Task Force: Colonial Will Get Loan to Fund Meet

The Virginia Racing Task Force believes it will obtain a loan to fund purses for the proposed spring-summer meet at Colonial Downs this year, but regulators are concerned there won't be enough money or horses to support the plan.

Attorney Jim Weinberg, the racetrack's representative on the task force, said a commitment letter from Virginia National Bank for a short-term loan is expected by Feb. 26. The loan to the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is needed to fund purses.

Colonial Downs normally begins its meet in September, and by that time sufficient revenue for purses has accrued from simulcasting. With the proposed earlier start, that money won't be available.

Virginia racing commissioner Alan Kirshner reiterated his concern over the schedule during a meeting Wednesday. He cited competition from Delaware Park and Monmouth Park, where purses should average between $275,000 and $300,000.

"If we can't get the horses here, we've got a problem," Kirshner said.
"I wish we could go to our state legislature and come up with that," commissioner Earnest Oare said in regard to $11 million worth of purse supplements New Jersey's Thoroughbred industry is expected to receive this year.

John Mooney, president of the Virginia-Maryland Racing Circuit, said the majority of Maryland horsemen have told him they will race at Colonial Downs as long as purses average $200,000 a day. During past meets, Maryland-based horses have made up about 75% of the stock on the grounds.

The Colonial Downs meet is scheduled for June 10-July 14. The Maryland racing schedule remains up in the air, though a Pimlico Race Course stakes schedule received by The Blood-Horse only goes through June 9. Traditionally, Maryland has had summer racing but hasn't raced in September and early October when Colonial Downs has been open.

In other business, Colonial Downs hopes backstretch conditions will improve through capital improvements and increased services funded by revenue from pari-mutuel breakage. Projects include construction of a $200,000 bathhouse, and the planting of vegetation to control drainage and erosion.

"There are problems that go back to the construction of the facility (in 1997)," said Mooney, who discussed plans for a $150,000 upgrade to the satellite wagering facility in Richmond, Va.

A breakage committee chaired by Peter Burnett, a member of the Virginia HBPA board of directors, submitted a $60,000 request to the racing commission to fund service programs for backstretch personnel.