its constant use because the rails on the 180-foot wide course were moved every five days.

From a purely local standpoint, a new Virginia-bred/sired 100% owners’ bonus program was by far the most popular feature of the race meet. A record number of Virginia horses, 388 – nearly twice the usual number – finished first through sixth in open competition, earning their owners double the usual share of purse money. Total owners’ bonuses paid from the state breeders’ fund during the meet amounted to $1,152,075. Last year’s 50% bonus program paid out $270,000.

Drawing more Virginia-bred/sired horses to the meet through the bonus program helped offset the smaller than usual number of horses shipping daily from nearby Maryland. That occurred because Colonial management discontinued its free shuttle from Maryland’s three training centers (Pimlico, Laurel, and Bowie) and because the high price of fuel discouraged those shippers who would normally use private transportation.

In an interesting sidelight, during the first 23 days of the meet, Colonial’s signal was not sent to Calder because of its dispute with the Florida HBPA, resulting in a Colonial handle loss of around $600,000. However, that loss was more than offset by adding two new sites after the meet started – RGS and the Elite Turf Club – which generated more than $5 million in handle on Colonial’s signal.

Also noteworthy was implementation of the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC)’s new steroid rule based on the RMTC/ARCI model rule. Though the rule is one of the most stringent in the country, there was not one steroid positive during the meet.

Allen Cracks 200-Win Mark at Colonial
8/8/2008 4:43:48 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 8:18:38 AM Last Updated: 8/7/2008 8:44:31 AM

A. Ferris Allen III won two races on Colonial Downs’ closing day program Aug. 6 to become the first trainer to win 200 races in Virginia. He also demolished his own single-season record for victories.

Allen got his 200th win with Jealously in the third race, and his 201st victory at Colonial Downs with Don’tquestion It in the fourth race. Allen finished the 2008 season with 30 wins, shattering his 1997 single-season record of 25 wins in a season. The Varina, Va., native earned his seventh training title in the 12-year history of Colonial Downs.

Horacio Karamanos earned his fourth leading rider title at Colonial Downs, capping a strong season with a four-win closing day that boosted his total to 65 wins, just one shy of his own single-season record of 66. Karamanos also won jockey titles at Colonial Downs during the 2002, 2005, and 2007 seasons.

Katie Crews earned leading apprentice honors with a 27-win season that ranks fourth overall behind Karamanos, 2006 champ Luis Garcia, and 2007 apprentice champion Malcolm Garcia.

David Ross picked up his fourth straight leading owner title with 18 wins from 73 starts. His 2008 season was typically dominant as he scored as many wins as the next three leading owners combined.

Colonial Downs Debbie Sue scores second straight win
7/13/2008 12:13:59 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 7/12/2008, 7:01 pm

Debbie Sue, returning on just two weeks' rest off a win in a high-priced optional claiming race, rallied from far back to win the $60,000 Brookmeade for Virginia-bred fillies and mares at Colonial Downs.

Sent off at 6-5 under Malcolm Franklin, Debbie Sue was seventh in the field of eight on the backstretch, advanced to third entering the stretch, then split rivals and won going away by 4 1/2 lengths.

Trick Buster, the longest shot on the board at 41-1, fought for the lead, opened a 4 1/2-length advantage in the stretch, and held on for second, a half-length in front of Deeliteful Star.

Trained by Hamilton Smith for Fred and Deborah and Greene, Debbie Sue ran the mile on the firm inner turf course in 1:36.81. She paid $4.20, and topped a $164 exacta.

The win was the 7-year-old mare's sixth in 31 starts, and it raised her lifetime earnings to $359,565.

Riders to Test Crops in Colonial Race
6/19/2008 4:35:24 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/19/2008 12:37:19 AM Last Updated: 6/19/2008 8:52:29 AM

There are four stakes races on Colonial Downs' Turf Cup card June 21, but a race earlier in the day will have many closely watching as well.

Jockeys will use crops in lieu of whips in a race prior to the stakes races at Colonial Downs. Crops are “shortened whips”, at least three inches shorter with a longer tap or tip. Crops are used in England, Ireland and in steeplechase races in the United States.

Officials have not said which race has been designated for the experiment, but it is believed that the crop race would be the fifth on the card, an allowance optional claiming race at one mile on the inner turf. The stakes schedule begins in the sixth with the $35,000 Old Nelson, followed by the $60,000 Buckland, the $200,000 All Along Breeder’s Cup (gr. IIIT) and the $600,000 Colonial Turf Cup (IIIT).

Frank Petramalo, the executive director of the VHBPA, displayed the riding instruments to the Virginia Racing Commission. All of the riders in the race would use the crop.

“I am willing to participate in this as long as the jockeys are also told that a ruling will be made and I think somewhere along the line this will happen,” commented Iain Woolnough, Colonial’s general manager, a former flat and steeplechase rider in Europe and Asia. “Europe has done this some time ago.”

Woolnough said that using the crop would also be tested best during an entire card.

“Every horse you ride is different. The way you use something is different, too. Some horses (you) don’t even hit, you just show them the stick. How you can change hands. There are other variables. One race wouldn’t be fair. You probably ought to ride the card and decide whether you like it or you don’t.

The impression crops make may be more audible than physical. Petramalo explained to the commission that while the crops are softer, they make a louder sound.

“In the heat of the race, a horse doesn’t hear that much,” added Woolnough after the meeting. “It’s not that they’re hearing it at all. I’m not in favor where some have said to ban whips altogether. It’s a control item for a horse sometimes. You’ll save a lot of accidents with it. Used correctly, it’s a little encouragement. It tells a horse its time to get and go. Even with Big Brown in the Preakness, it was a little pop to tell him ‘this is the time to go guy’ and he just took off. I’ve never seen a horse accelerate like that. He didn’t hit him; he just let him know when to go.”

Colonial Downs Meet Underway
6/15/2008 9:01:45 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2008 

On June 9th, Colonial Downs began an expanded nine-week summer meet with 45 days of racing, five more than last year. Racing, as usual, is Friday through Tuesday, except for closing day on Wednesday, August 6th. Post time is 5:00 p.m. daily and 12:55 p.m. on the weekends. Purses are expected to average over $200,000 daily.

Jacobs Investments, Colonial’s owner, will again sponsor the Grand Slam of Grass series that offers a bonus worth $5 million to the three-year-old winner of four turf races: the Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. IIIT) on June 21st, the Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) on July 19th, the Secretariat Stakes (Gr. IT) at Arlington Park on August 9th, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Gr. IT) on October 25th at Santa Anita. The Virginia Derby leg, with a purse of $750,000, will be televised nationally by CBS Sports.

The New Kent track will also card six races for Virginia-bred/sired horses as part of its 17-race stakes program. Purses for those Virginia-restricted stakes are $60,000.

As an added feature this year, the Virginia Breeders’ Fund will pay a 100% owners’ bonus for Virginia-bred/sired horses that finish in the top six positions in open competition. That means, for example, a Virginia horse in a $25,000 open maiden race actually runs for $50,000 in purse money.

Steeplechase racing will be on alternate Sundays, highlighted by the $50,000 Zeke Ferguson Memorial Hurdle (Gr. III) on July 13th.

Backstretch Benevolence
6/15/2008 8:59:05 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2008 

Because the race meet is only nine weeks long, the Virginia HBPA does not have a comprehensive medical program for stable area workers like those at tracks and in states where racing is year-round. We do, however, provide urgent medical and dental care assistance through arrangements with local health care providers. The Virginia HBPA also makes available drug and alcohol counseling services.

The Reverend Marjorie Bevans, the Virginia HBPA chaplain and a former jockey, is at the track every day to conduct services, provide spiritual counseling, and possibly get on a few horses. She also leads a weekly bible discussion during evening suppers at a local restaurant hosted by the Virginia HBPA.

The Virginia HBPA ten-passenger van offers transport from the track’s rural location to shopping areas and recreation destinations for stable area workers residing in the six dormitories. Soccer, volleyball, basketball, and horseshoes are on-site. In the Virginia HBPA building, there is a large screen television/DVD player, along with computers, printers, and a fax machine. On the terrace, we have 24-hour Wi-Fi access to the Internet for laptop users.

The track kitchen next door, where the Virginia HBPA provides free meal vouchers for grooms and other stable area workers, has televisions and pari-mutuel wagering.

On race days, grooms are eligible for “best turned out” awards ($20) given in the paddock for each race. “Best kept barn” awards ($100) are made each week.

During the meet, the Virginia HBPA will continue its annual scholarship program by awarding grants for use in college, vocational school, or other formal courses of study. Last year, we gave $1,000 scholarships to seven individuals. To be eligible, an applicant must be: (1) a Virginia resident; and, (2) a racetrack or Thoroughbred horse farm employee, or child of the same.

The Virginia HBPA staff also assists stable area personnel who encounter problems with track security and Virginia Racing Commission stewards.

Social Events
6/15/2008 8:57:59 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2008 

On Saturday, June 21st, the Virginia HBPA hosts an Owners’ Day event that starts with a noontime reception in the stable area. Food, drinks, and gifts for owners and their friends are complimentary. Ceremonies honoring owners continue through the afternoon race card that features the $600,000 Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. IIIT) and the $200,000 All Along Stakes (Gr. IIIT).

On Owners’ Day, and during the entire nine-week meet (except for the Virginia Derby on July 19th), the Virginia HBPA has a grandstand sky suite for use by its members and friends. The suite is on the fourth floor. Track management requires appropriate dress (no blue jeans) for sky suites. Otherwise, admission to the Virginia HBPA suite is free of charge.

In mid-July, on a yet-to-be-scheduled dark day, the Virginia HBPA, the VTA, and Colonial Downs will again sponsor their annual golf tournament benefiting local jockey Shannon Campbell and the Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. Tee time is noon at the Royal New Kent Golf Club near the track.

Very Virginia Day is set for Saturday, August 2nd. Virginia products and crafts will be exhibited in the lower grandstand and in tents on the homestretch green. This event coincides with Colonial’s Fan Appreciation Day, featuring 25 cent hot dogs, soft drinks, and admission.

New Steroid Rules
6/15/2008 8:57:40 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2008 

New Virginia medication rules prohibit the use in racehorses of all anabolic steroids except for the four commonly used therapeutic aids (stanozolol, boldenone, nandrolone, and testosterone), only small residues of which may be present in post-race testing. Horsemen have been advised to withdraw use, if any, of those four medications at least 30 to 45 days before racing. That time period, however, is only a guideline. Withdrawal times may vary among horses and may differ with use of a particular medication. In order to avoid severe penalties for violations, starting with disqualification and loss of purse, the Virginia Racing Commission is offering licensed horsemen free pre-race testing to determine if their horses are below prohibited steroid levels.

Sale of Colonial Downs on Hold
6/15/2008 8:56:45 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2008 

The ownership of Colonial Downs, in an apparent reversal of its intent announced in January of this year to sell the racetrack, said the proposed sale has been postponed. In a press interview, Stephen Roark, president of Colonial’s owner, Jacobs Entertainment, Inc., said sale of the racetrack and its nine off-track betting sites was on hold. According to Roark, “We are getting ready for the Virginia Derby and the 2008 meet … if somebody came in and said I will give you ‘dollar sign blank’ for the racetrack, we might entertain that . . . everything is for sale … but right now it’s business as usual.”

Roark’s comments came shortly after discussion of year-end financial results for Jacobs Entertainment, which in addition to the New Kent racetrack, owns casinos in Colorado and Nevada, as well as 19 Louisiana truck stops with video poker games. The company’s net income for 2007 was $4.9 million, compared with a loss of $9.8 million in 2006.

Last January, Colonial’s owner reported to the SEC that the track was for sale because, in its view, without alternative gaming, Colonial could not generate a yield comparable to Jacobs Entertainment’s other gaming properties. Within a few days of that sale announcement, a bill to permit instant racing machines—video games similar to slot machines—at Colonial Downs and its off-track betting sites was introduced in the Virginia legislature with Colonial’s support. The bill died in March, shortly before the Colonial Downs “For Sale” sign was taken down by the Jacobs group.

Jacobs Entertainment and its affiliates also reported to the SEC a recent increase in their ownership from about 13% to 15.6% of MTR Gaming, which owns two racinos with Thoroughbred racing—Mountaineer Park in West Virginia and the newly opened Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania. That represents an investment by the Jacobs entities of nearing $42 million.

Colonial Downs Signal Blocked to Outlets
6/4/2008 12:01:33 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/3/2008 12:01:08 PM Last Updated: 6/4/2008 9:04:23 AM

The Colonial Downs signal will be barred to at least three wagering outlets for its upcoming live meet. The Virginia racetrack joins the list of tracks whose betting options have been curtailed by disputes with horsemen's groups over revenue sharing.

The Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has withheld its consent for the Colonial Downs signal to go to advance deposit wagering outlets and, as well as to Calder Race Course, which is battling with Florida horsemen over a variety of issues.

The 45-day live meet at Colonial Downs is scheduled to begin June 9 and runs through Aug. 6. Among the ADWs that have the track’s signal are national entities TVG,, and Premier Turf Club, as well as other regional-type outlets.

A leader of the Virginia HBPA said the Colonial Downs situation involves a different set of circumstances compared with other signal negotiations, which mostly involve debates over revenue gleaned from ADW’s online and telephone wagering. In addition to Colonial Downs and Calder, tracks currently under restriction for signal distribution of some kind include Churchill Downs, Lone Star Park, Louisiana Downs, Presque Isle Downs & Casino, River Downs, and Thistledown.

“Virginia is in a somewhat unique situation,” said Frank Petramalo Jr., executive director of the Virginia HBPA. “It is one of the few states that have in place account wagering provisions in its state regulations. One of the keys in those regulations is that it defines as a source-market area the entire state of Virginia.”

Source-market fees, which are targeted to certain residents of the state where the track is based, are in addition to the traditional host fees paid by all outlets taking the signal. It is believed TrackNet Media Group, which represents TwinSpires and XpressBet, traditionally offers a source-market fee area defined as about a 25-mile radius around a racetrack, but has included the entire state of Virginia in past agreements.

An official with TrackNet Media, which is the joint content venture of Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp., said he was just recently informed of the signal blockage. TrackNet Media president Scott Daruty claims agreements were signed earlier this year with Colonial Downs and Virginia horsemen regarding source market fees.

"Our communication has been with the Colonial Downs racetrack management," Daruty said. "So I don’t fully understand what the Virginia HBPA’s issue is."

CDI and affiliates have filed an antitrust lawsuit in reaction to the signal dispute with Kentucky and Florida horsemen, and have enacted double-digit purse cuts at Churchill Downs and Calder. Petralmalo is named in the lawsuit, which includes as defendants the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, which is comprised of about 18 horsemen’s groups across the nation, including the Virginia HBPA.

The THG, of which Petramalo is secretary and general counsel, is representing many horsemen’s groups in negotiations over ADW signals with tracks, though not the Virginia HBPA. Many THG-affiliated groups are seeking a one-third sharing model of takeout revenue.

Petramalo said the lawsuit had some bearing on the withholding of consent. "Remember, Twinspires has picked a fight with us, and saw fit to file a lawsuit against us," he said, emphasizing the Virginia HBPA's affiliation with THG . "Churchill instead of talking decided to run off to court, which is their right.

“From our standpoint, the economic package that the Virginia HBPA has with TVG and Youbet closely approximates the proposals that THG has made to TrackNet,” continued Petramalo, who declined to reveal terms of the agreements.

It is believed would have also been excluded from the signal unless it agreed to pay a host fee of at least 5%. Without confirming that figure, Petramalo said an agreement was reached with in the last day or so.

Joining the actions of several other tracks, the Colonial Downs simulcast signal to Calder has been blocked because Florida horsemen have not been able to reach an agreement with CDI on purses. The Calder dispute also includes debates on revenue sharing for ADWs and potential future slot machine installation at the Florida track.

“Our basic principle is that we don’t consent to signals to tracks that don’t have a purse contract with horsemen’s organization,” Petramalo said.

Officials with Colonial Downs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Virginia: Free Pre-Race Steroids Tests
3/21/2008 3:24:09 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 3/20/2008 1:02:37 PM Last Updated: 3/20/2008 1:52:53 PM

The Virginia Racing Commission will offer free pre-race testing for anabolic and androgenic steroids in horses that race at Colonial Downs this year.

The commission, at its March 19 meeting, unanimously adopted regulations and penalties for steroids in racehorses. The regulations will be in place by the end of April and prior to the June 6 opening of the Thoroughbred racing season at Colonial Downs.

Pennsylvania and Delaware are the other two Mid-Atlantic states that will be testing for steroids this summer.

“We are very fortunate in Virginia to have horsemen’s organizations that are very supportive of our efforts to rid the industry of the use of steroids in our racing horses,” commission chairman Peter Burnett, also chair of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, said in a statement. “It behooves all of us on the regulatory side of horse racing to do the job and do it right — first for the good of the horse, and second to show the wagering public that the misuse and abuse of steroids and other drugs will not be tolerated in racing.”

RCI will meet the week of March 23 for its annual convention and is expected to discuss regulation of steroids during a medication roundtable that will involve other industry groups.

Said Frank Petramalo Jr., executive director of the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association: “I thank the VRC for working with horsemen to draft a rule meeting the concerns of Virginia’s horsemen. From the start, the Virginia HBPA has been supportive of the commission’s efforts to regulate the use of steroids. I believe the rules give us a workable way to combat the improper use of steroids.”

Under the Virginia rules, use of androgenic and anabolic steroids in racehorses is prohibited. Urinary thresholds — outlined in the model rules approved by the RCI — have been established for boldenone, nandrolone, stanozolol, and testosterone, four commonly used Federal Drug Administration-approved steroids. Racing commission officials said the thresholds “take into account the naturally occurring levels of each substance and the potential for seasonal or cyclic variations of each.”

The commission said urinary thresholds have been developed over a period of 30 years and are backed by published research and practical experience; Iowa, for instance, has been testing for steroids in urine for 14 years. Other states, however, are using blood samples for testing because some officials believe the test results are more reliable.

Virginia, like Delaware, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, has lightened penalties during what some jurisdictions have called a “grace period.”

“This is not a ‘gotcha’ process,” executive secretary Stan Bowker said. “This is a process to provide reasonable regulations whereby we, as regulators, can eliminate the use and abuse of anabolic steroids in racing horses. We understand when changes of this magnitude are made there is a good chance that innocent or inadvertent mistakes can happen.”

The commission-funded pre-race testing that will be offered to horsemen who want their horses tested is believed to be the first program of its kind. Horsemen’s groups have expressed concerns in regard to horses that are claimed and then race right back; such pre-race testing could identify steroids-treated horses before they race and avoid penalties.

Thereafter, a first violation (positive test) in Virginia will result in disqualification, loss of purse, a horse being placed on the vet’s list, and perhaps a fine of up to $1,000 depending on “aggravating circumstances.”

A second violation for the same horse within 365 days will bring disqualification, loss of purse, a $2,500 fine, a 90-day suspension, and the horse being placed on the vet’s list.

A third offense for the same horse within 365 days will bring disqualification, loss of purse, revocation of a trainer’s license, and the horse being placed on the vet’s list.

“The Virginia HBPA appreciates the free pre-race testing program offered by the Virginia Racing Commission for horsemen who are not certain that steroids are in their horses,” Petramalo said. “This will be especially helpful for horses that may have been claimed prior to arriving in Virginia or were in someone else’s barn.”

Summer Racing at Colonial Downs
3/6/2008 8:43:26 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2008 

The schedule is set for racing this summer at Colonial Downs, Virginia’s only pari-mutuel track. Thoroughbred racing in New Kent, just east of Richmond, starts on June 9 (the Monday after the Belmont) and concludes on August 6. Live racing is five days a week from Friday through Tuesday for nine weeks. Weekday post is 5:00 p.m. Post time on the weekends is 12:55 p.m.

Daily purses will likely average over $200,000. With the exception of the two big stakes races on the grass for three year olds (the Colonial Turf Cup on June 25 and the Virginia Derby on July 19), purse levels should be the same as last year even though the meet is five days longer. To help ensure that occurs, the Virginia HBPA and track management agreed to reduce the Turf Cup from $750,000 to $600,000, and to reduce the Derby from $1 million to $750,000.

As usual, about 80% of the races will be on Colonial’s nine-furlong, 180-foot wide turf course. A new feature this year is an enhanced owner’s bonus for Virginia-bred horses running in open company. Owners of Virginia-breds finishing in the money in non-stakes races will receive a 100% purse onus from the Virginia breeders’ fund. That means a Virginia-bred running in a $25,000 maiden race actually is running for $50,000.

The state breeders’ fund will also provide purse money for six Virginia-bred stakes and a handful of non-stakes races restricted to state-breds.

To accommodate horsemen shipping in from Florida and Kentucky, the stable area will open around May 20, almost three weeks before opening day.

During the meet, the Virginia HBPA will offer its usual assortment of benevolent services, including training programs, chaplaincy, and emergency medical and dental assistance. In addition to stable area picnics and sports, the Virginia HBPA expects to sponsor Owners’ Day, Very Virginia Day, and a golf tournament to benefit the Injured Jockeys’ Fund.

"For Sale, Nice Race Track in Good Neighborhood"
3/6/2008 8:38:21 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2008 

Earlier this year Jacobs Entertainment, Inc., the owner of Colonial Downs, announced its intent to sell the track and its nine off-track betting facilities around the state. The track is on 600 picturesque acres off I-64, midway between Richmond and Williamsburg/Newport News. Over the past seven years Colonial Downs, has experienced steady growth in race days, purses, handle, and attendance.

Despite being “an artistic success”, in the words of owner Jeff Jacobs, without alternative gaming, Colonial Downs cannot match the financial performance of his casinos in Colorado and Nevada, as well as Louisiana truck stops with video gaming, also owned by the entertainment company. According to Jacobs, “We have been unable to secure the tools to allow us to grow live racing in Virginia to its full potential.”

A bill to permit Instant Racing machines at the track – video gaming similar to slot machines – was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly shortly after the track was put up for sale. Prospects for passage are dim because the same bill failed last year.

The “For Sale” sign is not expected to affect this summer’s race meet. Even so, the Virginia HBPA and the Virginia Thoroughbred Association (the breeders’ organization) are actively looking for Virginia investors who might be interested in buying the track. Unlike most tracks on the sales block, Colonial Downs is in good financial shape. It has little debt and a positive cash flow.

The rumored asking price is $50 million. Sales brochures are available through Colonial Downs (804-966-7223, ext. 1006).

Virginia HBPA Member Wins Eclipse Award
3/6/2008 8:37:55 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2008 

Longtime Virginia HBPA member Harold “Sonny” Via, Jr. brought an Eclipse Award home to Free Union, Virginia. He received it during ceremonies at the Los Angeles Beverly Wilshire Hotel for Good Night Shirt, his six-year-old gelding honored as 2007 Steeplechaser of the Year. The horse (by Concern out of Hot Story, a Two Punch mare) is trained by Virginia HBPA member Jack Fisher, 2007’s top steeplechase trainer.

Like many steeplechasers, Good Night Shirt began his career on the flat, where he had modest success before switching to jump racing. He began his stakes career by winning the Zeke Ferguson Memorial Hurdle at Colonial Downs in the summer of 2006 (on Sundays during the race meet, Colonial usually cards two steeplechase races).

From five starts in 2007, Good Night Shirt won three Grade One stakes and finished second in a fourth one. The champion hurdler ended the year with earnings of $314,163, a single season record for steeplechasers. In the course of that campaign, Good Night Shirt twice beat 2006 Eclipse Winner McDynamo, who is the all-time leading steeplechase money winner.

Account Wagering
3/6/2008 8:36:38 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2008 

Virginians are increasingly using the internet to wager on horse racing. In 2007 a record $33 million was bet by Virginia residents with four online advance deposit wagering companies—TVG, XpressBet (owned by Magna Entertainment Corp.), Twin Spires (owned by Churchill Downs), and EZ Horseplay (owned by Colonial Downs). About $1.3 million of that sum was paid into the Virginia horsemen’s purse account as source market fees, roughly the same amount that would have gone for purses if the wagering had been at Virginia’s nine off-track betting sites.

The Virginia HBPA sued a fifth company,, which also accepts wagers from Virginia customers. That company’s handle is estimated to be in excess of $10 million annually. However, Youbet is not licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission, nor does it remit any part of its handle to the Virginia horsemen’s purse account, both of which are required by state law. Trial in federal court in Richmond is scheduled for June 30, 2008.

