DeFrancis: Virginia Has Two Weeks to Resolve Conflicts

A Virginia horsemen's group has two weeks to secure a loan that will pay for purse increases at a Colonial Downs summer meet, or summer racing may go back to Maryland.

The Virginia Racing Task Force, which formed specifically to find ways to help develop racing at Colonial Downs, has a letter of commitment from the Virginia National Bank. The approximately $2.3 million loan, however, remains unsecured because of some statutory conflicts related to bonds that would back up the loan.

Maryland Jockey Club president Joe DeFrancis told the Virginia Racing Commission Wednesday that he remains committed to summertime racing at Colonial Downs, but no more than two weeks should be allowed "to get the issue ultimately and finally resolved."

"Due to uncertainties in Maryland and financing, we can't do it today, but we need to get it resolved as expeditiously as possible" DeFrancis said. "I'm optimistic that we can get it resolved in two weeks, but if not, we need to develop alternatives."

The uncertainties in Maryland rest with the Maryland Racing Commission that has not yet awarded racing dates for June and July.

The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association wants summer racing at either Pimlico or Laurel and wants Virginia to run as it has previously in the fall. The Maryland Jockey Club manages Colonial Downs, so racing in Maryland and Virginia has been operated as a circuit.

The Maryland Racing Commission meets March 28th and is expected to make a decision regarding racing in June and July. The Virginia Racing Commission has already awarded racing dates at Colonial Downs from June 9 through July 14.

Also at Wednesday's meeting, the Virginia Racing Commission announced that it is establishing a new and independent task force "to address the issue to grow the industry long term." Representation of the task force will likely consist a few members that have not previously provided much input in order to provide "fresh ideas".

The task force will seek to provide new revenues to the racing industry. Colonial Downs will offer 25 days of Thoroughbred racing and 15 days of harness racing during 2001. Oak Ridge Racing Partnership will offer nine days of harness racing at its new track under construction in Lovingston Virginia during 2001.