Talks Break Down on Colonial Downs Meet

Talks Break Down on Colonial Downs Meet
Photo: Coady Photography
Colonial Downs

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.

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