Colonial Downs offers loan to new horsemen group to ensure live racing

Track says its suspending negotiations with Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association

Tidewater Review

5:22 PM EDT, May 13, 2014



Colonial Downs continued its commitment to Virginia’s thoroughbred racing industry and provided the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (VHBPA) a new 25-day racing proposal in response to the Virginia Racing Commission’s order of 25 days of thoroughbred racing for 2014.  Similar to the VHBPA’s response to Colonial Downs’ earlier 25-day proposal, the VHBPA rejected the new proposal.  As a consequence, Colonial Downs has suspended further negotiations with the VHBPA.

In negotiations this week, Colonial Downs offered two proposals for 2014 thoroughbred racing.  Colonial Downs affirmed its support for a 25 day, five week meet, if the VHBPA would reimburse Colonial Downs for revenues lost during the VHBPA forced shutdown of thoroughbred wagering.  The parties would be returned to the status quo of the Racing Commission’s original order.  Alternatively, Colonial Downs offered to provide 25 days of racing from July through the fall at Colonial Downs and other traditional venues throughout the state.   The VHBPA rejected both proposals and made no meaningful counteroffers that addressed the economic havoc the VHBPA’s decisions have created.

The Virginia Racing Commission awarded 25 days of thoroughbred racing over five weeks on December 11, 2013.  The VHBPA, however, boycotted the Racing Commission’ award and eventually brought about the cessation of all wagering on thoroughbred racing in Virginia’s off-track wagering facilities on February 4, 2014.  The VHBPA’s decision has cost the stakeholders in Virginia over $2.6 million in pari-mutuel proceeds, including $240,000 to the Commonwealth of Virginia, $125,000 to New Kent County and other localities, $100,000 to the Breeders’ Fund and $670,000 in lost purses.  Colonial Downs has been forced to close wagering facilities and people have lost their jobs as a result.

In the absence of any progress with the VHBPA, Colonial Downs announced that it is reaching out to other Virginia horsemen who desire that thoroughbred racing continue this year at Colonial Downs.  Jeffrey P. Jacobs, the owner of Colonial Downs, stated, “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.  This high-end meet is the future of Virginia thoroughbred racing if it is to thrive.  However, Colonial Downs’ shares the Virginia Racing Commission’s desire to maintain live thoroughbred racing this year and is prepared to make a $2 million interest-free loan to a new, to-be-formed horsemen group.  This loan will facilitate 25 days of thoroughbred races with one day devoted to the Virginia Derby and other nationally graded stakes races. All horsemen interested in racing at Colonial Downs this year should contact Tyler Picklesimer, our Racing Secretary, at (859) 466-2109.” 

This racing schedule provides Virginia horsemen with the opportunity to race their horses numerous times at Colonial Downs over the summer and fall, while also promoting flat racing at the traditionally well-attended fall steeplechase meets. This racing schedule will continue to support the Virginian horsemen, suppliers, vendors and workers who are dependent on racing at Colonial Downs for their livelihoods and vital to Virginia’s agribusiness.   Colonial Downs remains optimistic that Virginians interested in advancing the future of thoroughbred racing in Virginia will step forward to support this racing program in 2014.  

“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.  We will conduct 24 days of harness racing in September and October.  We would like to hold thoroughbred racing as well and look for Virginia thoroughbred horsemen who desire to work with us.” said Jacobs.