Youbet Settles Lawsuit in Virginia
3/5/2008 11:57:46 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 3/4/2008 7:15:50 PM Last Updated: 3/5/2008 11:25:24 AM

A federal lawsuit between and several entities associated with Virginia racing has been settled, resulting in a renewed effort by the advance deposit wagering company to become licensed in the state.

A group of plaintiffs that include Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent Protective Association last September filed a federal lawsuit against Youbet, claiming the company had operated illegally without a license in the commonwealth, and sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost source-market fees in compensation, among other damages.

Youbet in a March 4 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it had settled the lawsuit, and that all claims in the litigation would be dismissed. The settlement includes a $150,000 payment, and a promise from the company that it would “refresh” its application for a Virginia license.

"We are pleased that we were able to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement," said interim chief executive officer Gary W. Sproule in the SEC filing. A call from The Blood-Horse seeking additional comment was not returned March 4.

Peter Burnett, chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission, which later intervened in the lawsuit, told The Blood-Horse that the settlement also included an agreement from Youbet that it would pay an estimated source-market fee of approximately 7.84%, which was based on previous handle figures compiled by the company in the state. In court filings, Colonial Downs in previous negotiations prior to the lawsuit had sought an 11% rate, while Youbet had countered with a 3% rate.

The settlement was reached during a court-ordered Feb. 26 mediation conference in Virginia. Burnett said the commission was cognizant of the restructuring process at Youbet, which has gone through corporate changes in the last several months, including the departure of then chairman and CEO Charles Champion.

"The track and the horsemen had a far bigger dog in the fight,” Burnett said. “Our bigger fight (as the commission) was to get these guys licensed. We recognized the corporate upheaval at Youbet, and the corporate restructuring that they say is taking place. We recognize financial hardships related with that process.”

Calls for comment from the VHBPA and Colonial Downs were not immediately returned. Youbet in its defenses in the lawsuit called Virginia’s law regarding the licensing of ADWs unconstitutional.

The $150,000 payment will be spread “pro-rata” among the VRC, the VHBPA, the state’s harness horsemen, and Colonial Downs, said Burnett, who participated in the Feb. 26 settlement conference. Youbet in the SEC filing said the payment would be spread over four calendar quarters.

There are currently five ADW companies licensed in Virginia -- AmericaTab, EZ Play, TVG,, and -- which combined were estimated to handle between $30 million to $35 million in wagers in 2007. Youbet was estimated to have handled an additional $10 million to $12 million from Virginia bettors last year.

The settlement, which has yet to be filed in Virginia federal court, apparently did not include an agreement for Youbet to take the Colonial Downs signal. Burnett said that could probably be negotiated later. According to a published report in January, Colonial Downs has put itself on the market to be sold. The track is co-owned by Jacobs Entertainment and the company's founder, Richard Jacobs.

Colonial Downs - Track sale comes down to money
1/18/2008 4:51:00 PM  - 

Posted: January 15, 2008

Jeff Jacobs sat in a Colonial Downs conference room last July on Virginia Derby Day and talked up all the things he envisioned for the equine fortress and for horse racing here in the state.

A high-end turf meet in the fall. Several million dollars added to the collective pot. Satellite-TV trucks in the parking lot. A state racing profile elevated beyond "Birthplace of Secretariat."

All of it was achievable, the owner of Colonial Downs insisted. Turns out, however, that Jacobs meant that it was achievable for somebody, not necessarily for him.

Jacobs wants to unload Colonial Downs — the racetrack and all of the off-track betting parlors around the state.

So what happened between that lovely July afternoon with the Derby day record crowd betting record coin and the cold January day when Jacobs posted the "For Sale" sign?

What happened is what always happens. Five letters. Starts with "M." Rhymes with "honey."

Jacobs isn't making enough money off of his investment. More important, he doesn't see a path toward maximizing profits in the foreseeable future.

Without slot machines or video-gaming parlors or a dedicated revenue stream from northern Virginia, he and his team of wealth-accumulation experts believe that the Downs in particular and Virginia racing in general have plateaued.

Jacobs sees other racetracks in other states where slots and for-profit video games augment purses and attract horsemen — nearby Delaware and West Virginia, to name two.

Such measures particularly are valuable when you cannot rely on turnstile counts to generate revenue because your facility is located in metropolitan Providence Forge, and your state's pari-mutuel tradition is nil.

Jacobs has tried to schmooze state legislators, to little avail. Elected officials will give tax breaks to raccoons before they'll sign off on slots or video-gaming parlors, never mind diverting profits from such ventures to the horse-racing industry.

Legislators believe we have access to enough vices already, between tobacco and booze and lotteries and "American Idol" on free TV.

Jacobs also sees his other entertainment ventures — casinos in Colorado and Nevada, truck-stop video-gaming parlors in Louisiana — where he doesn't have to work nearly as hard to collect a few extra quid.

The decision to sell makes Jacobs' pep talk last July appear a little disingenuous. The business and legislative climates weren't going to change radically in six months.

Nor does it pass the smell test to think that a savvy millionaire entrepreneur would wake up one morning, smack himself on the forehead and say, "I gotta dump that sinkhole."

This has been in the works, or at least batted around the boardroom, for a while.

That said, Jacobs isn't playing hardball. He hasn't threatened to shutter the track if he doesn't get what he wants. Perhaps that's because he knows the response is liable to be: "It's been nice working with you."

We've been down this path before. Jacobs put Colonial Downs up for sale in 1999, just two years after they opened, but found no takers.

There's no guarantee that there will be any interested parties this time around, either. Track CFO Ian Stewart said that Jacobs didn't make the announcement because he has a buyer waiting in the wings. They are testing the market.

Again, barring an influx of Stepford legislators — hold all punchlines — any potential buyers will face the same challenges Jacobs did, in terms of maximizing profits.

Jacobs stanched those early financial losses after he and various horsemen's groups and racing-commission types quit treating each other like Shiia and Sunnis.

Eleven years in, Colonial Downs has become a part of the regional sporting landscape. Among horsemen, the track's signature turf course sells itself.

Jacobs sank a bunch of his own money into building up the facility. He essentially bankrolled the Grand Slam of Grass turf racing series and even signed a big check himself to have CBS broadcast Derby day last year.

However, Jacobs isn't in business to provide a service. The "For Sale" sign is evidence of that.

Colonial Meet Up to 45 Days in 2008
12/22/2007 8:37:20 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 12/20/2007 12:56:36 PM Last Updated: 12/20/2007 4:59:21 PM

Seeking overall growth in horse racing, the Virginia Racing Commission Dec. 19 extended Colonial Downs’ request for 40 days of live Thoroughbred racing to 45 for 2008.

While the number of days was set, factors could affect the specific dates for racing. In the commission’s approval is a window to race five days a week over nine weeks during the 10-week period between June 6 and Aug. 12.

In 2007, Colonial Downs raced 40 days from June 15-Aug. 7. In recent years, the meet has started the weekend after the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

“The reason for the flexibility was to be in communication with Maryland so that we’re working together,” said Stan Bowker, the commission’s executive director. “We have to be cognizant of what Maryland is doing to make sure that racing personnel and horses are available.”

Virginia horsemen pursued the increase in racing days. The effort was led by Frank Petramalo, executive director of the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

“The whole racing program in Virginia depends on growth to survive,” Petramalo said. “Virginia-based trainers and owners want to run and play in their own ballpark.”

Petramalo said at 45 days, Virginia has the fewest Thoroughbred racing days of any major racing state in the country followed by Arkansas with 58 days. Remaining racing states offer at least 100 days of racing.

Under the Virginia HBPA plan, average daily purses including stakes would remain at $226,000, but with the longer meet, average overnight purses would increase slightly from $152,000 to $156,000. Colonial Downs offered a plan that would have maintained the 40-day meet but would have increased average daily purses 6% to $234,000.

“We fit right into that window,” Colonial Downs general manager Iain Woolnough said. “We wanted the daily purses to go up to stay competitive with states that have other sources of revenue. We’ll go along and work out what’s best for racing in Virginia. It makes my job a little tougher.”

Under both scenarios the purses for major stakes--the $1-million Virginia Derby (gr. IIT), the $750,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT), the $200,000 All Along (gr. IIIT), and the $200,000 Virginia Oaks (gr. IIIT)--would remain the same.

In addition to working with Maryland, Woolnough noted the readiness of the Colonial Downs turf course would determine when the meet will begin.

“In 2007, we would have been fine running a week earlier,” he said. “In 2006, I’m not so sure it would have worked. We want to make sure the root base is where it should be.”

In other business, the commission approved the renewal the four licensed account wagering companies operating in Virginia: TVG, XpressBet, Twin Spires, and Colonial Downs/The Racing Channel.

Racing Plans for 2008
11/15/2007 2:11:50 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2007 

This year, there were 40 days of Thoroughbred racing at Colonial Downs. Next summer, that number may increase to 45 days. The Virginia HBPA, track management, and the Virginia Racing Commission are currently discussing possible ways to add more days. While neither days nor dates will be finalized until the end of December, there will likely be eight or nine weeks of racing between mid-June and mid-August at Virginia’s only racetrack.

The Virginia HBPA would like to offer more racing opportunities to benefit local horsemen and to encourage out of state horsemen, particularly from Florida and Kentucky, to stable at Colonial for the summer. We need a good supply of horses to maintain Colonial’s average field size of over nine horses per race which, of course, generates more handle and more purse money than smaller fields.

Expansion is also part of the Virginia HBPA’s long term goal for racing in the state. About six years ago, when Colonial switched from a Fall meet to a Summer one, there were only 26 days of racing. Working with the track, the Virginia HBPA then negotiated a five-year growth plan that called for increasing that number to 50 race days. Our goal was and is to create a niche for Colonial Downs as the summer venue for quality turf racing in the Mid-Atlantic region (80 percent of Colonial’s races are on the grass).

By 2006, the program had grown to 42 race days, with purses at or above an average of $200,000 a day. We were able to accomplish that by helping the track open five new offtrack betting shops to go with the four existing locations. That significantly enriched the horsemen’s purse account and allowed us to run more days.

However, in the process, the stakes to overnight purse ratio got out of balance. New purses and new stakes races (the Colonial Turf Cup-G3 and the Virginia Derby-G2 both had $1 million purses) took too big a slice of the purse account. We corrected that this summer by running 40 days and cutting the Turf Cup to $750,000. As a result, non-stakes overnight purses increased by 12 percent to a daily average of $151,000, with the overall purse average at a daily $226,000. Those changes were well received by the horsemen, who were near unanimous in their call for more race days.

Adding five days in 2008, however, depends on having enough purse money so existing purse levels do not drop. However, it is hard to know now how much will be available next summer because the revenue stream that funds purses accumulates from January through December of next year and is dependent on a number of unpredictable variables.

About 70 percent of purse money for a proposed 45 days of racing will come from year-round simulcasting at Colonial’s nine off-track betting parlors in central and southern Virginia (so far, we have been unsuccessful in opening an off-track site in the cash rich northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.). That handle has increased regularly over the past few years with the addition of new sites. It may continue to do so, but further expansion of facilities is not likely in 2008.

Another 10 percent or so of the purse money will come from account wagering source market agreements that the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs have with TVG, XpressBet, Twin Spires, America TAB, and EZ Horseplay. We expect growth in this area because year-round account wagering is rapidly expanding in Virginia, as is true in the rest of the country.

Unfortunately, the largest single operator in Virginia, YouBet, contributes nothing to our horsemen’s purse account even though state law requires that it do so. For that reason, the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs sued YouBet in Richmond federal court this Fall to stop the company from taking wagers from Virginia residents.

On-track handle, nomination fees, and signal sales during the Colonial Downs live meet will likely add another 10 percent to our purse account. The final 10 percent will come from the Virginia Thoroughbred breeders’ fund.

Looking at the past and making some realistic estimates gives the Virginia HBPA a fair level of confidence in proposing 45 days for next summer. We think the Racing Commission will agree.

In addition to Colonial’s summer meet, the Virginia HBPA expects to expand racing opportunities for Virginia-bred horses at steeplechase meets in the state, which are held before and after the Colonial meet.

Virginia is the center of steeplechase racing in the Mid-Atlantic region. Hunt meets throughout the state are very popular. This year’s Virginia Gold Cup drew 60,000 fans to the racecourse near Middleburg, Virginia. Twenty-five thousand people attended the Strawberry Hill meet held at Colonial Downs in April.

The Spring steeplechase season runs from late February to early May. The Fall season goes from September through November. Many of the Thoroughbreds racing over jumps and on the flat at those meets also run at Colonial Downs, both on the flat and over jumps (Colonial usually cards two jump races on Sundays during its summer meet).

In the past, the Virginia HBPA put up modest purses ($2,000 to $5,000) for flat races restricted to Virginia-breds at many of those hunt meets in the Spring and Fall. With financial assistance from the Virginia Racing Commission, we expect to increase purses and expand the number of races in 2008.

Groom Elite
11/15/2007 2:08:59 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2007 

During last summer’s meet at Colonial, the Virginia HBPA once again offered the Groom Elite training program, developed and administered by Dr. Reid McLellan for the National HBPA. This year’s program included observers from the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) and the James River Chapter of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF).

Working together, the DOC and the TRF developed a “people helping horses, horses helping people” project for the James River Correctional Center, formerly a state prison farm, west of Richmond. After watching Dr. McLellan teach at Colonial and discussing with him the Groom Elite program, they decided to use the Groom Elite training curricula and teaching methods in their program. Dr. McLellan is also helping train instructors for the project.

The James River project provides a home for retired racehorses and, at the same time, teaches corrections center inmates how to care for horses. Subject of Virginia Licensing Lawsuit
9/28/2007 11:48:39 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/28/2007 9:43:05 AM Last Updated: 9/28/2007 9:43:05 AM

Colonial Downs and Virginia horsemen have filed a lawsuit claiming is operating illegally without a license in the commonwealth, and want the advance deposit wagering company to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost source-market fees.

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 19 in a U.S. federal court in Virginia, Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association claim they have exhausted other remedies in trying to get to comply with commonwealth regulations requiring both a license and agreement with horsemen and the racetrack on source-market fees.

"They haven't paid a dime, but they have been operating unlawfully in Virginia for at least 3 1/2 years," said Frank Petramalo, a Virginia attorney who is executive director of the Virginia HBPA. "They are unwilling to pay the same rates as the other companies are willing to pay."

Currently, there are five ADW companies licensed in Virginia -- AmericaTab, EZ Play, TVG,, and -- which Petramalo estimates will take in about $30 million to $35 million in handle this year, generating about $2.5 million in shared revenue by Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA., the lawsuit claims, handles about $10 million a year from Virginia bettors and hasn’t paid fees since launching operations in the commonwealth in 2003. The complaint, which cites no specific monetary damages, claims filed for a license in 2003 but never fulfilled certain requirements, including the execution of a signed signal agreement with Colonial Downs and Virginia horsemen.

Exhibits included with the complaint suggest Colonial Downs wants an 11% source-market fee, while Youbet has countered with a figure of 3%. "They offered us a pittance," Petramalo said. officials through a spokesman declined to comment, saying they hadn't been served with the lawsuit and needed time to thoroughly review the complaint. The company has in the past said the Virginia law is unconstitutional.

Virginia statutes were amended this year to allow for a temporary license with binding arbitration, but Petramalo said has chosen not to comply. Petramalo estimates 12 states require ADW licensing of some kind, including California, where is headquartered.

"Colonial first started negotiating with our blessing," he said. "When that didn't succeed, we said, 'Let the horsemen try it.' Then the (Virginia Racing) Commission said, 'Let's try mediation,' and that went no place."

The lawsuit claims the Virginia attorney general is looking into criminal charges against

Virginia HBPA Sues
9/19/2007 3:00:48 PM  -  Virginia HBPA 

Posted: 9/19/2007

Today the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs filed suit in federal district court in Richmond, Virginia against, the account wagering company. The suit asks the Court to enjoin YouBet from doing business in Virginia until it has a license from the Virginia Racing Commission and a source market agreement with the VHBPA and Colonial Downs.

Account wagering is lawful in Virginia but only if licensed by the VRC. There currently are five licensed companies in the state—XpressBet, Twin Spires, America TAB, TVG, and EZ Play—all of whom have source market agreements with the VHBPA and Colonial Downs.

YouBet, on the other hand, has been unlawfully taking wagers from Virginia residents for at least the past three years. The company’s annual Virginia handle is estimated to be more than $10 million.

For further information contact Frank Petramalo, Executive Director, at 540-347-0033 or

Colonial Downs Ends Successful Meet
9/16/2007 1:30:51 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2007 

The Statistics

On August 7, Colonial Downs concluded its eleventh season of Thoroughbred racing with record numbers. The New Kent, Virginia track registered an all-source average daily handle of $1,262,689 for 40 days of racing, the highest in the track’s history. Average daily attendance (1,996) increased 11% over last year. That strong growth was reflected in on-track handle, which rose 9% for a daily average of $164,557.

The tenth running of the $1,000,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) on July 21st also produced several records. Todd Pletcher’s longshot ($76) Red Giant set a new track record (1:59:62) in winning the 1 1/4-mile turf race by a nose over Strike a Deal. That performance was before a record Virginia Derby crowd (8,964) and produced a record one-day handle of $4,429,191.

Colonial’s strong summer meet performance was generated by racing on its huge 180-foot wide turf course that has eight different rail settings. Eighty-one percent of the meet was run on the turf, with an average of 9.3 starters per race, up from last year’s 8.8 starters per race. All races (turf and dirt) averaged 9.1 starters, compared to last year’s average of 8.7 starters.

In order to generate more dirt race entries this year, the Virginia HBPA ran a “down and dirty” bonus program. Trainers running horses in low level claiming races ($5,000 to $10,000 claiming price) received $200 for winning, $100 for second, $75 for third, and $50 for fourth through eighth place finishes. By the end of the meet, trainers earned a total of $18,125 in Virginia HBPA bonus money.

The numbers near and dear to the hearts of owners and trainers – daily purses – were also at record levels. All purses (stakes and overnights) averaged $226,379 a day for 40 days. Non-stakes purses averaged $151,879 per day, with an average of $17,609 per race, representing a 12% increase over last year.

Social Events

The social highlight of the 2007 race meet was the National HBPA convention in Williamsburg, Virginia hosted by the Virginia HBPA. After the usual challenging work sessions on Thursday and Friday, 150 delegates went to Colonial Downs on Saturday, July 21, for the Virginia Derby. Everyone seemed impressed with the physical plant and the quality of turf racing, perhaps accounting for the significant increase in handle that day!

One of the races on the Saturday card was the $35,000 National HBPA Convention Cup, sponsored by the Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania HBPA affiliates. Horses bred in those states were preferred entrants. The winner, unfortunately, was Maryland-bred.

Earlier in the meet, the Virginia HBPA sponsored an Owners’ Day event. On June 16, nearly 200 owners and friends gathered for brunch in the Virginia HBPA building in the stable area. Gifts, food, and drinks were available for all as a show of our appreciation for their support of Virginia racing.

Ceremonies honoring owners continued throughout the Saturday afternoon race card. All horses carried special Owners’ Day saddlecloths, and winning owners were presented with beveled glass win picture frames as trophies. Owners racing that day also received a DVD of the races.

Toward the end of the meet, Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA jointly sponsored “Very Virginia Day” to showcase “made in Virginia” products, in addition to horses. On July 28, 14 exhibitor tents on the stretch side green and a portion of the ground floor grandstand were used by vendors and horse industry groups to display and sell products and distribute information. Nearly 4,000 people attended the event.

The race card featured two Virginia-bred races, and horses in all races were assisted by outriders wearing shirts with a “Very Virginia” logo. Youngsters took part in the celebration of Virginia by having their pictures taken aboard a retired Virginia-bred tacked for racing.


Stable workers, particularly those shipping in on a daily basis from Maryland and Virginia training centers, were given meal tickets redeemable at the track kitchen. We also provided mattresses and air conditioners for the groom dormitories, a soccer field for sport, and a large screen television in our building for entertainment. During the meet, the Virginia HBPA arranged and paid for acute medical and dental care needed by backstretch workers. Treatment was in nearby clinics, with transportation provided by the Virginia HBPA shuttle van.

Dr. Reid McLellan, National Director of the Groom Elite Program, made his sixth annual visit to Colonial Downs to conduct one of his training programs. This year, we offered GEP 101, the basic six-week comprehensive groom training course. Taught in both English and Spanish, we graduated nine students who were awarded certificates and Groom Elite jackets at a ceremony on August 2.

The Reverend Marjorie Bevans and two assistant chaplains provided counseling and spiritual guidance on a full-time basis. Reverend Bevans, a former jockey, visited the barns during training hours, and prior to the first race each day, she blessed the jockeys. This year, Reverend Bevans continued her popular Thursday evening Bible study at a local Mexican restaurant. A diverse group of English and Spanish-speaking horsemen (hot walkers, grooms, trainers, owners, exercise riders, and an occasional jockey) got together each week for study, prayer, and a meal.

In addition to daily benevolence programs, the Virginia HBPA once again sponsored a Disabled Jockeys’ Fund Benefit Golf Tournament. Owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, and friends played at a challenging links course not far from Colonial Downs. Over $11,000 was raised for disabled jockeys like Virginia native Shannon Campbell, who was permanently paralyzed in a fall three years ago. A portion of the benefit proceeds will be used to buy a therapeutic saddle to enable her to ride a racetrack pony.

Colonial Season Ends With Small Increases
8/9/2007 2:59:30 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/8/2007 6:39:53 PM Last Updated: 8/8/2007 6:39:53 PM

The handle at Colonial Downs increased a bit over its 2006 mark, while a moderate summer helped boost attendance at the central Virginia track, which concluded its 11th season of racing on Aug. 7.

Total wagering on live racing over Colonial’s 40-day meet was $49,006,598. The average daily handle was $1,225,165, the highest in Colonial’s history, up slightly over the 2006 mark of $1,221,202.

Attendance was 79,859, averaging 1,997 daily, an increase from the 78,597 and 1,804, respectively, from last year’s meet.

“By moving the Turf Cup, it cost us a little bit on the off-track which we never really recovered from,” commented Iain Woolnaugh, general manager at Colonial Downs. “When you look at the popularity of our track out there, the numbers and response was fantastic.”

Initially Colonial Downs had pursued airing both of its marquee 3-year old turf races, the $750,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) and the $1 million Virginia Derby (gr. IIT), on CBS, but was not able to finalize their arrangement for the Turf Cup. The Turf Cup was moved to Colonial’s opening weekend and head-to-head versus other major stakes races such as the $750,000 Stephen Foster (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

The Turf Cup was aired on HRTV and viewers saw Summer Doldrums set a track record in holding off Strike a Deal in the first leg of the Jacob’s Investments $5 million Grand Slam of Grass.

The Virginia Derby was aired nationally on CBS-TV for the first time on July 21 when longshot Red Giant also nosed out Strike a Deal in a barely decipherable track record photo finish. The handle on Virginia Derby day was $4,429,192 while attendance was 8,964, both records for Colonial’s signature event.

“A lot of things we have been working on over the last 10 years are really starting to show some fruit,” added Ian Stewart, Colonial’s chief financial officer. “The CBS broadcast brought the Grand Slam to another level where interest can continue to grow.”

An average of 9.1 horses came out of the starting gate 363 times during the meet, with 295 of those starts (81.2%) occurring over the turf.

Seven horses that started at Colonial Downs had to be euthanized due to injury, a frustrating figure that puzzled racing officials during the meet.

“Nothing was attributed to the racing surfaces and nothing was attributed to heat,” said Woolnaugh, who attributed the breakdowns to rotten luck. “We’ve had very good weather this year. Even the last couple days when we did run in excessive heat, we were very conscious of that, the horses, and nobody suffered. They all came back and they all did well.”

Jockey Horatio Karamanos’ meet-leading 62 wins helped him become Colonial’s all-time leading rider with 292. He was also winning rider of the Virginia Derby aboard Red Giant at 37-1. Trainer Hamilton Smith gathered 20 wins to claim the training title for the second year in a row.

TV Ratings for VA Derby more than satisfactory
8/6/2007 10:43:32 AM  -  Colonial Downs Notes 

Posted: Sunday, Aug 05, 2007 - 12:07 AM

The Virginia Derby (Grade II) on July 21 drew a favorable ratings number and could lead to another appearance of Colonial Downs' most prominent Thoroughbred race on national TV next year.

