Colonial Downs

Colonial Downs

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Negotiations to Lease Colonial Downs Cease

Oak Ridge will conduct harness racing, possible future site for Thoroughbred racing.

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 stateTwinSpires, XpressBet, and TVGhave 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.