Virginia Board OKs Colonial's Management Purchase

The purchase of the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit was approved at a special meeting of the Virginia Racing Commission Sept. 28. The management entity of Colonial Downs was purchased for $10 million by Colonial Downs from the Maryland Jockey Club, which is owned by Magna Entertainment.

The commission tabled approval of the agreement at its Sept. 7 meeting, wanting to know more about the status of racing dates in Maryland, which is proposed to drop from 200 to 112 in 2006.

"There were some questions and a lot of clarification was provided," said Colonial Downs' president Ian Stewart. "Joe De Francis was helpful in explaining the situation in Maryland."

The purchase is expected to be executed Friday and will likely end John Mooney's managerial role with Colonial Downs. Mooney has been president of the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit since 1999. The closing of the deal will effectively extinguish the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit, which was seen as an asset when the unlimited racing license was awarded to Colonial Downs in 1994.

Colonial Downs opened its first off-track center in 1996 and its live racetrack in 1997. According to Stewart, two of Colonial's current executives, Ian Woolnaugh and Jerry Monahan, will run the track operations at the New Kent, Va., track including the remainder of the harness meet that is currently underway at Colonial Downs.

Despite the end of the formal ties between the Maryland Jockey Club and Colonial Downs, the coordination of Thoroughbred racing dates between the two states remains a sensitive issue.

"Because the management agreement is gone, it doesn't mean that the circuit's goals won't remain intact," explained Anne Poulson, who chairs the Virginia Racing Commission. "Both states are going to avoid an overlap of racing dates at all costs."

"I don't think we are going to run into an overlap situation anytime soon," added Stewart.

Officials at Colonial Downs said they are seeking a "national caliber" racing secretary and marketing director to complete their management team, hoping to have the team in place by the end of the year.