The Nielsen rating of the hourlong telecast on CBS was 0.9 and a 2 share, which was comparable to or better than nearly everything else in that time frame.

The British Open golf highlights came in at 1.0/3 share on ABC, and the women's pro volleyball tournament on NBC drew a 0.9/2 share. The major-league baseball game of the week, shown on a regional basis by Fox, had a 2.5/6 share of the audience.

Earlier in the day, the live production of the British Open from Carnoustie, Scotland, drew the largest number, a 2.7 rating and an 8 share.

A 1.0 national rating represents 1,102,000 households.

"When you consider we got a .9 national rating, and there were a lot of markets with 1s and 2s, it means people found it," said Bob Leffler, owner of the Baltimore-based Leffler Agency, which along with Lewis Communications helped set up the deal with CBS.

"CBS is not a [horse] racing station. This is something we all produced at Colonial Downs and was [bankrolled] by Jeff Jacobs [majority owner of Colonial]. We negotiated the time buy and put the whole thing together. The point is that [CBS] was happy and absolutely satisfied with the result."

This year's Derby, which was run for the 10th time at the New Kent County track, was on national network TV for the first time.

"The feedback we got from different people who watched it and talked to us about it was that it looked like a nice place to go view a horse race in the summer," Leffler said.

"The race was competitive and exciting. What more could you want than a photo finish at the end? It showed people having a good time. It showed the beautiful Virginia countryside. There were plenty of historical vignettes. I think it did the area a lot of good."

Red Giant, a Todd Pletcher-trained long shot, edged Strike a Deal by a nose in the $1 million, 1¼-mile test for 3-year-olds.

Leffler said it's too early to speculate about next year, although Jacobs would like to add the Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. III) to the TV schedule, and possibly two other races in the Grand Slam of Grass: the Secretariat Stakes (Gr.I) at Arlington Park and the Breeders' Cup Turf (Gr. I) at Monmouth Park.

"We're working on a television strategy," Leffler said. "It might be broadcast, it might be cable. We don't know. It's going to be national, not a local strategy. The goal is to elevate the future events, especially the turf racing, in the summer at Colonial Downs."

Final numbers up for Va. Derby Day

Both the on-track and total handle set Derby records this year.

The total handle of $4,537,507 broke the previous mark of $3,775,461 set two years ago. The on-track handle of $753,680 topped the $669,958 established in 2004.

Revised attendance figures also revealed that the record crowd was 8,964, a few hundred more than was announced Derby day. The previous high was 8,121 in 2005.

Mild weather for mid-July and one of the most competitive Derby fields in history contributed to the records.

Colonial Turf Cup Has Foreign Flair
6/13/2007 11:31:37 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/12/2007 12:32:45 PM Last Updated: 6/12/2007 1:42:36 PM

When racing officials at Colonial Downs added the $750,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) to their stakes schedule to create the Jacobs Investments $5 million "Grand Slam of Grass,” they envisioned attracting strong interest from international horses.

At Monday’s draw for the first leg of the “Grand Slam” that foreign flair was revealed. Of the 13 colts that came out of the entry box, five have won races outside of the U.S. with two -- Adagio and Mysterious Peintre -- making their first U.S. start.

Owned by IEAH Stable, Adagio is a group III winner from Great Britain at a mile and is the most competitively raced colt in the field. As a group I and group II starter in the Two Thousand Guineas and Dante Stakes, respectively, Adagio went up against its talented English winners, Authorized and Cockney Rebel. In last year’s running of the Turf Cup, IEAH-owned Kip Deville held a 20 length lead on Colonial’s backstretch but was caught in the stretch by Showing Up. Mike Smith is named as the rider of Adagio.

Mysterious Peintre has never finished worse than second in eight starts in France. Owned by Edmund Gann and trained by Jean Claude Rouget, Mysterious Peintre has won races from five furlongs to 1 3/8 miles and will be ridden by French jockey Christophe Lemaire.

Sahara Heat has won his last three starts, including the $150,000 Marine Stakes over Woodbine’s synthetic surface in May. The colt has shown the capability to perform at every latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, with wins in Florida, Kentucky and Canada.

Brainy Benny and Love Dubai are two other Turf Cup starters that have run overseas, both in England. Brainy Benny along with Justy are two colts that trainer Bill Mott has entered for Zayat Stables.

Strike A Deal, trained by Alan Goldberg and owned by Jayeff B. Stables, is sired by Smart Strike, who sired the winner of the inaugural Colonial Turf Cup, English Channel. The two-time stakes winner on the turf will be making his first start in graded stakes company.

Trainer David Vivian has entered turf veteran Soldier’s Dancer, the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT) winner at Calder on New Year’s Day while Marshall Dowell’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I) starter Mint Slewlep, trained by Robbie Bailes, will attempt the turf for the first time.

Souvenir Slew, Summer Doldrums, Time Squared and Wheels Up At Noon complete the field of the 1 3/8-mile turf race.

The $200,000 All Along Stakes (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares run prior to the Turf Cup also drew foreign interest. Among the 12 entries are two winners of stakes races in France, Ballet Pacifica and Grigorieva. Dancing Sky, an Irish-bred filly trained by Dermot Weld, is making her first U.S. start in the All Along. Humoristic, May Night, Miss Belga Bound, Dancing Up a Storm, Bridge Game, Omeya (CHI), Cozy Gain, Masseuse, and Silver Charades complete the field.

Opening day at Colonial Downs is Friday, June 15.

Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT), $750,000
1—Justy, no rider named, 116
2—Love Dubai, Mario Pino, 116
3—Wheels Up At Noon, Nick Santagata, 116
4—Strike a Deal, Javier Castellano, 116
5—Time Squared, Julien Leparoux, 116
6—Sahara Heat, no rider, 120
7—Brainy Benny, no rider, 116
8—Summer Doldrums, Jose Lezcano, 116
9—Adagio, Mike Smith, 118
10—Souvenir Slew, no rider, 116
11—Mysterious Peintre, Christophe Lemaire, 116
12—Soldier’s Dancer, Sebastian Madrid, 118
13—Mint Slewlep, Luis Garcia, 116

All Along Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT), $200,000
1—Dancing Sky, Jose Lezcano, 120
2—Bridge Game, Mike Smith, 120
3—Humoristic, Malcolm Franklin, 120
4—Dancingupastorm, Luis Garcia, 120
5—Miss Belga Bound, no rider, 120
6—May Night, no rider, 120
7—Grigorieva, Mike Smith, 120
8—Omeya, Enrique Jurado, 120
9—Silver Charades, Eddie Castro, 120
10—Ballet Pacifica, Julien Leparoux, 120
11--Cozy Gain, Luis Garcia, 120
12—Masseuse, Javier Castellano, 122

Board of Director Elections
6/6/2007 12:28:28 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2007 

The Virginia HBPA recently concluded the election of its 14-member Board of Directors for a three-year term beginning on January 1, 2007 and ending on December 31, 2009. Ballots were mailed to all Thoroughbred owners and trainers licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission who race at Colonial Downs.

The seven owner representatives elected are: Jim Carter (Bluemont), Susie Chatfield-Tayor (Front Royal), Nellie Mae Cox (Goochland), John Hanna (Upperville), Susan Hart (Millwood), Robin Richards (Millwood), and David Ross (Great Falls).

The seven trainer representatives elected are: Susan Cooney (Delaplane), Donna Dennehy (Ashland), Jill Gordon-Moore (Berryville), Diana McClure (Berryville), Stephanie Nixon (Ashland), Donna Rogers (Hamilton), and Randy Rouse (Arlington).

The new Board elected as its officers: Robin Richards, President; Jill Gordon-Moore, Vice President; John Hanna, Treasurer; and, Diana McClure, Secretary.

Instant Racing
6/6/2007 12:27:27 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2007 

Colonial Downs’ legislative effort, actively supported by the Virginia HBPA, to permit installation of Instant Racing games at the track and its nine off-track betting parlors, failed during this year’s 45-day session of the Virginia General Assembly. Colonial’s prototype Instant Racing machines shown to legislators look like self-service tote machines. The games allow players to make 25 or 50 cent video wagers on a random database of thousands of races run in the past at racetracks throughout the country. Before doing so, a player is given a limited amount of handicapping information in graphical form but is not told the identity of the track or the names of the horses. The player selects a trifecta and then watches a video replay of the stretch run. Nonstop racing action is the attraction of the games. Other versions of Instant Racing games used at the Oaklawn Park racetrack in Arkansas look very much like slot machines.

Colonial’s Instant Racing legislation was passed by the Virginia Senate but failed in the more conservative House of Delegates. Track management estimated that Instant Racing contributions to the Virginia HBPA horsemen’s trust account would have tripled purses at the summer Thoroughbred meets.

Instant Racing may come up again during the General Assembly’s 2008 session.

Events and Programs at Colonial Downs
6/6/2007 12:25:34 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2007 

On Saturday, June 16, the Virginia HBPA is sponsoring Owners Day at the racetrack. All licensed owners, trainers, and friends are invited to a pre-race reception in the Virginia HBPA’s building on the backside next to the track kitchen. During the race card, awards and special trophies honoring owners for their participation in Virginia racing will be given out.

On July 11, the Virginia HBPA is sponsoring a golf tournament at Colonial Downs to benefit local jockey Shannon Campbell, who was permanently injured in a race at Charles Town, and the national Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. Last year, the benefit raised nearly $10,000.

For four days starting on July 19, the Virginia HBPA is hosting the National HBPA convention in Williamsburg, Virginia. On Virginia Derby Day, July 21, convention goers will be bused to the track for the races. Colonial management is providing a section of the grandstand and a party tent on the stretch green for their race viewing and entertainment.

On Saturday, July 28, the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs are jointly sponsoring Virginia Day/Fan Appreciation Day. Events and displays will focus on Virginia equine activities, in addition to racing, state agricultural products, and Virginia wines. Ten cent hot dogs will undoubtedly encourage attendance, as it did for last year’s crowd of more than 5,000 race fans.

The Virginia HBPA is once again offering the Groom Elite GEP 101 six-week training course for backstretch workers. It starts on June 20 and will be taught bilingual, as usual.

Chaplains Marjorie Bevans (called our “galloping chaplain” because she used to be a jockey and brings her horse) and Anna Minor are returning. One or the other, and sometimes both, will be at the track every day.

Rule Changes for the Colonial Downs Meet
6/6/2007 12:22:22 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2007 

This summer’s Thoroughbred racing at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia starts on June 15 and runs through August 7, 2007. Wednesdays and Thursdays are dark. Post time during the week is 5:00 p.m. On the weekends, it is at 1:00 p.m. Horsemen participating in the meet should be aware of the following racing rule changes:

(1) Anabolic steroids – The use of all anabolic steroids is prohibited by Virginia’s medication rules and has been for the past ten years. However, for at least the 2007 race meet at Colonial Downs, the ban has been partially lifted by the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC). The Commission will permit use of four commonly administered FD A approved steroids: stanozolol (Winstrol), boldenone (Equipoise), nandrolone (Durabolin), and testosterone. The VRC rule revision, however, does not permit simultaneous use, or “stacking”, of any of the four steroids.

In past years, Virginia’s ban had little practical impact because the VRC did not screen for steroids. That changed last fall during Colonial Downs’ Standardbred meet, when a newly employed laboratory at Iowa State University with advanced technical capability began testing for steroids. Within the first couple of weeks, more than 25 positive findings were returned.

In partially lifting its steroid ban, the VRC acted to conform its medication rules, at least in part, to those of neighboring jurisdictions, like Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, that do not prohibit steroid use. The VRC change will likely remain in effect until a national consensus on steroids is reached.

In that regard, recent public statements by industry regulatory groups suggest that many states may follow Virginia’s lead and prohibit steroid use completely in horses that are racing.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) recommended such action to the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI), and the RCI adopted that position at its recent convention in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

(2) Coupling of Entries – In prior years, all horses in a race with the same trainer had to be coupled as one wagering interest. The same was true of horses with common ownership. Under a newly revised rule, horses with the same trainer will be allowed to run as separate wagering interests as long as the trainer does not have an ownership interest in any horse in the race. Despite that rule change, a trainer may elect to couple horses if he wishes to do so.

The coupling rule for owners was not changed by the VRC. Horses with common ownership or leasehold interests will run as a single entry for wagering purposes.

This rule change makes Virginia consistent with the practice in Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. It should also make easier the racing secretary’s job of filling races, particularly dirt races at Colonial that are more difficult to fill than turf races.

Four Derby Starters Among Nominees to Colonial Turf Cup
5/28/2007 9:41:08 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 5/25/2007 11:51:55 AM Last Updated: 5/25/2007 4:09:03 PM

Eight graded stakes winners are among the 78 early nominations for $750,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) at Colonial Downs on June 16. Nominations for the 1 3/16-mile race also become nominated for the 1 ¼-mile, $1 million Virginia Derby (gr. IIT). The Virginia Derby is run five weeks after the Turf Cup on July 21 on Colonial’s “Big Red” Green, the turf course named after Secretariat.

The Turf Cup and Virginia Derby comprise the first two “bases” of the Jacobs’ Investments $5 million Grand Slam of Grass. Third base is the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park on August 11 with the $3 million John Deere Breeder’s Cup Turf (gr. IT) serving as home plate.

Todd Pletcher, who won both the Turf Cup and then the Virginia Derby with English Channel, leads all trainers with 11 nominations including Cowtown Cat winner of the $200,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) and $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II).

Three-time Virginia Derby winning trainer Bill Mott has seven nominations including $150,000 Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Marcavelly. After giving it some initial consideration, Mott’s $150,000 Forerunner Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Moudez was not among the early nominees.

Trainer Dale Romans who won the 2004 Virginia Derby with Kitten’s Joy could return with Duveen, winner of the $150,000 Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs and the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park.

Other nominees include two horses trained by Darrin Miller-$750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Dominican and Sedgefield, both starters in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

California based graded stakes winners that were nominated include Desert Code, Bwana Bull and Whatsthescript. Desert Code won of the $100,000 Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita and is trained by David Hofmans. Bwana Bull is the $250,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) winner trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, and Irish-bred Whatsthescript, winner of the $75,000 Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park as a 2- year-old, is trained by Doug O’Neil.

The first graded stakes 3-year old turf winner of the year was also nominated. Soldier’s Dancer won the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT) on New Year’s Day for trainer David Vivian.

Owner Peter Vegso won the Virginia Derby with Orchard Park, Silver Tree and Go Between and hopes to win his fourth with Gweebarra trained by Neil Drysdale.

Dominican, Cowtown Cat, Sedgefield and Bwana Bull are four Kentucky Derby starters that have been nominated.

Late nominations for the Colonial Turf Cup close June 4 while late nominations for the Virginia Derby close July 9.

Seven graded stakes winners including Bear Now, Sealy Hill, and Val Benny were among the 66 three year old fillies nominated for the early closing of the $200,000 Virginia Oaks. The Virginia Oaks is run prior to the Virginia Derby on July 21st.

Virginia Commission Tough on Steroids, Easy on Apprentice
5/18/2007 3:19:36 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 5/16/2007 4:17:01 PM Last Updated: 5/16/2007 4:22:15 PM

Members of the Virginia Racing Commission acted on a wide range of issues at their monthly meeting May 16, including the implementation of testing for race day steroid levels and the reversion of an apprentice jockey license.

The commission approved new regulations for testing of anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroid regulations have been in place since Virginia’s rebirth of live racing in 1997, however a means of testing to enforce that policy had not been implemented. Under an agreement at Iowa State University, commissioners believe they now have a means to perform testing for the upcoming meet at Colonial Downs. According to a commission press release, the procedures would be consistent with the model rules that RCI seeks for national compliance by Jan. 1, 2008.

“There are some therapeutic reasons for using steroids, but they should not show up in the horse’s system on race day,” said Stan Bowker, executive director of the Virginia Racing Commission.

The model rules allow the use boldenone, stanozolol, nandrolone or testosterone individually, not in combination.

“We are moving to this new rule as the first step toward a national no anabolic steroid rule passed by the RCI membership,” said Peter Burnett, commission’s chairman. Burnett also serves as chairman of RCI.

“We expect to fully implement the national model rule in 2008 and hope all other members of RCI also will do so by 2008,” added Burnett.

Burnett also reported to the commission RCI’s model rules on the use of safety reins and toes grabs less than one-sixteenth of an inch.

In another matter, the commission deliberated on the issuance of an apprentice jockey’s license for Tom Foley. Foley rides in steeplechase races and previously obtained a journeyman’s license in 1998 to ride in flat races at Colonial Downs. According to Bowker, Foley was not aware that he could apply for an apprentice license in 1998 primarily due to his inability to make apprentice weights. The Jockey's Guild submitted a letter in support of the issuance of an apprentice license for Foley. Foley has been riding at Tampa Bay Downs this spring under a journeyman’s jockey license.

Foley, who has won four Thoroughbred races and earned $56,428 in his career, could ride with an apprentice weight allowance for one year or until he wins 40 races, whichever comes last. He could be eligible for another year if he has not won 40 races in a year’s time. As a steeplechase rider, he has won 69 times in 576 recognized steeplechase races and earned $1,748,066.

Virginia Approves CDI Account Wagering Application
4/21/2007 6:11:10 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 4/18/2007 7:45:47 AM Last Updated: 4/18/2007 8:25:31 AM

The Virginia Racing Commission has approved an application by Churchill Downs Inc. to offer account wagering in the state, and said statistics indicate existing account wagering operations haven’t impacted off-track betting in Virginia. In fact, account wagering and OTB handle are up so far this year.

The commission’s approval of makes the CDI-owned service the fifth licensed account wagering provider in Virginia. The others Colonial Phonebet, TVG, XpressBet, and AmericaTab. The approval of is subject to execution of an agreement that, once signed, would be approved administratively.

Brad Blackwell, a vice president with CDI, told the commission April 17 he expects to be up and running in Virginia before the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and that the company would seek customers in advance of licensure., which has an application pending with the racing commission, has been accepting wagers in Virginia even though the required agreement among, Colonial Downs, and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association hasn’t been reached.

Account wagering in Virginia so far this year is up 12.98% from the same period last year, not a surprise to regulators. But some officials expected cannibalism of handle at Colonial Downs’ off-track betting parlors. OTB handle, however, is up 8%, or $3 million higher than last year.

“For the first quarter of last year, (the Richmond OTB parlor) was being renovated,” Colonial Downs president Ian Stewart said. “However, factoring in that impact, it would still be a 5% increase, which is pretty good when you consider the growth of account wagering.”

Stewart credited the positive figures on improvements to self-service tote machines, marketing, and a “good team getting good results. There isn’t any reason why account wagering and off-track betting can’t be mutually supportive.”

Allowed to operate 10 OTB parlors under Virginia law, Colonial Downs operates a network of nine parlors that serve Richmond, Hampton, Chesapeake, Roanoke, Martinsville, Bristol, and Alberta. The required referendum has been approved in Westmoreland County, but Colonial Downs hasn’t vigorously pursued its opening in the Northern Neck community.

“We continue to look for opportunities for OTBs,” Stewart said. “We have to be selective. It’s a high investment on our part.”

Summer Racing at Colonial Downs
3/13/2007 4:11:22 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2007 

The Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs have agreed on a summer schedule that includes 40 days of racing, starting on Friday, June 15 and concluding on Tuesday, August 7. During the eight week meet, racing will be conducted on Fridays through Tuesdays, with a 5:00 p.m. weekday post time and a 1:00 p.m. post on the weekends. That schedule has been approved by the Virginia Racing Commission. More than 75% of the races will likely be run on Colonial’s 180-foot wide turf course.

Daily purses are expected to average a record high $22 5,000, with overnights increasing by about 12% over last summer’s purses. That increase resulted from the Virginia HBPA’s concern that the stakes to overnight purse ratio weighed too heavily in favor of stakes races. Colonial Downs accordingly agreed to reduce the Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. IIIT) from $1 million to $750,000 and take other steps that make more money available for overnight purses.

Colonial’s owner will nonetheless continue to offer a $5 million bonus from its own funds to the winner of the Grand Slam of Grass series for three year olds. The series starts with the Colonial Turf Cup (Gr. IIIT) on June 16, and continues with the $1 million Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) on July 21. The remaining two legs of the series are the Secretariat Stakes (Gr. IT) at Arlington Park in August and the John Deere Breeder’s Cup Turf (Gr. IT) at Monmouth Park in October.

Last summer, Showing Up, bred by Virginia HBPA Board member Nellie Cox and trained by Barclay Tagg, won the Colonial Turf Cup and the Secretariat. To help promote the series this year, Colonial has arranged for CBS network television coverage of the Virginia Derby.

The Virginia Derby will also be a feature of the National HBPA convention in Williamsburg, Virginia from July 19 through July 22. On Derby Day, buses will shuttle convention goers to the track, where a party tent will be set up on the grass apron along the grandstand side of the stretch.

As part of its stakes program, Colonial will also host the All Along (Gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares on June 16 and the Virginia Oaks for three-year-old fillies on July 21. Both races carry a purse of $200,000 and are nine furlongs on the turf. The Zeke Ferguson steeplechase returns with a $50,000 purse. In addition, there will be seven $60,000 stakes races for Virginia-breds, with an eighth race for juveniles a possibility, and six $60,000 open stakes races.

In negotiating its 2007 race days agreement with Colonial, the Virginia HBPA was motivated by a desire to maintain Virginia’s position in the competition for good horses. Over the past several years, we have been successful, as evidenced by Colonial’s average of nearly nine starters per race. Full fields like that generate increased wagering handle, which means more money for the horsemen’s purse account.

The Virginia Racing Commission retained a marketing firm to work with Colonial to promote Virginia racing and increase attendance at the annual eight week summer meet. That project also includes revving up the purse account’s main engine, year-round simulcasting.

Colonial now has in operation in central and southern Virginia five new off-track betting shops, in addition to its original four facilities, for year-round wagering on races outside the state. Together, their yearly operations account for about 90 percent of the funds available for purses. All nine are first class operations that rival most sports bars.

And, of course, horsemen coming to Colonial Downs this summer can be certain that the backstretch services and programs provided by the Virginia HBPA will be better than ever.

Virginia House Buries Instant Racing
2/25/2007 10:14:08 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/23/2007 9:38:43 AM Last Updated: 2/23/2007 9:38:43 AM

The Virginia House rejected a Senate substitute bill on Instant Racing (72-25) Feb. 22, leaving it to a conference committee to determine its future. It could be pulled off the shelf to plug a hole in a pending comprehensive transportation bill.

Should the conference committee pass the bill, it would require approval on the floors of both the House and Senate prior to the end of Virginia’s General Assembly session Feb. 24.

On Feb. 21, the Virginia Senate approved the substitute by a vote of 20-17, attaching it to House Bill 2626, which has support to allow temporary licensing of account wagering companies.

Many industry leaders in Virginia did not expect a favorable vote in the House, where Instant Racing legislation failed twice to get out of committee and was strongly opposed by Speaker Bill Howell.

The Instant Racing package was projected to generate $660 million in revenue, $333 million of which would be designated for transportation funding. The purse money would tabulate $26.4 million. Many legislators and Gov. Tim Kaine had doubts whether Instant Racing would generate that much revenue.

Instant Racing allows patrons to wager on historical horses races by using limited racing data to make their selections. Once the wager is made, the race’s location, participants, and conditions are made known. Under the legislation, Colonial Downs would be allowed to install and operate Instant Racing terminals at its nine off-track betting locations and live racetrack in Virginia.

Instant Racing Tabled in Virginia
2/19/2007 8:59:16 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/16/2007 11:13:44 AM Last Updated: 2/16/2007 11:13:44 AM

A bill that would allow Instant Racing as a means of funding for transportation and purses in Virginia is on the also-eligible's list hoping to make the field. Members of the Virginia House Committee on General Laws tabled the bill by voice vote Feb. 15. The bill could be brought back up in committee prior to Feb. 20. Virginia’s General Assembly session ends Feb 24.

The bill’s future may have less to do about thoughts about gambling than its impact on transportation funding. Two comprehensive transportation bills are in conference committee. The House rejected a Senate-approved bill because it increases taxes and the Senate rejected a House bill because it utilizes monies from the General Fund.

“I think there are a lot of discussions going on between members of the Assembly,” said Chris Bridge, a legislative consultant to Colonial Downs. “At this stage, it’s a legislative prerogative when it will be heard and what part it will play in transportation funding.”

Should Instant Racing generate $660 million in revenues as projected, $330 million would be designated for transportation funding with $26.4 million set aside for purses. Colonial Downs, the Maryland Jockey Club, the Virginia Tourism Corporation and hosting localities would have a share of the anticipated revenue.

