Thoroughbred racing delay costing New Kent County

Impacts are far-reaching

“During May, June and July we are usually packed,” said Star Motel owner Himansu Patel. “We get the race fans and the people working at the track, but this year, we haven't had much business.”

Normally, by this time in May, a lot of the horse owners, trainers, and their “entourages” show up at the track for eight weeks and use local businesses for tack and feed, food and recreation, said VHBPA executive director Frank Petramalo.

The impact of losing the Colonial Downs racing season trickles down to many, including those who provide feed and hay. Brad Wickham, owner of Montpelier Feed & Seed in Montpelier Va., will also be hit financially. feel the loss if the season is canceled.

“I deal with a lot of people who race there,” he said. He gets referrals and networks whenever he goes to New Kent with feed deliveries, and expects to lose about $25,000 if the season is canceled.

“I'll just have to deal with it.”

Nancy Jones, owner of Providence Forge Hardware, is also concerned about how it might affect her business.

“If they don't have the thoroughbred season this year, I could lose at least $5,000, and that is a lot for a small business,” Jones said.

According to Jones, Providence Forge Hardware provides the horsemen with pine shavings, feed, horse water, snaps and eye hooks.

“We bring in buckets of snaps and eye hooks for the tack needs,” she said. “It's always important business to us because summer is the slowest time of the year because of the heat,” she said. “It definitely concerns me because it's going to put a big hurt on the revenue for this county.”

Although George E. Gregory Sr., of Castle Farms Inc. in New Kent County, no longer supplies the racetrack with feed, and a lot of other local farmers grow hay and straw especially for the thoroughbred season, he said.

“Even if they have a thoroughbred season next year, I don't know how many farmers will want to commit to growing it for the racetrack,” said Gregory.

“It's never going to be the same for Colonial Downs, which is such a shame because it's the nicest facility in which I've ever raced my horses. Now, it's not even being used.”

Future is uncertain

In the past few months, the future for the 2014 Colonial Downs thoroughbred season has grown bleak and many of the participating 1,100 thoroughbred horses have been shipped elsewhere.

Horse trainer Karen Godsey, of Eagle Point Farm in Ashland, expects to lose about 20 horses that she has trained for the Colonial Downs thoroughbred season.

Mike and Cindy Stewart of Richmond sent their 5-year-old mare, Sally Oh Sally, to Godsey at Eagle Point for training on March 20. However, they decided in May to move her to Presque Isle Downs, in Erie, Penn.

“I like Colonial Downs because this horse runs well on turf,” Mike Stewart said last month. But the stalemate and lack of progress toward the racing season at Virginia's track led him to find an alternative.

It's not what they wanted. The Pennsylvania track is 500 miles away, making transportation arrangements complicated and expensive since it's not a well-traveled route from Virginia. “We can't participate,” he said.

Another horse owner, Jill Gordon Moore wanted to send her 3-year-old to Godsey to prepare for the Colonial Downs meet. But the stalemate forced her to opt to keep the horse at a northern Virginia farm instead. “Every time you move a horse it spells stress for them,” she said.