Virginia Commission Grants New Track License

The Virginia Racing Commission on Wednesday granted a limited pari-mutuel license to Oak Ridge Racing Associates pending background checks. John and Rhonda Holland presented their proposal for a multi-purpose track that would offer Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and steeplechase racing in Nelson County.

"The base for the thoroughbred track meets the standards for harness racing, so we'll start there," John Holland said. "We are paying as we go. It's a family project as part of the restoration of the estate, and we want to create a country fair atmosphere."

Oak Ridge plans to offer racing at Oak Ridge Estate, a 4,900-acre plantation located about 30 miles south of Charlottesville. The Hollands have been renovating the facility for the past 10 years.

In other business, Colonial Downs chief executive officer Jeffrey Jacobs indicated his role in Virginia could change given the fact he has been unable to get a satisfactory offer on the New Kent County facility. He said he could act as a landlord, or perhaps make Colonial Downs a private company by buying back shares.

Jacobs and Ian Stewart, the track's chief financial officer, had been subpoenaed by the commission to appear at the meeting, and addressed the commission's questions regarding Colonial's financial situation. Refinancing has ensured the track will remain open until at least June, 2002, when the first principal payment on loans are due.

Track general manager John Mooney reported that on-track wagering for the Thoroughbred meet that ended Tuesday totaled $4.5 million on track. The figure, for live racing only, is up from last year.

"Average daily handle was slightly down due to the meet being eight days longer than last year, and competition from Arlington International, which reopened this summer after being closed since 1997," Mooney said.

Total handle for the meet was $27,923,752. There were nine days that generated $1 million in total handle on the live product.

Mooney was pleased with the meet, especially in regard to the 235 turf races held this year. "The turf course looks damaged, but really isn't," he said. "It's dormant due to some cool nights and will be in excellent shape for next year."