Colonial Downs Again Awarded Summer Dates

Colonial Downs was awarded 26 Thoroughbred dates for 2002, and the Virginia track will again race in the summer.

The Virginia Racing Commission approved the schedule at its meeting Wednesday. Average daily purses will remain at $200,000 for the June 21-July 23 meet. For the most part, the track will race on a Friday-through-Tuesday schedule.

"We felt that it has been quite successful," John Mooney, president of the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit, said of summer racing. "We were able to attract people that weren't here previously, and the horsemen were pleased."

Mooney said the 2001 dates provided at 30% increase in live handle, 22% increase in total handle, and a 56% increase in on-track attendance.

Opening day would coincide with the end of Pimlico Race Course's spring meet. Closing day would coincide with the scheduled opening of Laurel Park in Maryland and Saratoga in New York.

"The majority of horseman in Maryland see this as an opportunity for them," Mooney said.

Anne Paulson, who represents the Maryland-Virginia Racing Task Force, said the proposed dates create consistency and stay with a plan that has shown growth. An early proposal calls for 32 live dates in 2003.

"We are hoping to label and brand Colonial as the turf capital of the U.S.," Paulson said. "We want a national reputation (for turf racing. We are offering three or four races a day for Virginia horsemen. Average daily purses of $200,000 allow us to offer something for everybody...high, medium, and low purses."

Paulson said that this year in Maryland, there was a 5% increase in on-track betting when the state's dark days moved from September to June.

A meeting of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association was scheduled for the evening of Nov. 14. Last year, the Maryland THA had objections about Maryland being dark during the summer while Colonial was racing.

The commission set a deadline of February for Colonial Downs to secure purse money for the 2002 meet. A short-term loan is necessary. A revision to the track's security plan is also required prior to opening day.

In regard to the plan to privatize Colonial Downs, Jim Weinberg, counsel for Colonial Downs, said the proxies for the Colonial Downs and GameCo Inc. should be finalized soon. The mailings for the stockholders vote could occur in late December or early January.