The Senate passed its version of the bill sponsored by Republican Senator Thomas Norment 23-14 Feb. 6. A bill introduced in the House early in the session failed to move past the same impediment, being tabled in the same committee.

“This bill is much improved than what was heard in House Committee several weeks ago,” explained Bridge about the breakout revenues.

Instant Racing allows horseplayers to wager on historic horse races with limited information such as horse’s odds, and jockey and trainer win percentage. Once the wager is placed, the rest of the racing information is disclosed and viewers can watch either the entire race or the last few moments.

Weighed down with referenda requirements by localities and a cap on the number of OTBs allowed, Colonial Downs has been creative in recent initiatives on pari-mutuel racing. Last fall, Colonial partnered with Chevy’s Restaurant and Night Club in Chesapeake, Va., to offer “instant account wagering,” a process that allowed patrons to open accounts and print out programs. It postponed that pilot project after receiving some opposition from state officials.

“The policy decision on pari-mutuel was made in the late 1980s and slots are a non-starter in Virginia,” said Bridge. “It’s a strictly regulated process in Virginia and that’s how the General Assembly likes it."

Another Start for Instant Racing in Virginia's House
2/9/2007 12:01:02 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/8/2007 1:36:17 PM Last Updated: 2/8/2007 1:36:17 PM

After gaining approval 23-14 by the Virginia Senate, an Instant Racing bill returns to the Virginia House where a where a similar bill failed to get out of committee several weeks ago.

Earlier this month, a House version of the bill was tabled in the House’s Committee on General Laws. The committee could hear the Senate bill (SB 1410) on Feb. 15. Should it pass, it would be one of the first bills heard on the House Floor after President’s Day weekend. Virginia’s General Assembly session ends Feb. 24.

The popularity of the bill has fluctuated, as issues associated with a larger transportation legislative package developed. As part of the plan, $250 million usually targeted for education, emergency services and social services, would be more available for transportation.

“It started out as the same time as the transportation bill. Interest has grown in it as an alternative source of funding,” says Chris Bridge, a legislative consultant to Colonial Downs.

Proponents of the Instant Racing bill say it would generate funds for much needed transportation without raising taxes. Opponents believe it sets a precedent to expand gaming when budget issues arise.

“We are working to contact and discuss the bill with members of the House General Laws Committee,” said Bridge. “We’re approaching it in the same way we did that first time around, which was to inform legislators that is it consistent with the existing public policy established for pari-mutuel and transportation funding. It is a more attractive proposal now with the increased funding for the horsemen, the localities, Virginia tourism and transportation.”

According to Bridge, the 5%-10% takeout on Instant Racing would be less than live pari-mutuel racing. After takeout, the Senate approved version of the bill provides 50.5% of the proceeds to be distributed to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, 1.5% to the locality where the racetrack or OTB is located, .5% to Virginia Tourism Corporation, 4% to the Virginia horsemen and 43.5% to the licensee of the racetrack, Colonial Downs.

According to a study prepared for Colonial Downs by The Innovation Group, approximately $660 million would be generated. Handicapping the impact, $333 million would be raised for transportation, $9.9 million for hosting localities, $3.3 million for the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and $26.4 million in purses. The horseman’s share of 4% has varied from 3% to 6% in different versions of the bill. Colonial Downs is projected to generate $287 million in gross revenue as licensee.

After expenses such as royalties, marketing, and labor, Colonial would expect a $17.5 million return on their investment under those projections according to Bridge. The Maryland Jockey Club would receive a portion of Colonial’s revenue as part of the purchase agreement Colonial made with MJC of its management contract in 2005.

Governor Tim Kaine has questioned the revenue projections of Instant Racing.

“I think the estimates are…who knows? I’ve talked to my budget folks and they just say they really have no way of knowing,” Kaine said in an Associated Press report.

Virginia Senate Committee Passes Instant Racing Bill
2/7/2007 8:46:09 AM  -  The Associated Press 

Date Posted: 2/1/2007 7:58:31 AM Last Updated: 2/1/2007 7:58:31 AM

A day after the Virginia House killed similar legislation, a proposal to raise money for transportation by allowing gamblers to bet on prerecorded horse races via Instant Racing machines passed out of a Senate committee Jan. 31.

Sen. Thomas Norment’s bill differs from the one rejected in the House in that it would dedicate 50% of the proceeds to transportation, 1% to the localities where off-track betting parlors are located, one-half percent to tourism, and 44% to Colonial Downs, which operates the state’s only pari-mutuel racetrack and OTB facilities. The remaining 3% would go to horsemen for purses.

A study commissioned by Colonial Downs estimated the measure would raise about $660 million a year by allowing gamblers to wager on prerecorded races shown on terminals. Of that, about $300 million would go to transportation and $1 million each to the localities where OTB parlors are located.

Norment said he acknowledges it will be difficult to round up the necessary 21 votes to get the proposal out of the Senate and almost impossible to persuade the conservative House, but he thinks the 52% share the state would receive for transportation, tourism, and local governments will help. The House plan directed only 49% of proceeds to transportation.

“When you’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars, 3 (percentage) points is a lot of money,” Norment said.

Norment is one of the architects of a compromise transportation plan that is working its way through the Senate. A rival plan is expected to be introduced soon. Legislators spent nine months last year trying to come up with a plan to rescue the state’s roads and rails from disrepair to no avail, but believe the pressure to get something done this year because all 140 delegates and senators are up for election.

Norment said the revenue from Instant Racing would provide a much-needed boost to any transportation plan. The machines contain a library of about 10,000 prerecorded races, and once a gambler inserts money, he or she has access to the same type of data on the horse, trainer, and jockey for each race that would be available for live races except that the machine does not reveal the horses’ names or where the race was run. The person can choose to watch the entire race or just the last few seconds.

Instant Racing is currently in place at racetracks in Arkansas and Oregon. The machines resemble video lottery terminals but are considered pari-mutuel because they are based on recycled races.

Norment said he had the Senate Finance Committee staff look at the Colonial Downs study, and by “conservative estimates” the state would take in between $50 million and $60 million the first year, and at least $150 million after the third year.

Ninety-five percent of all money taken in at the New Kent County racetrack and the OTB parlors would be paid out in winnings. Of the portion Colonial Downs would receive from the new machines, 8% must be spent on marketing the new machines, and the track also must team up with a gambling addiction group for education purposes, much like the state required when it created the state lottery.

Virginia Wagering Handle Approaches $200 Million in 2006
1/26/2007 10:11:12 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 1/23/2007 1:13:51 PM Last Updated: 1/24/2007 7:59:07 PM

All-sources handle for 2006 Virginia horse racing hit a record high of $192,509,054, according to figures released Jan. 22 by the Virginia Racing Commission.

Fueling the surge was a 9.8% increase to $156,534,996 at nine satellite wagering facilities located in the Commonwealth. On-track handle dropped about 16% to $7,673,081. Account wagering contributed $28,300,971 in its first full year of operation with four licensees in Virginia.

“Account wagering is one of the fastest growing segments of the equine industry in Virginia,“ said Peter Burnett, the newly elected chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission. “Generations of racing enthusiasts have fought long and hard, and at great expense and personal sacrifice, to have pari-mutuel wagering in the Commonwealth.

“The growth of satellite wagering has made a significant impact in the increase in handle, which is encouraging for the future growth of the racing industry,” said Burnett.

In addition to serving as the new chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission, Burnett is chairman-elect of the Association of Racing Commissioners International and will take office in April. Mark Brown also was recently elected as vice-chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission.

The 2007 Thoroughbred racing season in Virginia will include 40 race days, which will begin June 15 and continue through Aug. 7. This year’s live racing will feature the $750,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. II) on June 16, and the $1 million Virginia Derby (gr. II) on July 21. The harness racing season runs from Sept. 15 through Nov. 6 at Colonial Downs.

Virginia subcommittee to consider Instant Racing
1/21/2007 8:39:53 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: January 18, 2007

A Virginia subcommittee will consider a bill that would allow Instant Racing machines to be added at Colonial Downs and its off-track outlets, a move that could generate up to $457-million a year for the state, track, and horsemen.

According to estimates by Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart, who cited an independent analysis, adding machines at Colonial and its off-track locations could generate $300-million a year for the state’s transportation needs, $42.3-million for Colonial Downs, and $18.7-million for horsemen’s purse accounts and the state’s breeders fund.

Virginia Thoroughbred Association Executive Director Glenn Petty said he does not know how many machines would be added at these locations but any additional revenue would help. Petty is encouraging VTA members to support the bill by contacting members of the House General Laws Subcommittee on ABC-Gaming, which will consider the bill on January 25.

“Whether there are 100 machines or 10,000 machines, they will generate purse and breeders’ fund money that the industry otherwise would not have access to,” Petty said. “That is positive for all the industry stakeholders.”

The bill would change Virginia law to allow wagering on pre-recorded horse races and would require 49% of proceeds from such gambling to be distributed to Virginia’s Transportation Trust Fund.

Launched in 1999 at Oaklawn Park, Instant Racing machines give players a similar feel to slot machines as players wager on previously run races with limited handicapping information. Players can quickly move from race to race in their wagers.

Virginia HBPA Election Results
1/9/2007 4:55:10 PM  -  Virginia HBPA 

Posted: 1/9/2007

President: Robin Richards

Vice-President: Jill Gordon-Moore
Treasurer: John Hanna
Secretary: Diana L. McClure

Jim Carter
Susie Chatfield-Taylor
Nellie Cox
John Hanna
Susan Hart
Robin Richards
David Ross

Susan Cooney
Donna Dennehy
Jill Gordon-Moore
Diana McClure
Stephanie Nixon
Donna Rogers
Randy Rouse

Colonial Turf Cup purse reduced by $250,000
12/28/2006 7:16:40 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 12/27/2006 12:48:18 PM

In a compromise with Virginia horsemen, Colonial Downs will reduce the purse of the Colonial Turf Cup (G3) by 25% from $1-million to $750,000 in 2007.

The turf race for three-year-olds, which has received Grade 3 status for 2007, was one of two $1-million turf races for three-year-olds offered by the New Kent, Virginia, track in 2006. While the Virginia Derby (G2) will remain at $1-million in '07, the $250,000 slashed from the Colonial Turf Cup will be used to increase overnight purses in '07.

"Not everybody got everything they wanted," said Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart. "We would have preferred the [Turf Cup] purse stay at $1-million, but in the spirit of making everything work, it seemed like the best answer. That's what happens in a compromise."

The Virginia Racing Commission also approved by a 3-to-2 margin a reduction in '07 racing dates from 42 to 40 with racing starting on June 15 and running through August 7. Commissioners Mark Brown and Peter Burnett voted against the proposal because they wanted the number of racing dates to remain at 42 and overnight purses to be significantly increased.

"We're quite happy with the compromise we've reached with Colonial," said Frank Petramalo Jr., executive director of the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "This will give us at least a 10%, and more likely a 12% increase, in the overnight races, which are the bread and butter races for the horsemen."

Virginia HBPA to Host National HBPA 2007 Summer Convention
11/29/2006 7:11:43 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2006 

The Virginia HBPA will host the 2007 summer’s National HBPA convention in Williamsburg, Virginia, most likely the third or fourth week in July of 2007. Preliminary plans for the event are now underway. The Virginia HBPA hopes to have the national meeting around the running of the Virginia Derby, which is tentatively set for July 21st at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia.

Williamsburg is about 20 miles from Colonial Downs and is a major tourist destination. Early in the 20th century, the historic district of the city was restored to look and function the way it did in Colonial days around the time of the American Revolution. Many buildings have been restored and others reconstructed on their original sites, including government meeting places and dozens of homes, all of which are open to the public. Tour guides and related personnel work, dress, and talk as people did in the 18th century, making Colonial Williamsburg a living museum.

Close by Williamsburg is Jamestown, founded by the Virginia Company of London in 1607. It became the first permanent English colony in what later became the United States and, of course, provides us with the story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith.

The site is administered by the National Park Service and the state of Virginia. Visitors can tour the original fort and the archeological museum. Because 2007 marks the 400th anniversary of the settlement, a variety of national and international festivities are planned for this summer.

Movie buffs might want to see beforehand “The New World,” a feature film released earlier this year starring Colin Ferrell. It is the story of Jamestown’s founding and centers on the relationship of Pocahontas and John Smith. Many scenes were filmed on location in the Jamestown area.

Getting back to horses, the Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT) has become one of the premier grass races for three year olds competing at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles. This past summer’s $1 million Derby was won by trainer Bill Mott’s Go Between, with Garrett Gomez in the saddle. Last year’s winner, English Channel, finished third in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (Gr. IT) at Churchill Downs and has career earnings of nearly $3 million. We hope all attendees at the national convention will be able to join us at the Virginia Derby.

Getting to Williamsburg should not be a problem. The closest local airport is in Newport News. Williamsburg is also about midway between two larger commercial airports in Richmond and Norfolk. Each is less than an hour away.

Instant Racing Bill Introduced in Virginia
9/22/2006 2:13:20 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/21/2006 2:27:57 PM Last Updated: 9/21/2006 2:27:57 PM

A proposed bill on "Instant Racing" could make an instant impact on purse account and potholes in Virginia. Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News) and State Senator Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City) have introduced bills for consideration during a special transportation session of the General Assembly that convenes in Richmond on Sept. 27.

Under the proposal, Colonial Downs would be allowed to accept wagers at its New Kent County racetrack and nine OTBs on "historical horse races"- races that have been previously held at various licensed horse tracks. Participants would be able to access certain handicapping data such as a jockey's winning percentages prior to placing a wager. After placing a wager, identifiable data such as the horse's name, jockey names would be released with patrons being able to watch the historical race on a monitor.

Instant Racing first originated at Arkansas' Oaklawn Park. Under the Virginia proposal, 49% of the takeout would be dedicated to the Commonwealth Transportation Trust Fund which is used primarily for road maintenance, 49% assigned to Colonial Downs and 2% designated to purse accounts. Subject to the number of machines allowed, it has been estimated that the game could generate revenue that would exceed $660 million annually once fully implemented.

"The horsemen would substantially benefit. It would triple the amount of the purse account," says Ian Stewart, President of Colonial Downs.

"I'm glad that people are starting to talk about it," said Glenn Petty, executive director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association. "It would be good for horse racing and it would be good for the state. The fact that a bill has been submitted at all is progress."

Virginia legislators have wrestled with funding transportation programs without raising fees or taxes.

"It would be tough to get it done in a four-day special session," added Petty. "I'm more hopeful to hear the conversation in the 2007 session.

"The state is looking for funding for transportation," added Stewart. ""I can't really handicap it politically. Potentially, it's a very good solution."

Concurrently but not simultaneously, Colonial Downs has "mothballed" its marketing initiative with Chevy's Restaurant and Night Club in Chesapeake, Virginia. The program allowed visitors to open a TVG advance deposit wagering account through a red phone hotline, print programs at a kiosk, wager through remote control and watch racing on large flat screen televisions.

"It was totally our decision. It was always a pilot program. People were enthusiastic about it," explained Stewart about the response. "Operating the equipment in a bar environment was cumbersome so we pulled it back. We may find that it may have actually increased handle in the (two Chesapeake) parlors. We'll keep thinking about it."

Turf Racing is Alive and Well at Virginia's Colonial Downs
9/19/2006 8:01:44 PM  -  The Horsmen''s Journal - Fall 2006 

On August 12, Colonial Downs, Virginia’s only racetrack, concluded its tenth and most successful season of racing. The scheduled 42-day Thoroughbred meet, which started on June 16, saw overall handle jump 15%, with a total of nearly $51.6 million wagered compared to last year’s $44.7 million. Average daily handle was $1.26 million, compared with last year’s $1.12 million. However, daily track attendance was down slightly from last year.

Notable racing highlights included a pair of million dollar turf races for three year olds, the Colonial Turf Cup on June 24 and the July 15 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT).

Virginia HBPA Board member Nellie Cox bred Showing Up, the winner of the Turf Cup. The three-year-old colt is owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who also own Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. Showing Up’s trainer, Barclay Tagg, passed on the Virginia Derby, the second leg of Colonial’s $5 million Grand Slam of Grass, but went on to win the August 12 Secretariat (Gr. IT) at Arlington Park, the third leg of the Grand Slam. The fourth leg is the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (Gr. IT) in November at Churchill Downs.

Bill Mott’s Go Between, defeated by Showing Up in the Turf Cup, won the Virginia Derby. Go Between finished sixth in the Secretariat.

Virginia HBPA Board member David Ross once again was the leading owner, with 23 victories and winnings of nearly $400,000. Ross’ runners included Native Ruler, a promising colt that won the Chenery Stakes for two year olds. Hamilton Smith won the trainer’s title with 20 wins, one more than Virginia native Ferris Allen. Luis Garcia was leading jockey with 42 wins and earnings of over $640,000.

Racetrack conditions during the meet exceeded horsemen’s preseason expectations. The 180 foot wide turf course, with a rail that can be set in nine different locations, was in superb shape from start to finish, even though more than three-fourths of all races were run on the grass. Likewise, the dirt course, which last year was subpar, performed without fault. Track management throughout the meet was responsive to the concerns of horsemen and earned plaudits by giving timely notice before its August 1 race card cancellation due to oppressive heat. As a result, owners and trainers avoided futile pre-race preparation and shipping of horses that day.

Backstretch activities during the summer were also notable. The Virginia HBPA inaugurated its new 2,200 square foot building with an Owners’ Day reception. On June 24, 150 owners and friends attended a champagne brunch coordinated by Board member Donna Dennehy. Attendees received a tote bag of gifts in appreciation for their contributions to Virginia racing. Winning owners were honored during the card with special curved glass trophies and a DVD of all races that day.

The Virginia HBPA building also served as a classroom for educational programs. At the start of the meet, the Virginia HBPA sponsored a two-day program geared to teaching local high school students and other youngsters the basics of grooming a horse. It was taught by Dr. Reid McLellan, executive director of the Groom Elite training program. A number of the teenagers were then licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission and went to work on the backside as hot walkers.

In addition, on dark days (Wednesdays and Thursdays) from noon to four, Nell Pittman, a teacher in the county school system, gave classes in English to Spanish speaking backside workers. She also taught elementary Spanish to those wanting to learn another language.

In the evening, the classroom became the locale for worship services conducted by Chaplain Marjorie Bevans, a former Virginia jockey. The Reverend Bevans also held weekly bible study sessions for backstretch workers that were followed by Virginia HBPA-sponsored dinners at the local Mexican restaurant.

When not used as a classroom, the building was a popular spot for all horsemen because it has both WiFi and hard wire connection to the Internet. Either by laptop or desktop, horsemen had free access to cyberspace courtesy of the Virginia HBPA. The building also offers televised simulcasting of races from around the country and satellite TV.

The Virginia HBPA ended the meet by sponsoring a benefit golf tournament for Shannon Campbell and the national Disabled Jockeys’ Benefit Fund. Shannon was paralyzed from the waist down in a riding accident last year at Charles Town in West Virginia. She was a frequent rider at Colonial Downs.

The tournament, held on August 4 at the Brickshire Golf Club next to the racetrack, attracted 37 players and raised $10,000.

Colonial Teams with Restaurant to Expand ADW
9/5/2006 10:43:35 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/2/2006 1:10:54 PM Last Updated: 9/2/2006 7:19:01 PM

In a collaborative initiative to expand advance deposit account wagering, Colonial Downs has teamed up with Chevy's Restaurant and Night Club in Chesapeake, Va., to promote new wagering technology that could be the horse racing's equivalent to video poker and bar trivia.

With the installation of several new flat screen televisions supported by Dish Network and a self-serve kiosk that prints programs, patrons of Chevy's can readily open accounts by accessing the "red phone"--a hot line that connects interested potential participants to TVG without dialing. The legal means of wagering hasn't changed, but the access to the general public is more convenient.

"This is just an educational process," explains Jeanna Bouzek, vice president of OTB operation at Colonial Downs. "Many people who have come in have heard about illegal Internet betting offshore on sports and poker, and they don't realize horse racing doesn't fall in that category. It's account wagering. We aren't doing anything here that you can't do at your home or office."

The new initiative launched Aug. 28 has already seen results and high interest. TVG - along with XpressBet, Colonial Downs PhoneBet, and Ameritab - have been licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission to accept wagers on advance accounts.

"I've had a lot of interviews this week. People are interested," commented Jerry Edwards, who owns Chevy's. "We're up 20% on Mondays already with a very quiet opening. Three weeks ago, we weren't even opened in the daytime. It's coming around. It will be a slow but sure draw for us. It's a nice little hook besides offering food and beverages. It's entertainment."

The pre-packaged pilot program is new turf for both Colonial Downs and Chevy's.

"They have been great," Bouzek said of the new wagering partner. "They opened up the room where we put it in. They changed their menu and redesigned their tables to accommodate us. They now call the account wagering section of their restaurant 'The Jockey Club at Chevy's'."

According to Bouzek, Colonial approached Chevy's as a test location after the Virginia Racing Commission and Virginia Attorney General's office reviewed the concept. Chevy's was selected because it can be easily serviced along with its Chesapeake OTBs.

Colonial operates nine off-track betting establishments in Virginia, including two in Chesapeake. Current Virginia state law allows ten OTB's. If successful, other partnerships may be sought in the Northern Virginia and Virginia Piedmont, where off-track referenda have not been passed.

Considering initial positive response premature, Colonial wants more time to evaluate the long-term response and to fine-tune any future installations.

"Technology has gone out another step," said Bouzek. "Since we've started this, we've had many other sports bars and fraternal clubs contact us about opening an establishment like this for them. We are developing a strategic plan and trying to figure out how to exactly what model we should follow."

Colonial Downs: On-Track Down, Off-Track Up
8/17/2006 4:39:52 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/14/2006 3:46:20 PM Last Updated: 8/14/2006 3:46:20 PM

Though on-track numbers were down at Colonial Downs, the Virginia racetrack reported gains in off-track business for its 41-day meet that ended Aug. 12.

Extreme heat forced the cancellation of racing Aug. 1, which shortened the originally scheduled 42-day meet by one day.

On-track attendance, which had been drifting downward, fell 11.1%, the largest drop since 2001. Colonial Downs averaged 1,804 patrons a day, down from 2,028 in 2005.

If not for a popular 10-cent day commemorating Colonial's 10th anniversary, on-track attendance would have been lower. It was the second most popular day of the meet behind the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) program.

On-track handle fell 8.4% to an average of $113,438. However, total wagering on live racing was $50,065,568, an average of $1,221,111, up 14.2% from 1,069,131.

Field size averaged more than 8.4 starters per race.

The meet featured the debut of Colonial's twin $1-million 3-year old turf races--the Colonial Turf Cup, won by Showing Up, and the Virginia Derby, won by Go Between. The two winners met in Arlington Park's $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) Aug. 12; Showing Up won the race.

Virginia horse owners approve feed assessment
8/9/2006 9:40:14 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 8/7/06

Virginia horse owners passed a referendum establishing an equine feed assessment that the state's horse industry board will use for market development, education, publicity, research, and promotion.

The assessment of $3 per ton or $0.075 per 50-pound bag will generate an estimated $200,000 per fiscal year.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services conducted the referendum, which was limited to verified horse owners in the state.

Handle Up, Attendance Down So Far at Colonial
7/30/2006 2:52:22 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 7/27/2006 7:59:34 PM Last Updated: 7/27/2006 7:59:34 PM

After 30 days of live racing, handle and attendance for Colonial Downs' Thoroughbred meet is mixed. Average daily handle on live racing at Colonial Downs is $1,224,667, up 16% over the same period last year.

Colonial is accepting $155,536 more in wagers each day than it did in 2005.

"We're very pleased with that aspect. It shows that product is strong. It's very popular out-of-state," said Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart.

The average daily on-track attendance is 1,757, down 13.4% or by 271 patrons per day over that same period. Unless the figure sharply increases, on-track attendance at Colonial Downs would be it's lowest since 2000.

"In regard to attendance, it's been tough with the price of gas," observed Stewart. "We are more of a destination place being located 30 miles from Richmond and farther than that from Tidewater."

This summer's meet is the first operated by Colonial Downs independent of the Maryland Jockey Club. With last year's purchase of the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit by Colonial's owner, Jeffrey Jacobs, for $10 million, the management agreement with the Magna Entertainment was terminated.

