Agreement Reached on Colonial Downs Dates, Purses

A task force representing a diversity of racing groups in Virginia has reached an agreement on the industry's future over the next two years. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the agreement provides for a decrease in the number of live Thoroughbred racing dates and an increase in purses at Colonial Downs.

The proposal was submitted to the state racing commission by the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit, Maryland Jockey Club, Virginia Horsemen's Association, Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and Colonial Downs Holding, Inc., which owns the track between Richmond and Williamsburg in New Kent County.

The 25-day 2001 meet would run from June 9 through July 14 on a Friday through Tuesday racing schedule. The average purse would be $200,000. The average this year was $131,000 for a 32-day meet.

"We are cutting the number of days to produce a better quality product," said Task Force chairman Anne Poulson said. "We need to raise our purses in order to get the horses to come."

The task force also recommended a 26-day meet in 2002, with a $200,000 daily average. In 2003, if the plan goes as diagrammed, Colonial Downs would hold two 15-day Thoroughbred meets or one 32-day meet, with $220,000 purses.

According to the Times-Dispatch, the earlier starting date has a downside: the Virginia purse fund -- stocked by a percentage of money bet on Colonial races -- would be well short of the $5 million required to make the daily guarantee. Poulson told the commissioners present - two of the five were absent - the task force is considering two possibilities. It can borrow approximately $3.1 million from the Maryland purse fund or secure a short-term loan by conventional means.

Next year's harness meet at Colonial Downs wasn't resolved although the track and Virginia Harness Horse Association previously settled on 15 days in October and November. The VHHA also agreed to take over promotion of the meet. Colonial Downs spent half of its $300,000 budget for harness promotion during the attendance-starved 40-day meet that ended Tuesday.

(Story, Richmond Times-Dispatch)