With 42 days of live racing this year, Colonial's 2006 meet is 40% longer than it was in 2003 when Colonial's meet consisted of 30 days of live racing. Comparing this summer's figures with 2003, handle would be up 6.1% with attendance down 19.9%.

Wagering on live racing at Colonial may set a new cumulative record, on target to exceed $50 million. It appears that attendance won't reach the cumulative total of 81,126 obtained last year's shorter 40-day meet.

With the closing day Aug. 12, Colonial offers live racing Friday through Tuesday with a 1 p.m. first race post time on weekends and a 5 p.m. first race post time on weekdays.

Showing Up Does Not, But Virginia Derby Draws 12
7/11/2006 4:47:20 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 7/11/2006 8:00:37 AM Last Updated: 7/11/2006 8:00:37 AM

Although the winner of the $1 million Colonial Turf Cup isn't "showing up" for Saturday's $1 million Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) at Colonial Downs, the field includes plenty in its 12-horse field including two Triple Crown starters -- Steppenwolfer and Seaside Retreat -- and four Turf Cup returnees; Kip Deville (2nd), Go Between (3rd), Roman Dynasty (4th) and Yate's Black Cat (8th).

Trainer Barclay Tagg has passed on bringing the Turf Cup winner considering the three-week period between the twin turf tests too close for Showing Up.

Kip Deville almost stole the show in the Turf Cup when jockey Quincy Hamilton darted him out to a double-digit backstretch lead. Showing Up was the only colt in the 14-horse field able to catch the tiring frontrunner. Trainer Richard Dutrow decided to keep the Oklahoma-bred son of Kipling on the grounds at Colonial for the three weeks between the two races.

Owner Peter Vegso and trainer Bill Mott have teamed up to win the Virginia Derby twice, but this time they won't have jockey Edgar Prado to deliver a winner. Garrett Gomez, who rushed Go Between up to third in the Turf Cup, may benefit the second time around with an extra sixteenth with the son of Point Given.

The two Triple Crown participants are Steppenwolfer and Seaside Retreat.

Steppenwolfer finished third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and fourth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Seaside Retreat finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby and won the $100,000 Charley Barley Stakes at Woodbine on the turf.

Roman Dynasty and Manchu Prince are two colts trained by Todd Pletcher that are entered. In making his first appearance on the turf, Roman Dynasty ran fourth in the Turf Cup. Manchu Prince, who has already won an optional claiming race at Colonial, has won three of his four starts. His only loss was a ninth place finish in the Tropical Park Derby that was won by Barbaro at Calder Race Course on New Year's Day. Yate's Black Cat, who had a troubled trip in the Turf Cup, also returns for the Virginia Derby.

Spider Power is a late nomination trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. The Irish-bred colt raced primarily in England before coming to America in January. Jose Santos, who was aboard for his second place finish in the $100,000 Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) at Belmont gets the mount.

Proudisky made his first start in the United States July 1, just missing in the $150,000 Arlington Classic (gr. IIIT). The Germa- bred, who broke his maiden by 15 lengths in the first attempt in Dusseldorf is sired by $1 million Arlington Million (IT) winner Silvano.

Genre duplicated many of his successful English turf outings of last autumn in California this past spring, including winning his last start in the $150,000 Cinema Breeder's Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park. Also entered are Sir Classic Chris and Readily.

Showing Up secures Colonial Turf Cup with explosive burst
6/25/2006 2:06:29 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 6/24/06

Showing Up inhaled valiant pacesetter Kip Deville in the final furlong, and kicked clear to a resounding 3 1/4-length score in his turf debut in the $1-million Colonial Turf Cup Stakes Saturday at Colonial Downs.

The victory gave jockey Cornelio Velasquez his 2,000th career victory and made Lael Stables's Showing Up a stakes winner on both turf and dirt.

The Strategic Mission colt won the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (G2) on April 22 at Keeneland Race Course to stamp his ticket to the Kentucky Derby (G1) and give owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson a pair of undefeated Derby contenders, along with Florida Derby (G1) winner Barbaro.

Showing Up finished sixth in the Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs behind runaway winner and Lael homebred Barbaro, who broke down tragically in the Preakness Stakes (G1) two weeks later.

Encouraged by the way Showing Up worked on grass following the Derby, trainer Barclay Tagg opted to point his charge toward the Colonial Turf Cup and Showing Up confirmed Tagg's confidence in his versatility with an explosive stretch burst.

"I just never thought he looked real comfortable on the dirt even though he was very impressive on it several of his races," Tagg said. "One day we jogged him off on the turf and he just looked like he was reborn."

Velasquez saved ground along the rail aboard Showing Up as Kip Deville streaked to a commanding lead, opening up by 15 lengths on the backstretch and maintaining that advantage into the final turn. Velasquez called upon his mount to pick up the pace entering the turn, and Showing Up responded by steadily tracking down the leader, and sweeping past that rival with a rush in the final 100 yards.

Showing Up completed the 1 3/16-mile turf race in 1:52.98 on firm turf. Kip Deville dug in to hold off third-place finisher Go Between by a half-length.

Tagg purchased Showing Up for the Jacksons for $60,000 at the 2005 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic two-year-olds in training sale. He is out of the winning T. V. Commercial mare Miss Alethia.

The Colonial Turf Cup is the first leg of the Grand Slam of Grass, a series for three-year-olds that includes the $1-million Virginia Derby (G2) on July 15 at Colonial and the Secretariat Stakes (G1) on August 12 at Arlington Park, and concludes with a test against older horses in the $3-million Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) on November 4 at Churchill Downs.

Barbaro, also a graded stakes winner on both turf and dirt, is recovering from a five-hour surgery to repair multiple fractures and a dislocated fetlock to his right hind leg at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Dean Richardson, D.V.M., chief surgeon at Penn's veterinary school, needed 27 screws and a locking compression plate to fuse the joint.

"He's a lively, bright, happy horse," Richardson said this week. "I'm very pleased with the progress he's made in the last month."—M.C.

Film Maker Rolls Past Rivals in All Along BC
6/25/2006 2:04:59 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/24/2006 7:09:50 PM Last Updated: 6/24/2006 8:59:13 PM

The millionaire Film Maker, making her 6-year-old debut, overtook her five rivals near the sixteenth pole and went on to a 3 1/4-length romp in the $190,000 All Along Breeders' Cup (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares Saturday at Colonial Downs.

Under Ramon Dominguez, the dark bay daughter of Dynaformer saved ground to the quarter pole where she was angled out slightly and responded to urging to challenge pacesetter Art Fan in mid-stretch. It didn't taker her long to take command as she scooted under the wire in 1:46 2/5 in the 1 1/8-mile turf test over firm going.

Latice, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, rallied for second, two lengths in front of Art Fan and Ryan Fogelsonger.

Film Maker won her last start, the La Prevoyante (gr. IIT) at Calder Race Course in December, and has run well after layoffs in the past for trainer Graham Motion. She went off as the 17-10 second choice.

Wend, the slight 8-5 favorite saddled by Bill Mott and ridden by Garrett Gomez, stalked the leaders in third while on the outside but failed to respond to urging coming off the far turn and finished fifth.

Art Fan set fractions of :24, :48 1/5 and 1:11 1/5 while widening her lead to three lengths coming off the far turn, but she was unable to match Film Maker, who registered her eighth win in 24 starts for owner Courtlandt Farms. She earned $120,000 Saturday to push her career bankroll to $1,493,730.

TAC Holdings bred Film Maker in Kentucky. She is out of Miss Du Bois, by Mr. Prospector.

The winner paid $5.40, $3.40, and $2.60. The Irish-bred Latice returned $6.60 and $4.20. Art Fan was $3.80 to show. Humoristic, Wend, and Joint Aspiration trailed.

Colonial Wins Help Fogelsonger Get to 1,000
6/19/2006 12:36:06 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/18/2006 10:19:53 PM Last Updated: 6/19/2006 8:40:12 AM

Jockey Ryan Fogelsonger collected his 1,000th career win Sunday at Colonial Downs when he guided the maiden Glenwood Ace to victory.

The 25-year-old Fogelsonger, a former Eclipse Award winner as top apprentice jockey, took Glenwood Ace to the lead in the $24,000 maiden special weight turf sprint for 2-year-olds and won driving by a 1 1/2 lengths. It was Fogelsonger's second win on the card and his sixth of the meet, which opened June 16.

Reaching the milestone at Colonial Downs had added meaning for Fogelsonger, who won the Colonial's jockey title in 2003 and 2004. Although his first career win was aboard Sentimental Way at Pimlico in May of 2002, Fogelsonger considers Colonial 2002 as his breakout meet, finishing third in the jockey standings that summer. Of Fogelsonger's wins, 148 have happened at Colonial Downs.

"This place really got me started," said Fogelsonger after racing on Sunday. "The fans are really good here. Other places you go they may hate you no matter what you do. That's not the case here. They are real supportive and come out to greet you every day. I took to this course really well, and I get good business here. I try to be as versatile as I can, but I like riding on the turf. The turns are a little tighter, and you have to be more patient."

Laffit Pincay, Jr. holds the all-time North American record with 9,531 wins in 37 years of racing. Fogelsonger has been riding for slightly over four years.

"I see myself doing this until my body can't take it anymore. Hopefully, that's a long way from now," said Fogelsonger.

So far, Fogelsonger is the leading rider of Colonial's new meet, including a win aboard Union Avenue in the $60,000 John D. Marsh Stakes on June 17.

Opening night at Colonial Downs was fortuitous for owner David Ross who went to the winner's circle three times to have his picture taken. The Northern Virginia real estate businessman was Colonial's leading owner last summer with 15 wins but never expected a hat trick on opening night.

"It's the first time ever for me. It's exciting. I have no words for it," said Ross after Private Scandal won the Old Nelson, an overnight stakes. "Last year I won two in a day, and I was ecstatic."

Colonial Downs Builds on Past, Looks to Future
6/18/2006 6:25:46 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/15/2006 1:55:17 PM Last Updated: 6/15/2006 1:55:17 PM

While preparations are being made for the 2007 celebration commemorating the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Colonial Downs officials are looking forward to experiencing their own "new world" this summer when the Virginia racetrack opens for live racing June 16.

Instead of taking to arms, Colonial purchased its right to self-management last fall when it acquired the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit for $10 million and then extinguished it. Under the previous management agreement, Colonial was managed by the Maryland Jockey Club.

Members of Colonial's new management team include Iain Woolnough as general manager and Randy Wehrman as racing secretary. They said they appreciate the role the MJC has played in Colonial's formative years but are eager to be on their own.

"The Maryland Jockey Club put a great foundation in this place, and now it's up to us to build on it," Woolnough said. "Colonial Downs may be on its own, but I'm not. We've got a great team of people here that have been here a number of years. I've been in most areas of racing on the front side and backside. At a lot of racetracks, there is a division between those two. I don't have that or want that. It's one unit.

"We've put on a fine venue for the horseman and the people. They are the ones that support us. That's what makes it work. We want to make sure every horseman that comes here has the opportunity to run."

Wehrman's job is to assure that those horsemen have room to run in full fields, and sees Colonial's durable, big turf course as his primary tool. Wehrman most recently served as stakes coordinator at Turfway Park in Kentucky and River Downs in Ohio.

"I can write lower, mid-level, and upper-end races because you can race so much over it," Wehrman said. "You can offer various categories of races--mid-level or even lower claiming races and allowance races where people can be competitive where they don't have as many options anywhere else."

Wehrman has set an ambitious goal of improving on Colonial's 9.6 average field size on the Secretariat Turf Course. An average of 6.8 horses raced on Colonial's dirt track (32% of total races) last summer despite the problems that developed with the surface. Prior to last summer's meet, the dirt track had been prepared with too much red clay, and after a torrential rainstorm was closed for several live racing days. The comedic prophecy of pulling races off the dirt to the turf at Colonial had come true.

"I know that they are depending on me a lot because of my networking with horsemen in Kentucky, the Midwest, and Florida, but the Maryland people are still key to this," Wehrman said. "The barns have never been completely full before, but they will be full this year for a varied group of horsemen, not just Maryland horsemen."

Woolnough, a former jockey who has ridden horses worldwide for owners such as Queen Elizabeth II and the Aga Khan, has been with Colonial since it grand opening in September 1997.

"Virginia has always been horse country, but not necessarily racehorse country," Woolnough said. "There has been a learning curve for everyone who was here (since Colonial opened). There were problems early on but that is now water under the bridge. Colonial has been on a steady course to improve every year. If you look around the facility, you'll see changes and improvements that will continue every year. It's important to (Colonial owner Jeff Jacobs) to have that done."

Jacobs has credited Woolnough for the idea that has established twin million-dollar 3-year old turf races--the Colonial Turf Cup and the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT). The two Colonial races make up the first two "bases" of the Jacobs Investments $5-million Grand Slam of Grass. The $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) for 3-year olds on the turf at Arlington Park, and the $3-million John Deere Breeder's Cup Turf (gr. IT) make up the last two parts of the bonus series.

Wehrman would like to offer previous Virginia Derby runners a chance to return to Colonial to race. "I foresee in the near future we will have an older turf race of that caliber to get those horses back on the grass, and maybe some other niche races to raise the appreciation of turf horses in North America," he said. "We have the facility to do it here"

Woolnough, in the long term would like to take it a step farther.

"In regard to the racing surfaces, you could run the Breeders' Cup (World Championships) here," he said. "But the Breeders' Cup has standards has far as seating and stuff like that. We have the land but everything takes time and money. Compared to other racetracks, we are still an infant. We've come a long way in 10 years. A lot of racetracks don't get this far in 50 years. We just want to make sure we don't run too fast."

For this summer, Wehrman is aware of the competition to attract horses, especially with the number of summer racing venues in the Mid-Atlantic region. Among the area Thoroughbred tracks racing live during the Colonial meet are Delaware Park, Philadelphia Park and Penn National Race Course in Pennsylvania, Monmouth Park in New Jersey, and Charles Town Races & Slots in West Virginia.

"At any given time, the average horseman has five or six condition books in his pocket that he is looking at," Wehrman said. "So the challenges will be to fill races, especially the dirt races. We don't have the purses that West Virginia and Delaware have with the slots, but in those places, racing isn't necessarily in the forefront.

"In Virginia, racing will be in the forefront, and I'm really pleased about that. There is nowhere else that I would want to be right now."

Barns Full for Colonial Downs’ 2006 Meet
6/7/2006 5:06:31 PM  -  Colonial Downs release 

Posted: 5/25/06

The Colonial Downs barn area will be full yet again for the 2006 meet that begins Friday June 16.

All time leading trainer A. Ferris Allen, III should be well stocked for a run at his seventh title with 50 stalls. Allen was last year’s leading trainer with 24 wins, just one shy of his own single-season record of 25 set in 1997.

Three-time leading trainer Hamilton A. Smith will be back in force with 45 stalls. Smith tops the all-time earnings list with $1,784,413 in purses at Colonial.

Phil Schoenthal, the leading trainer here in 2004, is back with 40 stalls.

Patrick Biancone will have a string at Colonial for the first time in 2006. His 20 stalls seem appropriately located in the stakes barn. Biancone has strong shots at all four of Colonial’s major stakes with eight nominees to the $200,000 All Along Breeders’ Cup (Gr. III), five nominees to the $200,000 Virginia Oaks and two, including leading contender Stream Cat, for the $1,000,000 Colonial Turf Cup and $1,000,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. II).

Robbie Bailes will have one of the largest contingents with 30 stalls. He is expected to bring 2005 Preakness runnerup Scrappy T, who has been working steadily at Bowie for his 2006 debut.

Other notables include Jonathan Sheppard (15 stalls), David Donk (8), and Graham Motion (7).

Colonial’s 2006 meet is the longest in track history at 42 days. It will run from June 16 through August 12 on a Friday through Tuesday schedule. Post time is 1:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday and 5:00 PM on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

The Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby are part of the Grand Slam of Grass, which offers a $2-millon bonus to any three-year-old who can sweep the four-race turf series that also includes the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (G1) on August 12 at Arlington Park and the $3-million Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) on November 4 at Churchill Downs.

Poulson resigns from Virginia Racing Commission
4/25/2006 4:54:48 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 4/25/2006 11:55:00 AM

Citing plans to race her homebreds at Colonial Downs this year, Anne Poulson on April 19 resigned from the Virginia Racing Commission.

Poulson, a former commission chairman and former Virginia Thoroughbred Association president, owns Hare Forest Farm in Orange, Virginia. By rule, commission members are not permitted to run horses at Colonial Downs.

Since taking a commission seat early in 2002, Poulson created and directed the Virginia Racing Task Force that brought together various factions of Virginia's racing and breeding industries and developed a summer racing model. She also played key roles in the expansion of Virginia's off-track betting network and the legalization of telephone account deposit wagering.

Backstretch Programs
3/7/2006 6:37:06 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

The Virginia HBPA will add some new features to its usual offering of chaplain services, counseling, health care, training, and recreation for backstretch workers. We are putting together a series of owner appreciation events with special races, novelty prizes, and receptions. We will also inaugurate Owner’s Elite 101, a two-day course of basic horsemanship and rules of racing developed by Dr. Reid McLellan for the Groom Elite Program.

Virginia HBPA Gets a New Racetrack Home
3/7/2006 6:36:01 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

After years of using a temporary trailer as an office – and at times a storage room in the track kitchen – the Virginia HBPA finally has a permanent home at Colonial Downs. This summer, the Virginia HBPA will move into a newly built 2,400 square foot building. Half of the space is a large meeting area that serves several functions. During working hours, it is a classroom for Virginia HBPA-sponsored training, like the various Groom Elite Programs. It is also a place for backstretch workers to watch races simulcast from around the country. Trainers and others so inclined can access the internet with their laptop computers because the room is a WiFi hotspot. After work hours and on dark days, a large screen TV and DVD player are there for entertainment.

The other half of the building has three offices and a kitchenette. One office is for our racetrack chaplain. The other two offices are shared by the staff of the Virginia HBPA and the Virginia Harness Horse Association during their respective summer and fall meets.

The Virginia HBPA building is located on the backside next to the track kitchen overlooking the starting chute. It is both convenient and a good place to watch the races.

Dirt Track Renovated
3/7/2006 6:34:51 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

Colonial Downs is known for its world class turf course, where up to 80% of its races are run. The 160-foot wide oval, with a movable rail, is a 1 1/8 miles long. Colonial’s 1 1/4-mile dirt course is also top quality, or it least it was prior to last summer’s meet. For the first time last year, the track surface was hard, uneven, and did not drain properly. That resulted from mixing questionable material into the cushion.

This winter, Colonial brought back the original architect (Joe King) and the maintenance superintendent (John Passero) who designed and built the course to correct the problem. Thousands of tons of new material were mixed into the surface. Track management has assured the horsemen that come this summer, the dirt course will be back to its original condition.

Randy Wehrman Hired as Racing Secretary
3/7/2006 6:33:46 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

Randy Wehrman will be the new racing secretary for Colonial’s 2006 summer meet. The Virginia HBPA strongly supported his hiring.

Randy currently is the stakes coordinator at Turfway Park in Kentucky and River Downs in Ohio. He also serves as a racing official at Keeneland Race Course. From 1997 through 1999, Randy was racing secretary at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, and before that, he worked as the assistant racing secretary at Penn National.

Randy plans to use his strong horsemen’s network, built up over years of experience, to help draw more quality participation for Colonial’s expanding racing program, which by 2007 should include 50 days of summer Thoroughbred racing.

Summer Race Schedule Approved
3/7/2006 6:32:40 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

The Virginia Racing Commission approved the joint request of Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA for 42 days of Thoroughbred racing from June 16 through August 12. Racing will be five days a week, with Wednesdays and Thursdays dark. Weekday post is 5:00 p.m. Weekend post is 1:00 p.m.

Colonial will expand its Grand Slam of Grass series by increasing the purse to $1 million for the June 24 first leg, the Colonial Turf Cup. The July 15 second leg, the Virginia Derby (Gr. IIT), will also carry an increased purse of $1 million. Both races are for three year olds going a distance on the turf. The third leg is the Secretariat (Gr. IT) at Arlington Park, with the John Deere Breeder’s Cup Turf (Gr. IT) at Churchill Downs as the fourth and final leg. The winner of all four is guaranteed $5 million by Colonial’s owner, Jacobs Entertainment.

Colonial will also offer a strong Virginia breeder’s program. During the summer meet, the track will card ten $60,000 stakes races for Virginia-breds. In addition, Colonial will continue the Virginia bonus program that pays state-breds finishing in the first five positions 50% above the regular purse amounts. Last year, the breeder’s fund added nearly $500,000 to total purses paid.

Overall for the 42-day meet, purses are expected to average about $215,000 per day.

Hagley inducted into Virginia Equine Hall of Fame
3/2/2006 4:21:06 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 3/1/06

Multiple stakes winner Hagley was inducted into the Virginia Equine Hall of Fame at the 29th annual Virginia Thoroughbred Association's Hall of Fame and awards dinner.

Hagley, a son of Olden Times out of the Jet Action mare Teo Pepi, won six of 15 starts and earned $138,088 in a two-year career that spanned 1969 and '70. His four stakes wins included the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in 1970 and the '69 Rancocas Stakes at Garden State, where he went five furlongs in a track record :57.60.

Hagley was retired after his three-year-old campaign and stood his entire stud career at his breeders James and Alice Mills' Hickory Tree Farm in Middleburg, Virginia. From 18 crops and 377 foals, Hagley sired 281 winners, 31 stakes winners, six graded stakes winners and one champion – the 1980 mare Committed.

Out of the Boldnesian mare Minstinguette, Committed was voted champion sprinter in England in 1984, champion miler and older mare in France in '84, and champion older mare in France again in '85. Committed won 17 of 30 races, including a total of five group wins in England, France, and Ireland, while earning $333,501.

Committed produced the Grade 2 winner Hap, by Theatrical (Ire), in 1996. Hap won 10 of 20 career starts, including six graded stakes, and earned $1,329,210. She also produced Grade 1 winner Pharma.

Colonial Downs & Acct. Wagering
2/16/2006 4:53:27 PM  -  Richmond Times-Dispatch 

Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2006

SUIT LIKELY: Virginia's law requiring account wagering companies to be licensed in order to do business in the state could be tested in the courts before too long.

Colonial Downs and, an account wagering firm based in Woodland Hills, Calif., have been unable to reach an agreement with the New Kent County track's management -- as the statute requires. Attempts at mediation have failed. Meanwhile, Youbet continues to serve clients in Virginia, which is against the law.

Account wagering enables the horse player to bet from the comfort of his home. The law, enacted two years ago, is designed to compel out-of-state companies, such as Youbet, to provide their fair share of handle that benefits both the track and the horsemen.

Colonial Downs already has come to terms with several account wagering firms, most recently AmericaTab. Youbet is the only one that, to date, hasn't come around and, to hear Colonial Downs representatives tell it, has shown little indication of doing so.

"They have not shown any genuine interest in mediation," lawyer Jim Weinberg, representing Colonial Downs, told the Virginia Racing Commission at its monthly meeting yesterday. "[And] it's no secret they have openly been violating the law."

The track, as well as the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents the horsemen in all contract negotiations with Colonial Downs, asked the VRC to solve the impasse.

In an impassioned presentation, VHBPA executive director Frank Petramala said, "I think the time has come for the commission to act. I demand on behalf of our association the commission takes steps to have [Youbet] enjoined from doing business in Virginia."

He said mediation that produced the agreement with AmericaTab revealed it did $7 million worth of account-wagering business in Virginia last year, "and I'd wager Youbet did twice as much."

A lawyer, Petramala said it was obvious to everybody that Youbet had no interest in mediation and, in the end, the impasse would lead eventually to a court ruling on the legality of the statute.

"There's no reason to delay any further. We want you guys to enforce the law," Petramala said, rejecting a proposal the commission send a strongly-worded letter to Youbet. "[There should be] nothing short of a letter from the attorney general saying. 'We're going to drag you into court.'"

An Internet service, Youbet has posted on its Web site that it is "in full compliance with all applicable state and federal laws."

THE OTHER SIDE: For its part, Youbet disagrees with just about all of the above except that the parties probably are court-bound if the racing commission seeks to keep it from doing business in Virginia.

"We believe, and we've informed them of this, that [the statute] clearly violates federal law," said Charles F. Champion, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Youbet. "We're interested in being licensed in Virginia and put forth I can't tell you how many economic proposals in order to do that. There's a single track in Virginia, and the economics they're demanding exceed anything else we're doing in the United States."

The licensing law, Champion said, "is giving the track a proxy to become a state taxing authority. We are not attempting to violate laws. We have had a simulcast agreement with the track."

He said Youbet was interested in mediation and had recommended some names, but didn't feel comfortable with those suggested by Colonial Downs. "Find mediators who are familiar with the material they are covering," Champion said.

"We're willing to press it in federal court if Virginia needs to go in that direction. We don't want to. If we allow these precedents to be set in Virginia, then we'll be dealing with them across the United States."

HARD TO EXPLAIN: Stan Bowker, the VRC executive director, told the commissioners a horse twice ran at Colonial Downs last summer under the wrong name. In all, Free Dip -- real name Miss Stella -- competed in 27 races across the country before a horse identifier in New York recognized the mistake.

Bowker referred to it as "an identifier's nightmare." At least it was an honest mistake on the part of the horses' owners, who are from Maryland. -- Jerry Lindquist

Colonial Downs to feature a pair of $1-million races in 2006
1/30/2006 4:12:21 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 1/26/06

Colonial Downs announced on Thursday that two $1-million stakes races will anchor its 2006 stakes schedule, the richest in the history of the New Kent, Virginia, track.

Colonial's season is slated to run from June 16 through August 12, highlighted by the $1-million Colonial Turf Cup on June 24 and the $1-million Virginia Derby (G2) on July 15.

The Colonial Turf Cup, a 1 3/16-mile event, and the Virginia Derby, a 1 1/4-mile test, comprise the first two legs of the $5-million Grand Slam of Grass, a four-race series on turf for three-year-olds.

Both races received substantial purse increases for the upcoming meeting at Colonial Downs with the Colonial Turf Cup boosted by $500,000 and the Virginia Derby raised $250,000.

The 18 races on the 2006 stakes schedule will boast cumulative purses of $3,230,000.

Looking Forward to 2006
12/15/2005 4:48:07 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

Building on a successful 2005 summer meet, the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs plan to continue their program of increasing race days and purses at the New Kent, Virginia track. Next summer, the Colonial Downs meet will include 42 days of racing, up from 2005’s 40 days, starting June 16 and concluding August 12, 2006. Racing will be five days a week, with Wednesday and Thursday as dark days. Post time during the week is 5:00 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday posts at 1:00 p.m.

During the 2005 meet, daily purses averaged $216,000 for the 40 race days. All source wagering handle averaged $1,117,775 a day. Both figures set new records for the track.

Colonial also attracted horsemen from many locales, which gave us an overall average field size of 8.7 horses per race. Nearly three-fourths of all races were run on Colonial’s world class turf course, with average field sizes even larger. In the coming year, we expect to improve in all areas.

Next summer, Colonial will again sponsor the Grand Slam of Grass, a series of four turf races for three year olds designed to showcase Colonial’s turf course. The first leg will be the Colonial Turf Cup on June 24, 2006, with a purse of $1 million, up from last year’s $500,000 purse. The second leg will be the Virginia Derby (Gr. IIIT) on July 15, 2006, also with a $1 million purse, up from last year’s $750,000. The third and fourth legs will likely be the Secretariat (Gr. IT) at Arlington Park and the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (Gr. IT) at Churchill Downs. Jacobs Entertainment, Colonial’s owner, will once again offer a bonus of at least $3 million to the horse winning all four legs.

In 2005, trainer Todd Pletcher’s English Channel won the first two legs at Colonial Downs, finished second to Gun Salute in the Secretariat, and finished fifth behind Shirocco and the other three European “invaders” in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on soft going at Belmont Park.

Yearly handle, live and simulcast, fuels the number of race days and the size of purses. Next year, we expect to increase handle in at least two ways. First, we have partnered with Colonial to open additional off-track betting parlors in Virginia (“satellite wagering facilities” or, “SWFs”), recognizing there is little legislative sentiment in the Old Dominion for slot machines.

In 2003, when we started our program of increasing race days and purses, there were four SWFs operating year-round that accounted for 95% of the statewide handle. By early 2006, there will be nine SWFs operating year round, which should nearly double handle. That furthers our goal because the horsemen’s purse account receives, on average, more than five percent of SWF handle.

We are also working to expand handle through advance deposit account wagering, which recently became lawful in Virginia. By the end of our 2005 meet, there were three operators licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission: Colonial’s Phonebet, TVG, and XpressBet. Since then, account wagering handle in the state has mushroomed. That, too, benefits our horsemen because the Virginia HBPA negotiated source market agreements with those operators providing for purse account contribution rates nearly equal to that of the off-track betting parlors. We hope that two more operators, America Tab and YouBet, will soon be licensed in Virginia.

There was one shortcoming last summer, for which we apologize to all horsemen and that will be remedied before the 2006 meet. Colonial’s dirt track, which in the past has been superb, was substandard. At times, the track seemed too hard, uneven, and did not drain properly (one rainy day, races were taken off the dirt and put on the turf!). We think the problem resulted from hundreds of tons of new material, added to the old surface, which was of questionable composition. Immediately after the meet, management retained the crew (John Passero and Joe King) responsible for the track’s initial construction in 1997 to fix the problem. That work is now ongoing.

Unrelated to the track surface issue, the management at Colonial changed after the meet ended. Since its opening in 1997, Colonial’s racing operations were managed by the Maryland Jockey Club, the owners of Laurel and Pimlico, under a 50 year agreement (Magna now owns the Maryland Jockey Club). In August of this year, Colonial bought out that contract for $10 million. Colonial’s owner, Jacobs Entertainment, now will be solely responsible for managing the track, including the racing secretary’s office. This change benefits the horsemen because under the Virginia HBPA’s contract with Colonial, a portion of the expected $1.5 million annual savings in management fees goes into the purse account.

Finally, during the 2005 meet, the Virginia HBPA addressed the problem of jockey insurance by sharing with Colonial the premium cost of a $1 million policy covering licensed jockeys and apprentices. The track previously carried a $100,000 policy. In doing so, we knew the increased policy coverage was only a short-term solution. For 2006, we hope to have legislation passed that will include jockeys within the Virginia worker’s compensation system, thereby providing a permanent solution for a serious concern. The Virginia HBPA currently is working with the track and the Virginia Racing Commission to draft such legislation.

In short, we look to 2006 as another year of growth and prosperity for Thoroughbred racing in Virginia.

Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale falls below 2004 levels
12/7/2005 10:08:43 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 12/6/2005 10:08:00 AM ET

The two-day Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale ended Monday with a 9.4% decrease in gross sales, a 12.3% drop in average price, and a 25.5% decrease in median price.

The sale, which took place at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, saw 375 horses sell for gross receipts of $3,497,900. The buyback rate was 31.8%. In 2004, 363 horses sold for a gross of $3,862,300.

Average price this year was $9,328 and median was $3,800. Last year, the average was $10,640 and median was $5,100.

Your Out, a multiple stakes winning mare in foal to Lion Hearted, brought the top price of the sale, going for $140,000 during Sunday’s session. John Crane Jr. bought the seven-year-old daughter of Allen’s Prospect, out of the stakes winning Fast Play mare Our Friend Hidayet. Your Out was consigned by Country Life Farm, agent.

Monday’s session topper was a dark bay or brown weanling filly by first-crop sire Kafwain, out of the stakes placed Allen’s Prospect mare Dotsie’s Doll. Winter Spree Farm went to $98,000 for the filly, who was consigned by Summerfield, agent.

The top colt on Monday was a gray or roan weanling by Buddha, out of the stakes-placed winning Smarten mare Smart Erin. Walnut Green paid $80,000 for the colt, also consigned by Summerfield as agent.

HRTV Expands In Maryland-Virginia Market
11/29/2005 2:14:51 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/29/2005 11:38:16 AM Last Updated: 11/29/2005 11:38:16 AM

HorseRacing TV™ (HRTV) announced Monday expanded carriage on Comcast cable systems throughout the Maryland-Virginia area.

HRTV is now available on Channel 259 to Sports Tier subscribers on Comcast's Alexandria-Arlington and Prince William County systems, as well as on the Richmond system that also services the communities of Henrico, Hanover, and Goodland.

HRTV previously had been available on Comcast systems throughout Maryland. In addition, the network is available to Comcast subscribers in Los Angeles and Western Pennsylvania.

"The Maryland-Virginia area has a tradition of horse racing that reaches back to the earliest days of the United States," said Jim Bates, senior vice president and general manager of HorseRacing TV. "We're pleased to be working with Comcast to bring outstanding, present-day racing programming to subscribers in these areas."

HRTV features television coverage of 14 racetracks owned, operated or managed by MEC. The network also telecasts live coverage from more than 60 other racetracks in North America. Wagering, where not expressly prohibited by law, may be conducted via the phone or Internet through XpressBet™ , MEC's national account wagering system.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Colonial Downs' 2006 Dates Approved
11/18/2005 2:28:48 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/17/2005 2:31:35 PM Last Updated: 11/17/2005 2:31:35 PM

The Virginia Racing Commission approved Colonial Downs' request for 2006 racing dates at the monthly meeting Wednesday at the Meadow Manor House located on the Meadow Farm, birthplace of 1973 Triple Crown winner, Secretariat.

Colonial's requested 42 days of racing that will start Friday, June 16 and continue through Saturday, Aug. 12. Colonial's request is consistent with the track's agreement with the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association to race 42 days in 2006 and 50 days in 2007. The VRC approval is the earliest Colonial Downs has been awarded their dates. "I'm really looking forward to a good year. The early approval allows us to get the stakes races published on the racing calendars early and allows the horsemen to begin thinking about coming to Colonial," said Colonial's vice president and general manager, Ian Woolnaugh.

Although the meet will essentially run over the same period of days as in previous years, Colonial's stakes races will be shuffled, avoiding several conflicts that were present last year.

Colonial's two $1 million turf stakes races for 3-year-olds, the Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT) and the Colonial Turf Cup, will be run on the same weekends as in 2005. The date of the Colonial Turf Cup will be June 24 with the Virginia Derby being run three weeks later on July 15. The two stakes make up the first two legs of the $5 million "Grand Slam of Grass" bonus offered by Jacobs Investments.

The $200,000 All Along Stakes (gr. IIIT) that had historically been run on the same day as the Virginia Derby will now be run on the same day as the Colonial Turf Cup. The $200,000 Virginia Oaks will be run on the Friday prior to the Virginia Derby on July 14.

Colonial Downs has been in discussions with Delaware Park to avoid running similar stakes races on the same day. Under the concept, the All Along will be moved to avoid a conflict with the $300,000 Benjamin G. Dick Breeder's Cup that is run at Delaware Park. Delaware Park would move its $500,000 Kent Breeder's Cup (gr. IIIT) to a date after the Virginia Derby.

Woolnaugh, a former jockey who rode in Europe, maintains a home in Newmarket, England and plans to utilize a planned vacation in December to recruit European horses to Colonial.

"With the two $1 million races three weeks apart, you can get two for the price of one," explained Woolnaugh. "You can get good money even if you don't win."

In other matters, Colonial has also hired John Passero and Joe King as consultants to restore Colonial's dirt course.

Jim Weinberg, counsel to Colonial Downs, reported to the commission that the Scott County off-track betting facility located in southwestern Virginia near Bristol is on schedule to be completed by the end of the year with its grand opening scheduled for mid-January. The Scott County facility would be the ninth off-track betting facility in Virginia and the fifth off-track betting facility opened by Colonial Downs since November of 2003.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Quadratic Dies at Age 30
11/9/2005 3:55:34 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/9/2005 12:01:21 PM Last Updated: 11/9/2005 12:01:21 PM

Quadratic, the sire of 25 stakes winners, died Oct. 24 at Morgan Kenyon's Deer Haven Farm near Keysville, Va. He was 30. The son of Quadrangle had been at Deer Haven the past four years.

Quadratic was bred in Maryland by Ryehill Farm owner Jim Ryan and raced for Ryan and August Belmont IV. He won five stakes during his 19-start career including the 1977 Cowdin Stakes (gr. II). At three, he ran second or third in six graded stakes, retiring with six wins from 19 starts and earnings of $233,941. He missed the Triple Crown races due to a knee injury.

Quadratic began his stallion career in 1979 at Blue Ridge Farm near Upperville, Va., and moved to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky in 1982. He moved to Meadowville Farm in Virginia in 1990.

Among Quadratic's stakes winners are Super Derby (gr. I) winner Home At Last and Monmouth Oaks (gr. II) winner Quixotic Lady.

Quadratic is out of Broodmare of the Year Smartaire, by Quibu. Smartaire is also the dam of champion filly Smart Angle (by Quadrangle), graded stakes winner Smarten, and stakes winner Smart Heiress.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Nydrie Stud on Market for $8.75 Million
11/1/2005 12:11:30 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/1/2005 11:34:56 AM Last Updated: 11/1/2005 11:34:56 AM

National Thoroughbred Racing Association Commissioner and Breeders' Cup President D.G. Van Clief Jr. confirmed his family's 592-acre Nydrie Stud in Central Virginia is on the market for $8.75 million.

Van Clief, who owns the farm with his three brothers, said it was a family decision to sell Nydrie, which has been in his family for three generations.

"I have three brothers and none of them are presently in the business," Van Clief said. "Unfortunately it makes common sense from a planning standpoint looking forward. I can say it's what I would have done if I had my preference, but its part of the family planning process."

Nydrie is located near Esmont in Albemarle County. Offered in the sale is the farm's landmark covered barn and English courtyard built in 1891, as well as yearling and broodmare barns, fenced pastures, several homes, a pond, and mature forest land.

Nydrie is the central piece of 3,000 acres of farmland the Van Clief family acquired in the 1920s.The family plans to keep three farms contiguous to Nydrie as well as a couple of non-contiguous pieces of property, Van Clief said

Nydrie is steeped in racing history. The farm was home to Natalma, the dam of Northern Dancer, who Van Clief's father, Daniel G. Van Clief, co-bred in partnership with Mrs. E. H. Augustus.

Van Clief Jr. and his brothers and mother were in a partnership that dissolved after their mother's death in 1991. Van Clief and his wife then purchased a few mares and maintained a small broodmare operation. They sold those mares about three years ago when Van Clief became increasingly involved with in the business side of the industry. They have been sidelined as breeders since.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Colonial Wants More Dates; Sets Turf Stakes
11/1/2005 12:07:33 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/1/2005 8:22:02 AM Last Updated: 11/1/2005 10:36:29 AM

Colonial Downs will continue with its plan to gradually add more Thoroughbred racing dates, having asked the Virginia Racing Commission for 42 days in 2006, two more than this year and eight more than 2004.

Colonial Downs has asked to race from June 16-Aug. 12. Earlier this year, the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit, which coordinated racing dates between the two states, was terminated, and racing interests in Maryland still haven't decided on a schedule for 2006.

The dates for the two marquee 3-year-old turf races at Colonial Downs have been tentatively scheduled though they could change to avoid conflicts with similar races at other tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Colonial Turf Cup and the Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT), each of which will be worth $1 million next year, are set for June 24 and July 15, respectively.

The two races are part of the track's "Grand Slam of Grass" bonus series. The other two races in the series, which may offer a total payout of $10 million for a sweep in 2006, are the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park and the $2-million John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), to be held at Churchill Downs.

Colonial Downs officials indicated there would be an added emphasis to attract European runners for the series. "I'd like to think that we would attract some European horses for the first two with $1 million in each race," Colonial Downs general manager Ian Woolnaugh said.

In early October, Colonial Downs opened its eighth off-track betting center in Chesapeake, Virginia, the second one in that community located near the Atlantic Ocean. The new parlor is located on the eastern end of the city closer to the Virginia Beach waterfront.

The track plans to open its next OTB parlor by the end of the year in Scott County, located in the southwestern corner of the state near Bristol.

"The handle has been good, track president Ian Stewart said of the second parlor in Chesapeake. "It's off to a real good start. There is a lot of potential in that market. We had a good day (Oct. 29) with the Breeder's Cup (simulcast)."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Woolnough replaces Mooney as GM at Colonial Downs
10/7/2005 6:49:48 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 10/7/2005 3:31:00 PM ET

John Mooney’s seven-year run as general manager of Colonial Downs has concluded with Magna Entertainment Corp.’s sale of its rights to manage the New Kent, Virginia, track.

Mooney is an employee of the Maryland Jockey Club, the majority of which is owned by Magna. The club first entered into an agreement to run Colonial Downs back in 1994 when the track was still in planning stages. Colonial Downs, which first opened in 1997, is now under its own management for the first time.

Ian Woolnough, who has worked for Colonial Downs for eight years, most recently as the track’s treasurer, has replaced Mooney as general manager.

Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart described the change-over as the natural evolution of the track.

"We partnered with the Maryland Jockey Club and Magna to get the original license, and now we’ve bought out the contract from Magna and we’re going to go it on our own," Stewart said.

Mooney told the Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch that he would miss working at the track.

"It’s been a great experience seeing the track built, seeing Virginia have pari-mutuel wagering for the first time, and also seeing the business grow over the years, Mooney said. "Having said that, it was inevitable that, at some point, Colonial would make a decision to go on their own."—Pete Denk

MEC Closes Sale of Rights to Manage Colonial Downs
10/2/2005 8:52:24 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 10/1/2005 3:35:00 PM ET

Magna Entertainment Corp. has closed on the sale of all outstanding shares of Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit Inc., a majority-owned subsidiary of Magna and holder of the management agreement for Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia, to Colonial Downs L.P. Colonial Downs L.P. is a subsidiary of track owner Colonial Holdings Inc.

The finalized agreement is in accordance with its announcement of the transaction on August 18. Approval of the sale by the Virginia Racing Commission was received on September 28.

The purchase price of $7-million in cash plus $3-million by way of one-year interest-bearing demand note was paid on closing to the vendors, majority-owned subsidiaries of MEC, which will also receive as a post-closing adjustment Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit’s prorated 2005 management fees.

Meadow Farm Approved for Virginia State Fair
9/15/2005 6:34:27 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/14/2005 5:18:59 PM Last Updated: 9/14/2005 5:18:59 PM

With a photo of Secretariat's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) win hanging on the Caroline County Community Center wall beside a Virginia General Assembly resolution commemorating the 30th anniversary of his Triple Crown, it may have been thought that the decision to relocate the Virginia state fair to where he was foaled, Meadow Farm, would have been a sure thing. Not so.

The Caroline County Board of Supervisors Sept. 13 approved Atlantic Rural Exposition's (ARE) rezoning request to use the property by a 4-1 vote and the special exception permit to operate the fair by a 3-2 vote.

Although the approval officially concludes much of the public process on the project that initially started with an inquiry in 2001, board members credit the open dialogue ARE demonstrated through the process and its commitment to be a "long-term partner" in Caroline County. The process picked up some local momentum with the recognition of the 30th anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown in 2003 with an event that featured a reunion of owner Penny Chenery, jockey Ron Turcotte, exercise rider Bill Gaffney, and biographer Bill Nack.

In addition to the county's rezoning regulations, 50 proffers were submitted as part of the rezoning application with an additional 13 conditions attached to the special exception permit. The site will hold the 11-day Virginia State Fair, the Strawberry Hill Races, and the Richmond Highland Games & Celtic Festival and well as 38 other horse shows and 15 trade shows.

While most speakers were in favor of the requests, opponents were concerned with traffic, crime, noise, and light.

A high priority of the project is to maintain the agricultural and equine heritage of the property. As part of the $50-million improvement project, two pedestrian tunnels will be erected under the roads that divide the 377-acre property. The tunnels will lead from the grassy parking lots to the fairgrounds that will include a multi-purpose arena, exhibition building, and two livestock show arenas. The architecture of the structures will match the stables and colors of the Chenery racing stable.

As you enter Caroline County on Rt. 30, Meadow Farm is the first property after crossing the North Anna River. Just prior to crossing the river in Hanover County is Paramount's Kings Dominion theme park. Gov. Mark Warner amended the state budget, allowing Rt. 30 to be improved to four lanes to the entrance of the Virginia State Fair. The project that includes a bridge crossing is estimated to cost $10-$17 million.

"This project is mutually beneficial to the state fair and Caroline County," Curry Roberts, president of the Virginia state fair told the board of supervisors.

Every October, the fair attracts 250,000-300,000 patrons almost evenly distributed during the 11 days in which it is held. Roberts estimated that with constant turnover there are rarely more than 20,000 people on the grounds at one time. Located between Richmond and Fredericksburg, it would be convenient to old and new visitors alike. The newly created Virginia Museum of the Horse may also be located on the property.

"I think there was grave anxiety to appropriately preserve this property and for it to be a showcase for the county to help promote its favorite son, even though he has four legs instead of two," added Roberts after the meeting. "I think it is an appropriate way of preserving and protecting what remains of The Meadow."

Several large lot parcels have been subdivided from The Meadow since the Chenery's ownership of it in the '70s. With the approval, a minimum of 50% of the property will remain as open space, the foaling shed and stables of Secretariat and Riva Ridge will be preserved and have public access, and fencing will be maintained.

A seven-eighths of a mile steeplechase course that will be built on the southwestern portion of the property will hold the Strawberry Hill Races that are currently held in the spring at Colonial Downs and possibly some fall races that would run on the Saturday prior to the opening of the fair that is held in October.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Action Tabled on Colonial Management Buyout
9/8/2005 9:10:51 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/7/2005 10:00:25 PM Last Updated: 9/7/2005 10:00:25 PM

Members of the Virginia Racing Commission want more time and expertise to review the effects the $10 million purchase of the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit by Colonial Downs, LP, may have. The agreement that was announced on Aug. 18 is subject to commission approval. Colonial's acquisition of the entity that manages its Thoroughbred and Standardbred meets and off-track betting network would result in the reassignment of the duties of its sole employee, John Mooney, who is the president of the circuit.

The commission deferred a decision of the purchase at their Sept. 7 meeting and scheduled a Sept. 28 meeting, allowing time to search for a non-partial third party industry expert to review what effects the new structure may have on racing dates in Maryland and Virginia. A review of Colonial's proposed management structure is also sought. The agreement terminates if it has not been executed by Oct. 31.

Colonial Downs' officials have already begun a nationwide search for a racing secretary whose duties would include the recruitment of horses for their 2006 Thoroughbred meet. Current managers of Colonial Downs would absorb Mooney's other duties, such as track operations and off-track management. Other functions such as marketing and track maintenance would become the responsibility of new hires.

The legal counsel of Colonial Downs, Jim Weinberg, told the commission that the acquisition would not be a detriment to racing in Virginia, a requirement under Virginia law.

In his presentation Weinberg explained that approval would streamline the management structure of Colonial Downs. He said it would create clear accountability for results and eliminate the dual management of Colonial Downs with its apparent conflicts of interest. The management structure that was established in late 90's would also be re-evaluated and create a long-term financial investment by eliminating an annual management fee that is estimated to be $1.5 million in 2005.

There are several components of the existing management agreement that would survive the buyout. Commissioner Peter Burnett, noting that Laurel was opening its turf course on Wednesday, was concerned about the effect of racing dates in Maryland and Virginia. Under the agreement, Maryland would be dark when Colonial is racing from June 17 to July 31, potentially creating an overlap of racing dates in August. The racing calendars could be altered by mutual agreement between Colonial Downs and Magna Entertainment, who owns Laurel and Pimlico in Maryland.

"The strength and the beauty of the circuit is that it is rational. It works to the benefit of both tracks," explained Weinberg in reference to the Maryland tracks and Colonial Downs.

Charlie Dunavant, president of the Virginia Harness Horsemen's Association, voiced concern over a change in management occurring close to the opening of a Standardbred meet at Colonial Downs on Sept. 16. With the unlikelihood that a change in the general manager would occur during the meet that ends on Nov. 14, Mooney would remain the general manager of Colonial Downs through the harness meet after the Oct. 31 deadline.

Mooney, who was not in attendance at the meeting, became president of the Maryland-Virginia racing circuit in 1999. The circuit was deemed significant when the unlimited license was awarded to Stansley Racing Corporation in 1994, assuring the availability of adequate labor and horses to conduct racing at the New Kent racetrack.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Watch the Colonial “Channel”
8/26/2005 11:02:19 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2005 

On June 17, Colonial Downs opened for 40 days of racing, with purses averaging over $210,000 daily. The New Kent, Virginia track closed its longest and most successful meet on August 9. Between those dates, Colonial’s marquee events – the Grand Slam of Grass and Virginia Million Day – set new handle and attendance records.

Developed this year, the Grand Slam of Grass is a series of four turf races for three-year-olds, with Colonial offering any horse that can win all four a $3 million bonus. The first leg, the inaugural running of the $500,000 Turf Cup, took place at Colonial on June 25. The Cup winner was English Channel, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by James Scatuorchio. The three-year-old colt is by Smart Strike out of the unraced Theatrical (Ire) mare Belva.

English Channel returned to Colonial three weeks later to face eight challengers in the $750,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIIT) – the second leg of the Grand Slam. Ridden again by 2004 Eclipse Award-winning jockey John Velasquez, the little chestnut stalked pacesetter Chattahoochee War, who was ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, and took control in the stretch to draw away easily for a three length victory. Rebel Rebel, with Jerry Bailey up, was third in his American debut for trainer Bobby Frankel. Frankel also trains Chattahoochee War.

“Channel” has now won five of his six starts on the turf, with earnings of $872,691. He advances to the third leg of the Grand Slam, the Secretariat Stakes (Gr. IT) for three-year-olds at Arlington Park on August 13. The final leg is the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Gr. IT) for three-year-olds and up at Belmont on October 29. If “Channel” sweeps those two races, he will earn the Grand Slam bonus of $3 million from Jacobs Investments, the owner of Colonial Downs, in addition to nearly $2 million in purse money for the four wins.

English Channel’s victory in the July 16 Virginia Derby occurred on Virginia Million Day, the richest day of racing in Commonwealth history. Also on the card was the $200,000 Mede Cahaba All Along Breeders’ Cup Stakes (Gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares.

The All Along drew a strong field of ten, with Stupendous Miss, a four-year-old Dynaformer filly, winning in a gritty stretch drive with Humoristic and Dynamia. She is trained by Wally Dollase and was ridden to victory by Gary Stevens.

The third feature of the day, the $200,000 Virginia Oaks, went to My Typhoon, who is trained by Bill Mott and was ridden by Jerry Bailey. My Typhoon is a three-year-old chestnut filly by Giant’s Causeway out of the Miswaki mare Urban Sea.

The 8,121 people attending Virginia Million Day set a new attendance record for the Derby. Likewise, the total handle of $3,775,461 was nearly three-quarters of a million dollars more than last year’s record handle. Derby day was also notable for a “man bites dog” story.

Because of heavy rain the evening before, two races on the Virginia Million card were taken off the dirt and put on the turf.

Throughout the 2005 Colonial meet, the Virginia HBPA provided its usual services to horsemen on the backstretch. They included educational programs and seminars for grooms and trainers; beds and air conditioners for dormitories; sun screens for barns; lunchtime food and drinks for grooms; van shuttle service for shopping and recreation; daily visits by Reverend Marjorie Bevans, the Virginia HBPA chaplain; drug counseling; emergency medical assistance; and participation in the national Kids To The Cup program.

Next summer, Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA anticipate 42 days of racing, with 50 days planned for the 2007 summer. Also next year, the Colonial Turf Cup and the Virginia Derby purses jump to $1 million each.

The increase in race days and purses is made possible, in large part, by the addition of more off-track satellite wagering facilities in Virginia. By the end of the year, Colonial plans to open three new facilities in Chesapeake, Martinsville, and Bristol, making a total of nine off-track wagering sites in the state.

Advance deposit account wagering is likewise on the rise. There are now three Virginia Racing Commission licensed providers – PhoneBet, TVG, and XpressBet – accepting online and phone wagers from Virginia residents. That handle generates additional purse dollars through the payment of source market fees for expanded quality racing at Colonial Downs.

Stay tuned.

Magna Sells Management Interest in Colonial Downs
8/19/2005 1:56:51 PM  -  Blood-Horse  

Date Posted: 8/18/2005 7:49:08 PM Last Updated: 8/19/2005 6:33:14 AM Edited press release

Magna Entertainment Corp. and Colonial Downs, L.P. announced Thursday they have entered into an agreement under which Colonial LP will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Maryland- Virginia Racing Circuit, Inc., a subsidiary of Magna Entertainment.

MVRC has operated Colonial Downs, a Thoroughbred and Standardbred track in New Kent, Virginia, pursuant to a management agreement with Colonial LP since April 1996. This management agreement is MVRC's sole material asset.

The sale is subject to approval of the Virginia Racing Commission, which approval the parties intend to request at the Commission's next regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 7, 2005. Under the terms of the agreement, Colonial LP will pay MEC, through its subsidiaries, $7 million on closing and $3 million by way of a one-year interest-bearing demand note.

Colonial LP will also pay MVRC's pro-rated 2005 management fees and repay approximately $145,000 plus accrued interest under an existing outstanding promissory note. MEC will further participate with Colonial LP in certain new ventures in Virginia, if and as they materialize.

"We have enjoyed a lengthy and productive relationship with the team at Colonial Downs but this sale of our management arrangement will enable us to continue to refocus our resources on a strategic goal of delivering prime racing content, developing our U.S. gaming potential, and expanding our signal delivery and wagering capability within North America and internationally," stated W. Thomas Hodgson, president and chief executive officer of MEC. "We have agreed with Colonial LP that we will continue to have the use of the Colonial Downs signal and we hope to include that signal within our growing domestic and international distribution network."

Jeffrey P. Jacobs, chairman of Colonial LP, said, "We are appreciative of MEC for their hard work in helping to grow Colonial Downs and we look forward to a continued relationship with them and to building on the foundation that has been laid."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Plan to Move Fair to Meadow Farm Progresses
8/18/2005 10:25:34 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/17/2005 3:53:23 PM Last Updated: 8/17/2005 3:53:23 PM

Plans are being finalized to relocate the State Fair of Virginia to Meadow Farm, birthplace of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

A $17-million road that includes a bridge over the North Anna River would lead the way to Meadow Farm, future home to the State Fair of Virginia, should the Caroline County Board of Supervisors approve a rezoning and special use permit request Sept. 13. The Caroline County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the applications after an Aug. 3 workshop.

Should the board of supervisors approve the applications, the project would require site-plan review approval, which is largely an administrative process.

The road improvement project consists of building two additional lanes on the south end of Route 30, which is currently an undivided two-lane highway. The road project would extend for two miles from Paramount's Kings Dominion, an amusement park located just off I-95 north of Richmond, to the entrance of the 377-acre Meadow Farm property.

Gov. Mark Warner amended the state budget to make the road improvements a priority project. The move allows it to be funded and placed on the Virginia Department of Transportation's six-year road improvement plan for the county. The road improvements should be completed in August 2007.

The State Fair of Virginia is currently held at the Richmond Raceway Complex and attracts more than 250,000 patrons. Four archeological sites have been discovered as part of the road improvement project and are being further explored by VDOT and Virginia's Department of Historic Resources. No archeological sites have been discovered on the Meadow Farm property.

"We're progressing on," said Jay Lugar, director of marketing for the State Fair of Virginia. "I think we gave over 50 proffers that went over all kinds of things to make everyone comfortable."

The proffers range from the how the facility is operated to having the trim of structures painted in the Chenery racing silk colors.

"Typically, the board doesn't get involved until the planning commission has completed their work," said Michael Finchum, planning director for Caroline County. "It has been pretty smooth. A lot of the opposition's concerns have been addressed. They tried to address the commission's concerns in regard to architecture and to keep it in an equestrian theme, consistent with the rural character of the area."

The newly created Virginia Museum of the Horse also is looking to locate on the property. Curry Roberts, president of the State Fair of Virginia, said only one other "greenfields" fairgrounds has been built in the United States in the last 30 years.

Atlantic Rural Exposition operates the fair and hopes to hold the 2007 Virginia State Fair at the farm it purchased in 2003. The Strawberry Hill Races currently held at Colonial Downs are hosted by Atlantic Rural Exposition and won't be held at Meadow Farm until 2008 to allow for a seven-furlong steeplechase course to become well established.

"We want to have the turf befitting of the horse," Lugar said in reference to Secretariat.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Colonial Downs opens seventh OTB
8/16/2005 2:41:24 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 8/16/2005 11:01:00 AM ET

Colonial Downs opened its seventh off-track betting parlor in Virginia on Monday as track officials launched business at the new facility in Ridgeway, a town of 775 people near the North Carolina border.

Because pari-mutuel wagering is illegal in North Carolina, Colonial officials are hoping residents of that state will travel to Ridgeway to bet on horse racing. Greensboro, North Carolina, a city just 40 miles south of Ridgeway has a population of approximately 225,000.

“The Greensboro market is something we’re interested in, and we think there will be there will a lot of North Carolina plates [in the parking lot],” Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart told Greensboro’s WFMY-TV.

Colonial expects the new 12,500 square-foot facility to handle $50-million annually with $2.2-million generated for purses and $500,000 for the Virginia Breeders’ Fund.

Colonial Downs in New Kent near Williamsburg could open two more OTB facilities this year to bring its total to nine.

Handle Tops $40 Million at Colonial Downs
8/11/2005 9:45:02 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/10/2005 6:58:15 PM Last Updated: 8/10/2005 8:48:16 PM

Well over $40 million was wagered in the 40 days of live racing at Colonial Downs during the 2005 summer meet that concluded on Aug. 9. Worldwide wagering on racing at Colonial Downs was $42,765,250. Despite racing six more days than last year, the average daily handle rose to $1,069,131, up $63,605 from last summer.

The added racing days did have a minor effect on the average daily attendance that dropped to 2,028 from 2,155 in 2004. The turnstiles tripped 81,126 times from June 17 to the meet's conclusion, the most since Colonial's inaugural year in 1997.

"I was pleased with how our stakes program went," said John Mooney, the general manager of Colonial Downs. "It brought a lot of national attention to Colonial Downs. That's important when we rely on out of state money to support purses."

The inaugural running of the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup kicked off a new bonus series, the $5 million "Grand Slam of Grass." English Channel won it. The Smart Strike colt returned to Colonial three weeks later to win the $750,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT) on Virginia Million Day. English Channel looks to round third in the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Arlington Park on Saturday. Should he succeed, a $5 million bonus could be waiting for him in the John Deere Breeder Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Belmont Park.

The extra week of racing allowed two stakes races, the $60,000 Polynesian and the $60,000 Chesapeake, to be re-introduced to Colonial Downs. The two open stakes races had not been run since 1998.

By an agreement with the VHBPA, next year's meet at Colonial Downs will be 42 days long with the purses of the Colonial Turf Cup and the Virginia Derby raised to $1 million each. The Grand Slam bonus is expected to be $10 million.

Colonial's successful campaign can be attributed the increase of average daily out of state handle to $912,282 from $835,362, up $76,920.

A tragic moment of the meet happened over the July 23 weekend when apprentice jockey Emanuel Sanchez died from an apparent case of heat exhaustion while trying to maintain riding weight. Sanchez's only win of his career was at Colonial Downs.

Horatio Karamanos was not only the top rider of the meet with 66 wins but also broke Edgar Prado's win mark of 59 set in 1997. Ferris Allen won his fifth trainer title with 24 wins to remain the all-time leading trainer at Colonial Downs. It was Allen's first training title at Colonial since 2001.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

New Medication Rules Adopted
6/7/2005 9:24:23 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

Virginia has been in the process of reviewing and modifying its racing medication rules and recently adopted a new set of standards that will be in effect for the 2005 summer meet. The rules were recommended by the Mid-Atlantic Medication Policy and closely resemble national standards.

The Virginia Racing Commission summarized, “One objective of the rule changes is to make the medication rules uniform throughout the Mid-Atlantic region as Colonial Downs relies on horses coming from other states …”

One central question has been whether or not to allow adjunct bleeder medications to be administered on race day in addition to Lasix. Under the new rules, four different adjuncts are permitted.

Another sticking point had been allowances for non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Bute, Banamine, and a new drug, Ketoprofen. In the final regulations, Bute and Banamine are permitted (though not together) in specific amounts, but Ketoprofen is not.

The full report can be found on the Virginia HBPA website at in the Message Board section.

Grand Slam of Grass
6/7/2005 9:23:18 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

In the Grand Slam of Grass, the winner of four particular grass races will garner not only the purse money, but also an additional $2 million plus bonus offered by Jacobs Entertainment, bringing the total winnings to $5 million.

The races involved have been finalized, and they are the brand new $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup on June 25 for three-year-olds going 1 3/16 miles on the grass, the $750,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIIT) for three-year-olds going 1 1/4 miles on July 16 at Colonial, the August 13 Secretariat Stakes (Gr. IT) for three-year-olds going 1 1/4 miles on the grass at Arlington Park in Illinois, and the October 29 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (Gr. IT) for three-year-olds and up going 1 1/2 miles at Belmont in New York.

Stakes races are not the only ones expanding this year, as there will be an all-time high of 40 days of racing, with average daily purses of $212,500. Additionally, the fans will have more room to enjoy all the races this summer with an additional 4,000 temporary seats under a tent and 500 closer to the rail. The parking lot will add 3,100 more spots to accommodate racegoers.

Upcoming Colonial Downs Meet
6/7/2005 9:22:11 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

Colonial Downs will run its longest meet to date in 2005 – from June 17 through August 9. Moreover, this year has added perks for both fans and horsemen. In addition to the usual roster of top notch racing, concerts, and events, there are a new turf challenge – the $5 Million Grand Slam of Grass – increased daily purses, expanded seating in the grandstand, and improvements on the backside.

Virginia commission adopts uniform medication policy
3/22/2005 1:48:55 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 3/21/2005 5:29:00 PM ET

The Virginia Racing Commission has adopted uniform medication rules as recommended by the Mid-Atlantic Medication Policy, which closely resembles the national model rules policy established by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

"Virginia is pleased to have had a role in the development of the Mid-Atlantic policy," said Peter Burnett, chairman of the commission’s medication and safety committee. "Horsemen want a level playing field and the integrity of the racing industry must be protected."

The policy includes institution of prerace testing for excessive bicarbonate levels. Virginia had previously tested at least two horses in every race for high bicarbonate levels.

The revised trainer penalties for violations of the bicarbonate rule stipulate a $2,500 fine and 90-day suspension for a first offense; $5,000 fine and 180-day suspension for a second offense; and license revocation for a third offense

Virginia HBPA Gets a Permanent Home
3/12/2005 6:13:02 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

After years of offering benevolence services from a temporary trailer near barn three at Colonial, the Virginia HBPA may get the chance to move into a permanent building this season. A site has been approved beside the existing Virginia Racing Commission building and soccer field and will house counselors, chaplains, interns, and HBPA staff. The Secretary of the Harness Association will also finally find a permanent home there, continuing the positive and productive relationship between Thoroughbred and Harness racing at Colonial.

The new building will have a porch overlooking the track and will include offices, a meeting room for GEP and other educational programs, and a recreation area. It should be ready by the time racing starts in June.

New Groom Elite Program Unveiled
3/12/2005 6:12:06 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

Colonial continues to lead the way in horseman’s education and will pilot another new Groom Elite course this season. The class is geared towards new owners and helping them master the intricacies of owning Thoroughbred racehorses (which really ought to come with a handbook or user’s manual, but does not).

It takes a veritable village of people, effort, and expertise to make a successful racehorse - a village that can be overwhelming for a new owner to navigate. This is made even more challenging by the fact that every state has its own rules and procedures. The class will try to demystify racing’s rules, regulations and licensing procedures, impart the most up to date information on medications and testing, as well as prepare owners for the realities of the ups and downs of racing, vet and training bills, and more.

Election Results
3/12/2005 6:11:15 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

That system expanded a bit more in November when Virginia voters approved three new SWFs in Henry, Scott, and Westmoreland counties. Two sites, in Greene County and the city of Manassas Park, were defeated. Virginia now has a total of nine facilities approved, with six currently in operation. The three new sites will hopefully be licensed and running by the end of 2005.

The state has authorized the operation of ten sites, so one more may be voted on and opened in the future. The income generated from these and future SWFs will help Colonial Downs offer more than $200,000 in daily purse money and remain competitive with neighboring states like Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, who all benefit from slots income.

Colonial Downs Racing Dates Set
3/12/2005 6:10:12 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

Subject to approval by the Virginia Racing Commission, the 2005 summer meet at Colonial will run 37 days from June 17 through August 6, and another three days over the Labor Day weekend, for a total of 40 days, an increase from 34 days in 2004. Continuing the growth trend of Virginia’s young racing program, the average daily purses at the summer meet will be $200,000. The Labor Day weekend event will showcase the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup, a new stakes for 3-year-olds, and offer $300,000 in daily purses (not counting the Turf Cup).

The Turf Cup is part of an envisioned “Grand Slam of Grass”, where a $2 million bonus would be awarded to any horse that is able to win the following four turf races in the same year: the $750,000 Virginia Derby in July, the Secretariat at Arlington OR the Hall of Fame at Saratoga in August (to be determined), the Colonial Turf Cup in September and the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf in October. The bonus is offered by Jacobs Entertainment, the holding company that owns Colonial, and could grow to $10 million in the future.

“All this expansion depends on increasing the handle at the satellite wagering facilities (SWFs), Which in turn means expanding the whole system,” says new Virginia HBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo.

Colonial Downs Schedule Includes $2-Million Grass Bonus Scheme
2/3/2005 9:15:50 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/2/2005 8:14:23 AM Last Updated: 2/3/2005 7:57:04 AM

A $2-million "Grand Slam of Grass" bonus and a three-day Labor Day Weekend Turf Festival highlight a proposal prepared by Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association that will be reviewed by the Virginia Racing Commission Feb 16. A new $250,000 stakes race, the Colonial Turf Cup for 3-year-olds is part of the proposal.

Colonial Downs would pay a $2 million bonus to the Grand Slam winner. The "bases" for the Grand Slam would be comprised of the $500,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT) at Colonial Downs, either the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park or the $150,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga, the new $250,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs, and the $2,000,000 John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).

The plan isn't specific on whether the Virginia Derby winner could choose the Secretariat or Hall of Fame race as "second base," or whether it will be determined in upcoming weeks. The length of the Colonial Turf Cup hasn't been determined but is expected to be at least one mile.

It's a lot to ask, but the Grand Slam of Grass could be won. In 2004, Kitten's Joy won the Virginia Derby, the Secretariat Stakes, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) against older horses and was second in the Breeders' Cup Turf. At year's end, he was honored with an Eclipse Award as champion turf male.

"Kitten's Joy is the type of horse that could have swept all of them," said Frank Petramalo, a member of the Virginia HBPA board of directors.

At the Feb. 16 commission meeting, Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA will request approval of 40 days of live racing at Colonial Downs in 2005. Colonial Downs held 34 days of racing in 2004.

The expanded racing season would open June 17, the Friday after the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) as it traditionally does. For the first time, the summer meet would overlap with racing at Saratoga. These 37 days of racing would offer an average of $200,000 a day in purse money.

A turf festival concept that has been a priority for Colonial's CEO and chairmen Jeffrey Jacobs is part of the proposal. An all turf three-day racing event offering $300,000 a day in purses over Labor Day weekend is being requested coinciding with the "America's Day at the Races."

"The track used to open on Labor Day when we raced in the fall. We've been there and done that at that time of year," said John Mooney, general manager of Colonial Downs.

Colonial Downs and VHBPA also agreed on a tentative two-year racing plan. In 2006, Colonial would host 39 days of racing with average purses of at least $200,000 along with the three-day Turf Festival. The purse for the Colonial Turf Cup would increase to $500,000. In 2007, 50 days of live racing with a 47-day summer meet and three-day turf festival is proposed.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

November Elections
12/14/2004 9:26:32 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

Virginia is currently voting on the addition of five new off-track betting (OTB) sites in Manassas Park and the counties of Greene, Scott, Henry and Westmoreland. Virginia operates six sites, including the recent addition of Vinton, so if approved, the total number of OTBs could reach 11. Since the present state legislation allows for only 10 licenses, further campaigning may be necessary. Results will appear in the next issue.

The vote was a focus at the Virginia HBPA membership meeting held on October 8 at the Sporting Library in Middleburg, Virginia, where a campaign strategy based on communication and education was stressed. In particular, the fact that racing is a large part of the state’s agribusiness was stressed. Also at the meeting, assistant controller Ken Hartsell demonstrated the new online account wagering program, as well as the steps for using PhoneBet.

12/14/2004 9:25:48 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

In keeping with supporting education, the Virginia HBPA offered its first scholarships in 2004. Seven awards, ranging from $400 to $1,000, were given to Virginia horsemen looking to advance their knowledge and skills in both the equine and non-equine realms. Recipients used the money for studies in art, barn architecture, equine massage, equine science, vet tech, and equine business. This year’s scholarship winners were Suzanne Paulette, Leah Palmer, Karen Dennehy, Sean Chapman, Lindsey Chapman, Natalie Benson and Barbara DeBoise.

Benson, a freshman at Colorado State University concentrating in Equine Science, was grateful for her award. She commented, “It is good to have a scholarship program geared towards young people pursuing college with a future in the horse racing industry in mind.”

DeBoise, who has galloped and trained horses for years, was similarly pleased with the new program. She just completed her first course in Equine Massage and said, “I would not have been able to do it without the scholarship. It is a wonderful opportunity, and I am so thankful.”

Groom Elite Basic
12/14/2004 9:25:00 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

Although the Virginia HBPA is now in its eighth year of helping horsemen, it is still making great strides and celebrating milestone firsts. A committed supporter of education and the Groom Elite Program, Colonial test-drove a brand new course this summer, “Introduction to Grooming the Racehorse” - or “the Basic”. This two-day course was offered once in June and then again in July and was aimed at newcomers to the world of racing.

Employing a combination of lectures, slide presentation, demonstrations, and hands-on experience, the material included equine colors and markings, parts of the horse, correct haltering, and various ways to run a shank, shedrow etiquette, safety, grooming, leading, signs of colic, setting a stall, and more.

Attendees in both sections of the course included everyone from beginner horsemen seeking to get into the business to veteran racetrackers hoping to learn something new. The curriculum occasionally went beyond the basics to more advanced turnout and bandaging, but everyone contributed questions and offered expertise.

The course, offered in both English and Spanish, was taught by GEP instructor and program coordinator Chris Miller, who says that, “Colonial is very supportive of our programs and education in general. They seem to go out of their way to enhance life on the backside.”

Miller says she has taken a part of the “Basic” course and used it to help educate youth groups and that it is “going over extremely well.”

In the past few years, Colonial has twice offered the 40-hour Groom Elite 101 certification course, the Advanced 201 course one time, and now the Basic course.

According to Miller, “Colonial is the only track to have given all the courses we have to offer.”

Virginia commission stalled on account wagering licenses
9/24/2004 9:51:53 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/23/2004 1:20:00 PM ET

A lack of an agreement between potential account wagering providers and Colonial Downs and Virginia horsemen regarding source market fees for account wagering providers has prevented the Virginia Racing Commission from considering the applications of four providers.

America Tab, Television Games Network, XpressBet, and Inc. have all applied for an account wagering license in Virginia, but the commission is prohibited by state statute from considering an application until the applicant independently reaches an agreement with the state’s only track and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Stan Bowker, executive secretary of the commission, said that commissioners at their September 22 meeting decided to look into the possibility of changing the state’s account wagering statutes in the hopes of speeding the process along. The Virginia General Assembly reconvenes in January, and Bowker said that the commission’s Code Revision Committee would like to have recommendations in place by December.

Colonial Downs is the state’s only licensed account wagering provider, which is a part-source in the rift between the 19 tracks in the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative, a simulcast purchasing cooperative, and the New York Racing Association. The cooperative decided to boycott NYRA’s signal when it learned that Virginia and New Hampshire would be unable to offer NYRA on their account wagering menus because of an exclusive agreement NYRA has with TVG. The boycott began September 15 and was still in place through Wednesday’s racing.

"That was discussed, and the commission certainly had some concerns because it affects customers," Bowker said. "It expressed wanting to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible."—Ed DeRosa

Rain or Shine, Virginia Has a Footprint of Success
9/11/2004 11:17:19 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

In spite of the wettest June in Virginia’s history, as well as rainfall every day for the first half of July, Colonial Downs summer racing was, once again, an unqualified success. With four more racing days than in 2003, the overall meet spanned June 11 through July 26. The famously resilient Secretariat turf course held its own on all but 13 days, when racing was moved to the dirt.

In the past, typical dry summer seasons allowed up to 90% of Colonial’s races to be held on the turf. The races that were contested on the grass this year attracted the high average of 9.8 starters per race, the same as in the previous year. Trainers have consistently lauded the benefits of both Colonial’s turf and dirt tracks, The turf course, with its wide, sweeping turns, has been called everything from spectacular to therapeutic.

Just as well known and appreciated among horsemen is the responsive service provided by the Virginia HBPA at the Colonial Downs meet. Backside programs and services ensured comforts such as air conditioning, screening, chaplain services, recreational programs, and race day picnics.

Rain could not dampen the spirits of Virginia racegoers and bettors. More people attended Virginia’s pari-mutuel races than ever before, and on-track betting was at an all-time high of $6,717,620 for the 34-day meet in New Kent, Virginia, a quiet area between Richmond and Williamsburg.

Several million dollar marks were reached during the Colonial race meet. The newly instituted Virginia Million Day, on July 10, offered a million dollars in purses. Virginia’s signature race, the $500,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. IIIT), was won by won for the third straight year by jockey Edgar Prado, this time aboard Dale Roman-trained Kitten’s Joy, owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey.

Three million dollars was bet on July 10 alone. The card also featured two excellent $200,000 races for fillies and mares. The All Along Breeders Cup (Gr. IIIT) was won by Courtland Farms’ Film Maker, also with Prado aboard for his second straight All Along victory. The inaugural running of the Virginia Oaks saw Art Fan in the winner’s circle for trainer Hamilton Smith, adding to Smith’s million in all-time earnings at Colonial. Last year’s leading trainer at Colonial Downs, Smith ranked third this season behind Phil Schoenthal, who earned leading trainer honors with 22 wins, the second-best in Colonial’s history.

Fifty-three wins in 207 mounts launched the meet’s leading rider, Ryan Fogelsonger, into the millionaire’s club, with a million dollars in race meet earnings.

It appears that, rain or shine, Colonial Downs continues to have the footing for successful Virginia racing.

Colonial Downs sets records for 2004 meeting
7/27/2004 10:12:51 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 7/27/2004 9:08:00 PM ET

Colonial Downs concluded its 34-day meeting on July 26 with record-high total handle and increases in average daily on-track handle and total attendance, but decreases in average daily attendance and out-of-state wagering.

With four extra days, the total handle was $6,717,620, an all-time record for the New Kent, Virginia, track. The average daily handle of $197,577 also was a record.

Total import handle was $27,367,823, a decrease from last year’s record of $29,488,341. The average daily import handle was $804,936, also down from last year’s all-time high of $982,945.

Total attendance of 73,270 was the second-best in the eight-year history of the track, with an average daily attendance of 2,155, which was a slight decrease from last year’s 2,193.

The inaugural "Virginia Million" day gave the track it’s best ever one-day handle of $3,084,466.

For the second year in a row, Ryan Fogelsonger was the meet’s leading rider, with 53 wins from 204 mounts, 17 more than Horacio Karamanos. Apprentice Christopher Van Hassel was the leading bug rider with 31 winners, good enough for third overall in the standings.

Phil Schoenthal was the top trainer with 22 wins, with Jonathan Sheppard finishing second with 16 wins.

Virginia’s Hard Work Pays off in Millions
6/4/2004 4:44:38 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2004 

This year’s July 10 Virginia Derby Day embodies million dollar milestones for pari-mutuel racing in the Commonwealth.

It began with the momentous announcement last fall that the Virginia Derby itself had received graded status. The $500,000, mile-and-a-quarter turf contest had been attracting Triple Crown contenders, large crowds and ESPN coverage.

Joining this year’s Derby on the Virginia card at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia will be a new race, the $200,000 Virginia Oaks. The inaugural mile-and-an-eighth turf run will bring together a field of good three-year-old fillies.

Complementing the Derby and the Oaks is Colonial’s All Along Breeders’ Cup Stakes (Gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares, three and up, which also sports a $200,000 purse. Won in the past by such stars as Beverly Steinman’s Paul Fout-trained Colstar, the All Along solidifies the triangle of Derby Day stakes run over Colonial’s renowned Secretariat turf course.

Add these three top contests to the day’s other race purses, and you have the first million dollar purse day for Colonial Downs.

This year’s summer meet in Virginia extended its race days to 34, with 15 stakes races. With some tracks struggling just to maintain status quo, how has Virginia’s lone pari-mutuel meet managed to blossom? Literally, it has something to do with planting trees on the backside.

From purses to picnics, the Virginia HBPA has taken a direct interest in everything that impacts horsemen at the meet. This year, the Virginia HBPA initiated plans to plant shade trees in the barn area.

In past seasons, as well as this year, the Virginia HBPA has provided bread and butter backside comforts such as beds, mattresses and dorm air conditioning for horsemen at the meet. Not content with supplying just the basics, the Virginia HBPA has initiated educational programs such as the Groom Elite, as well as recreational opportunities to entertain backside workers and break up the monotony. A former jockey turned reverend serves as the race meet chaplain, and services take place in English and Spanish.

One of the most significant contributions made by the Virginia HBPA has taken place during the off season. This past year, the Virginia HBPA Board lobbied legislators heavily to help pass a bill increasing the number of possible OTBs from six to ten. By fostering a good relationship with Colonial Downs track management and other Virginia horsemen interests, the Virginia HBPA was able to present a united front and break through seemingly impenetrable political opposition. As the critical vote grew near, Virginia HBPA Board members knocked on doors in the capitol building. President Althea Richards shipped in her near millionaire, Punch Line, to the streets of Richmond to create a splash and photo ops. It worked. The seemingly hopeless vote passed in favor of more OTBs, thus, more income for purse money.

This year’s Colonial Downs meet, which runs from June 11 through July 26, shows what a grass roots effort of motivated horsemen can do. The groundwork has been laid for racing expansion in Virginia.

Plus Four in ‘04
3/13/2004 12:59:46 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2004 

Virginia’s successful summer race meet, held at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia, will be extended by four days this year. This follows the pattern established in 2003, when four additional race days were added to the previous schedule. Kicking off on Friday, June 11, racing will continue through Monday, July 26. As always, Wednesdays and Thursdays will be dark.

For a stall application, contact Racing Secretary Clayton Beck at Laurel/Pimlico (800-638-1859) or at Colonial Downs (888-482-8722). The condition book will be available online at

Virginia Derby Makes the Grade
3/13/2004 12:59:05 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2004 

Virginia’s signature race, the $500,000 Virginia Derby, will be run for the first time as a Grade 3 in 2004. Contested this year on Saturday, July 10, the mile and a quarter turf race is the highlight of Virginia’s Summer Turf Festival.

Colonial’s famed Secretariat Turf Course is considered to be one of the finest, most resilient turf tracks in the nation. During the past three years, a minimum of 80% of the races have been run over the turf at Colonial Downs.

Politics Not as Usual
3/13/2004 12:58:18 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2004 

Since Virginia’s last pari-mutuel meet in the summer of 2003, racing has received some long-awaited support from the political arena. In 2003, a key vote passed in Richmond that paved the way for the expansion of racing in Virginia. During the fall of 2003, a critical local referendum was passed clearing the way for a Satellite Wagering Facility in Vinton, Virginia. In early February of 2004, the Virginia Senate passed a bill that would increase the number of the state’s Satellite Wagering Facilities from six to ten.

Virginia HBPA as Racetrack Resource
3/13/2004 12:57:42 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2004 

Virginia’s HBPA has a viable and visible presence on the Colonial Downs backside. Known for its participation and advocacy in creating good living conditions for horsemen, the Virginia HBPA offers a wide range of backside services. The horsemen’s organization constantly works to make the race meet comfortable and enjoyable for horsemen. It was the Virginia HBPA which installed air conditioners in the dorm rooms to combat the summer heat, supplied beds and mattresses, sun screening, telephone and internet services, recreational and religious services.

The Virgnia HBPA sponsored the popular Groom Elite Program, which was well attended the past two seasons. For information, contact the Virginia HBPA in Warrenton, Virginia at (540) 347-0033 or visit the Virginia HBPA website at

Your Board of Directors
3/13/2004 12:56:54 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2004 

Recent elections resulted in the following members of the Virginia HBPA:

President - Althea Richards

Vice President - Frank Petramalo

Treasurer - John Hanna

Directors - Susan Chatfield-Taylor, Susan Cooney, Suzanne Dempsey, Donna Dennehy, Paul Fout, Gillian Gordon-Moore, Susan Hart, Diana L. McClure, Donna Rogers, Randolph D. Rouse, and Susan Shipp.

Colonial Downs wants more racing days in 2004
12/22/2003 9:04:17 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

A possible overlap of race days and an amendment to the contract between horsemen and Colonial Downs forced the Virginia Racing Commission to table its decision on the New Kent, Virginia, track’s request to race 34 dates in 2004, four more days than last year when the track posted a record total handle.

Colonial Downs requested 34 dates from June 11 until July 26 on a Friday through Tuesday schedule except for the last week of the season when closing day would be on a Monday. Laurel Park is scheduled to open on July 22.

"The Virginia Racing Commission supports Colonial Downs wanting to expand its dates, but we want Maryland to be on board with this," said Stan Bowker, executive secretary of the Virginia Racing Commission. "So, we’ll send it back to Maryland and then come to a decision at our next meeting."

Colonial Downs, the Maryland Jockey Club tracks of Laurel and Pimlico Race Course, and Timonium have a four-track circuit of race dates in Maryland and Virginia. Most Maryland horsemen go to Colonial for the meet there when there is no other live Thoroughbred racing in Maryland rather than other nearby locations such as Charles Town in West Virginia or Delaware Park.

Bowker said that the Virginia Racing Commission wants the blessing of the Maryland Racing Commission and Laurel and to avoid overlapping dates.

Another issue related to the dates request was an amendment to Colonial Downs’s contract with the Virginia Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association. A vote approving 34 racing days would also have approved the amendment as well, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

With the amendment, the Thoroughbred horsemen agreed to delay the track’s obligation to open an off-track betting parlor in Chesapeake, Virginia, if the track puts up $1.2-million for purses of the projected $1.6-million handle loss from not having the OTB open. The track also receives a discount on funds contractually due horsemen that otherwise would have been forfeited without the amendment.

"I was reluctantly persuaded to approve the contract," Commission Chairwoman Robin Williams said. "I’m very dismayed to see this amendment. It’s a massive giveaway to Colonial Downs and totally unwarranted. If we [had voted on Wednesday], I would [have] disapprove[d]."

The ultimate goal is for Colonial Downs to offer 50 days of racing for $200,000 in purses a day by 2007. That would require at least four more OTBs in the state to help fund purses, according to HBPA attorney Frank Petramalo.—Ed DeRosa

Virginia Racing in the Winner’s Circle
11/30/2003 5:04:55 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2003 

According to the current trend, slow and steady wins the race for horsemen in Virginia. With handle growing steadily since horsemen and Colonial Downs embraced summer racing several years ago, Virginia’s only pari-mutuel meet has been able to velcro a few additional race days to its meet each year. The Virginia HBPA has fostered a commitment to the slow but steady growth of a fiscally responsible, manageable meet, with good purses over a top-notch racetrack.

The 2003 meet at Colonial Downs recorded a record high handle of $36,090,262 for 30 days of racing. The daily average total handle was also a record - $1,203,009. Nearly $2.5-million dollars was bet on Virginia Derby Day. While total attendance was up, average attendance failed to make any significant gains.

The dilemma arose of being able to attract enough people to the racetrack’s relatively short meet to fund purses for the desired number of additional race days. Even with full fields averaging 9.8 horses per race and marketing approaches such as using former The Monkees singer and race rider Davy Jones as spokesperson for Colonial Downs, the live handle did not point toward enough future race days to ultimately satisfy horsemen.

In 2002, the Virginia HBPA, along with Colonial Downs, committed to generating the needed revenues by adding satellite wagering facilities. On the surface, this might seem a simple business decision. However, in Virginia - the very home of horse racing itself - venues for pari-mutuel betting have traditionally been tricky propositions. In the late 1990s, Virginia experienced several failed referendum attempts in different parts of the state.

On November 4 of this year, however, a victory for pari-mutuel horse racing was won in Vinton, Virginia, a town adjacent to Roanoke. A referendum in favor of a satellite wagering facility passed by a vote of 858 to 838.

Close votes are no stranger to Virginia horsemen. In 2002, a bill designed to benefit the future of horse racing lost in the legislature by one vote. In 2003, however, a similar bill was revived, which ultimately led to the winning referendum in Vinton.

It is estimated that if a Vinton, Virginia, satellite wagering facility is approved by the Virginia Racing Commission, it carries the potential to fund five to six additional days of live racing in Virginia. In addition to the possible Vinton facility, Colonial Downs is opening a new satellite wagering facility in South Richmond in mid-November.

The collaborative goals of Virginia horsemen and Colonial Downs continue to make measured, long strides toward a longer, ever-stronger race meet.

Winning Ways at Colonial Downs
10/8/2003 2:42:26 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2003 

Trainer Noel Twyman did not have anything running at Colonial Downs on Tuesday, July 15, so he took a busman’s holiday. Watching the races in the late afternoon sun, he had a shaded view of the action. The new cotton cap he was wearing sported the embroidered words, “Best Kept Barn.” In addition to winning and earning checks with his runners at the Virginia meet, Twyman had scored one of the Virginia HBPA’s prestigious barn awards. His shedrow had finished first, and he had a hat to prove it.

At the Colonial Downs summer race meet, there are many ways for horsemen to win on both the front and back sides.

First and foremost, the facility is considered to be one of the best in racing. Both the dirt and grass surfaces are excellent for training and running. The famed Secretariat Turf Course held up despite serious weather challenges. Seemingly endless spring torrents of rain had shut down many grass courses; but Colonial, with its cards stacked heavily for turf racing, carried on.

Virginia Derby Day attracted 7,000 spectators and a record handle. The Derby crowd had heavily favored the “A” team of Bob and Beverly Lewis’s Bob Baffert-trained and Pat Day-ridden Senior Swinger. But victory was snatched by Silver Tree, brother to last year’s Derby winner, Orchard Park.

Best-selling author Peter Vegso bred and owns Silver Tree. Accompanying him to the winner’s circle was a copy of his newest book, “Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul.” The Derby victory on Silver Tree gave Edgar Prado his second stakes win of the day. Earlier, he had captured the All Along Breeders’ Cup (Gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares aboard Dressed To Thrill (IRE).

Last year’s leading apprentice rider, Ryan Fogelsonger, returned to Colonial Downs a full-fledged front runner for the 2003 jockey title, which he clinched. A relative newcomer in 2002, Fogelsonger’s knack of winning attracted frequent “jockey” bets from racetrack crowds.

Hamilton Smith made it two in a row as the meet’s leading trainer.

Competition in the Colonial paddock offered more than pre-race anticipation. Grooms were vying for the Virginia HBPA “Best Turned Out” title in each race, an honor that is accompanied by a cash award.

On the backside, the level of horsemen comforts continued to be increased in 2003. Working together, the Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs installed a second bath house and expanded kitchen facilities. Virginia HBPA air conditioners once again cooled dorm rooms, and Virginia HBPA screening shaded the shedrows. The popular Groom Elite educational program and chaplain services were sponsored by the Virginia HBPA.

With plans from Colonial Downs to open a fifth OTB in Richmond, many horsemen hope that the growing success of Virginia’s brief summer meet will continue to expand in length as well as popularity and services.

Colonial Downs posts record handle
7/24/2003 10:48:22 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Colonial Downs reported record total handle and on-track handle for its 30-day meet, which concluded on Tuesday.

The total handle of $36,090,262 was a 16.3% increase from the previous high of $31,035,401, set last year in a 26-day meet.

The on-track handle of $5,677,943 was up 3.1% from the previous record of $5,507,832 in 1997.

Total attendance for the meet was 65,796, up 14.8% from 57,293 last year.

Hamilton Smith won his second straight training title with 17 wins from 92 starters, seven more victories than Ferris Allen III in second with 11.

Ryan Fogelsonger collected the riding title with 42 victories from 167 mounts, four more wins than Michael Pino’s 38.

Equine industry on the rise in Virginia, report says
7/14/2003 3:40:21 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

On the eve of one of its premier racing events, the state of Virginia took time to recognize one of its most celebrated industries. The Virginia horse industry was responsible for nearly $803-million in business sales in 2001 and also created 22,000 jobs, according to a report released during an industry forum held at Colonial Downs on Friday before the start of the Virginia Derby day racing.

Additionally, the state’s horse farms have helped to preserve open land, especially in Northern Virginia, where pressure from developers is high, according to the report.

The forum was led by state Secretary of Commerce and Trade Michael Schewel and highlighted how efforts from various organizations have led to growth in the state’s horse industry, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Featured speaker D. G. Van Clief Jr., a Virginia native who is president of Breeders’ Cup Ltd. and vice chairman of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, detailed how Virginia’s horse industry, fifth largest in the country, has mirrored the success of the industry as a whole.

"I am as genuinely encouraged about the condition of the Thoroughbred industry as I have been in 20 years," said Van Clief, who is a partner and chief executive of his family's Nydrie Stud in Virginia.

OTB Expansion, Account Wagering Set in Virginia
6/26/2003 12:52:12 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Racing fans in Virginia probably will have more outlets at which to place wagers in the coming months. New off-track betting parlors and account wagering are expected to increase handle in Virginia, and ultimately lead to more racing days at Colonial Downs.

The Virginia Racing Commission, which met June 24, set a special meeting date of July 1 to tour Colonial Downs' proposed OTB parlor in Richmond, south of the James River. Colonial Downs currently operates an OTB parlor north of the river. Another OTB parlor is proposed for Chesapeake, where Colonial Downs already operates a betting facility.

The commission is ready to introduce regulations for account wagering. Commissioner Anne Poulson and Stan Bowker, executive director of the commission, presented draft regulations to the commission.

Under the draft regulations, all of Virginia is identified as the source-market area because Colonial Downs is the only licensed racetrack in the state. Account wagering companies would be required to be licensed after they disclose the same information as racetrack licensees and have a business plan approved by the commission.

In addition, account-wagering companies would be required to have an approved contract with Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. The placing of wagers through companies not regulated by the commission would be subject to criminal penalties.

"Account wagering has been and is being conducted in the commonwealth in an unregulated environment," said Poulson, who chairs the commission's rules committee. Poulson said the regulations protect the integrity of racing in the state and allow flexibility to account for changes in the industry.

On track, racing officials are pleased with Colonial Downs' live meet thus far, especially in regard to on-track attendance. After the first 10 days of the meet, attendance on live racing is up 10.5% over the same period last year. Handle is up a little more than 3% from the same period.

"The meeting in my opinion is going very well," said John Mooney, who oversees the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit. "I think that our five o' clock post time will result in a very significant increase in attendance."

Mooney attributes some of the interest in this year's meet to the positive publicity the industry has received with this year's Triple Crown and the upcoming Seabiscuit movie. As of May, wagering at Colonial Downs' off-track betting parlors is up 5.7%.

Copyright © 2003 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Horsemen Programs and Services
6/11/2003 10:51:51 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

The popular horsemen’s programs and services are once again being administered by the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association. Race day picnics, groom and barn awards, van service, recreational activities, air conditioners, sun shades for the barns, and the Groom Elite Program are available for horsemen. The Virginia HBPA offices can be found in the Virginia HBPA trailer on the backside.

For information contact: Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, 38 Garrett St., Warrenton, VA 20186, phone (540) 347-0033, website:, e-mail:

It Pays To Have a Virginia-Bred
6/11/2003 10:50:41 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

Seven of the Colonial Downs $50,000 stakes races are Virginia-bred restricted: the June 14 Punch Line Stakes, June 15 John D. Marsh Stakes, June 21 Somethingroyal Stakes, June 22 Oakley Stakes, June 29 Meredith Bailes Memorial Stakes, July 4 Brookmeade Stakes, and July 13 Daniel Van Clief Stakes.

The Virginia program offers three ways for a foal to qualify as a registered Virginia-bred: (1) to be sired by a Virginia stallion and foaled in the state, (2) to be foaled in Virginia and have the mare bred back to a Virginia stallion, and (3) to be foaled out of a mare residing in Virginia from September 1 of the previous year until foaling.

In addition to restricted races, the Virginia program supplements unrestricted race purses up to 40% for Virginia-breds, paying down to sixth place. Last year, Virginia-bred supplemental awards from the Colonial Downs meet amounted to $180,000.

This Year’s Stakes Are High at Colonial Downs
6/11/2003 10:49:52 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

Building on two seasons of highly successful summer racing, Virginia’s Colonial Downs has upped the ante of its stakes races. Twelve $50,000 stakes purses will be contested on weekends and July 4 during the June 13 through July 20 meet in New Kent, Virginia.

Saturday, July 12, is Virginia Derby Day. For the second year in a row, the Virginia Derby will carry a $500,000 purse. Run over the highly acclaimed Colonial Downs turf course at a mile and a quarter, the Virginia Derby has become the meet’s signature race, as well as its main social attraction.

Derby Day features two other significant stakes races. The All Along Breeders’ Cup Stakes (Gr. III) for fillies and mares, three and up, is contested at a mile and an eighth on the turf. Past winners of the All Along have included such luminaries as Beverly Steinman’s $1 million winner Colstar, who was trained by Virginia HBPA Board Member Paul Fout.

Another Derby Day highlight is the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Steeplechase (NSA-III). At two and a quarter miles over national fences, the “Zeke” showcases Colonial Downs’ jump races.

Horse Racing Supporting Horse Racing
4/25/2003 9:26:54 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

During a Blue Ribbon Panel study in 2001-02, Virginia horsemen shared their views about their six-year-old racing industry and came to one basic consensus - that Virginia racing needed the ability to support itself.

Horsemen generally agreed that this would entail new legislative initiatives, such as widening the state’s pari-mutuel referendum law to include town voting opportunities and a larger number of allowable OTBs. The idea was either to induce Colonial Downs to operate more OTBs or to encourage outside competition. The first attempt at legislating the changes failed by one vote in the 2002 legislative session. In January of 2003, a similar legislative package began working its way through the system by being approved in the Senate Committee on General Laws. By the time you read this article, the real test will have come when the bill was presented in the House.

The way things stand, with no foreseeable hope for a cash infusion from slots or state subsidies in the Old Dominion, the Virginia HBPA is embracing the position that Virginia’s racing future rests in its handle. The trick is how to bolster that handle. The obvious, and perhaps only, financial solution seems to be the expansion of OTBs in the state.

While betting on live racing has increased dramatically during the past two summer meets, enough to add a few days to the meet, a 30-day betting spree cannot totally support the purse structure. Revenue from Colonial Downs’ current OTBs kicks in to complete the $200,000 per day purse distribution.

Virginia HBPA Vice President Peter Burnett has estimated that if, during the next ten to 15 years, Virginia could develop 20 OTBs with an average Thoroughbred handle of $25 million per OTB, the estimated annual handle generated would be $500 million.

“At 5%, that is $25 million from OTBs alone,” says Burnett. “That is 125 days of racing at the current rate of $200,000 day in purses. The 125 days would, of course, also produce additional funds in signal fees and live handle, which could result in increased daily purses or more days.

Dramatically increasing the number of live race days should exponentially benefit all aspects of Virginia’s Thoroughbred industry, especially the breeding operations. Burnett urges the “old fashioned virtues of persistence, patience, and unity” in achieving such desired projections.

Throughout the Commonwealth’s history, Virginia’s horses have been able to generate enough income to support farms, employees, attending services, and spectator enjoyment. The beauty and character of the state owes much to its equine agribusiness. Like a growing child attempting to leave the nest, the Thoroughbred industry now needs encouragement and support to stand on its own. The Commonwealth should value the fact that this is one industry not asking for a government handout (really, what do slot machines have to do with the actual sport of horse racing, anyway?).

New Horsemen’s Contract Promotes Growth
4/25/2003 9:25:54 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

The Virginia HBPA got a unanimous nod from the Virginia Racing Commission to approve a new contract between the horsemen and Colonial Downs, the state’s only pari-mutuel track. Extending through the last day of December of 2004, the contract was the result of lengthy Virginia HBPA negotiations designed to expand Virginia racing from 30 days in 2003 to a total of 50 days per year within the next five years. The funding of purse money for the additional days is to be generated from additional off-track betting parlors.

Colonial Downs, which currently operates four of six OTBs allowed by state law, contractually committed to building two additional OTBs. New facilities are planned in South Richmond and Chesapeake, areas which are already authorized by referenda. Colonial Downs also agreed to revisit Northern Virginia, which has so far resisted pari-mutuel betting by voting “no” in the referendum process. The most populous area in the state according to a recent Virginia agricultural survey, Northern Virginia also houses the largest equine population in the Commonwealth.


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