The plan to privatize Colonial Downs moved a step closer to fruition Tuesday when the Virginia Racing Commission, after a public hearing and about an hour of deliberation, voted 3-2 to allow the acquisition of Colonial Holdings Inc. by Gameco Inc.
Beverly R. Steinman's homebred Colstar rallied from mid-pack to win Saturday's $150,000 All Along Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT) on firm turf at Colonial Downs. The $90,000 winner's share of the purse takes Colstar past the $1-million mark for career earnings.
Jockey Mario Pino hit double figures for wins in the last two days of racing at Colonial Downs by following his six-win performance on Monday with four wins Tuesday. For the first five days of the meet that opened July 3, Pino has 15 wins, and by the way, he spent one of those days at Monmonth Park.
Only weeks before the scheduled opening of its Thoroughbred meet, Colonial Downs still hasn't secured a loan to fund purses for its summer meet. It appears, though, that track owner Jeffrey Jacobs and some horsemen are prepared to provide the funds in the interim.
The Virginia Racing Commission on Monday approved a revised live racing schedule for Colonial Downs that dovetails with dates in neighboring Maryland. For next year, one racing official has floated a plan to create a three-state circuit -- Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware -- designed to capitalize on each state's assets.
Under the plan approved Wednesday by the Maryland Racing Commission, Thoroughbreds will cease racing in the state from July 8 to Aug. 7. During that period, Colonial Downs, the track in Virginia managed by the Maryland Jockey Club, will run its 25-day meet.
There was little discussion by the Virginia Racing Commission Wednesday about the planned June-July meet at Colonial Downs even though it remains possible there could be racing in Maryland as usual during that period. Colonial Downs gets about 75% of its horses from neighboring Maryland.
In a tense meeting that exposed deep divisions within Maryland's racing community, the state racing commission on Wednesday rejected a plan for ceasing Thoroughbred racing for five weeks this summer so that horses can compete in Virginia. The commission voted 6-2 against the proposal advanced by the Maryland Jockey Club and a task force representing segments of the racing industry in Maryland and Virginia. The plan called for Pimlico and Laurel Park to close for racing from June 10 to July 14 while Colonial Downs, the struggling track near Richmond, conducted a 25-day summer Thoroughbred meet.
On Wednesday, representatives of the Maryland Jockey Club will ask the state's racing commission for permission to cease racing at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park for parts of June and July so that Thoroughbreds can race at Colonial Downs. The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association doesn't support the plan.
Virginia horsemen have two weeks to secure a loan that will allow Colonial Downs to pay an average of $200,000 in purses daily during a summer meet. The two-week deadline also applies to resolving a racing dates conflict between Virginia and Maryland.
The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association has reiterated its position that live racing shouldn't be suspended in the state in June and July, and that Colonial Downs in Virginia should continue to offer Thoroughbred racing in September and early October.
With Colonial Downs in Virginia planning to hold its Thoroughbred meet from June 10-July 14, the Maryland Racing Commission hasn't yet awarded the customary summer dates to Laurel Park. Commission officials said the issue will be resolved at a March meeting after track officials and horsemen agree on a schedule.
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.
Colonial Downs reported Wednesday to the Virginia Racing Commission that the track plans a wide range of capital improvement projects, some of which are in preparation for its spring/summer meet. Projects include construction of a $200,000 bathhouse on the backstretch and establishing vegetation for drainage as well as erosion and sediment control throughout the facility. Opening day for the 2001 meet is June 10, with racing continuing through July 14.
Veteran racing executive Leonard (Lenny) Hale has left his post as vice president of racing for the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park and Pimlico Racecourse. According to a statement from MJC, the organization reached an "amicable parting" as of last Saturday, Jan. 20.
Colonial Downs has received approval to race in June and July this year, but the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association voted earlier in January to maintain the status quo: race in Maryland in June and July, and in Virginia in September. The head of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association says that position hasn't changed, but a board member contends the majority of Maryland horsemen wouldn't mind spending June and July in the Tidewater region.
The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association has recommended that Maryland's racetracks maintain a schedule whereby there is a shutdown in September. That throws the decision on Colonial Downs dates back to the Virginia Racing Commisssion.
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.
A task force made up of a number of horse organizations is likely to propose moving Colonial Downs' fall meet to June and July of 2001. The task force includes representatives of Colonial Downs, the Maryland Jockey Club, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, the Virginia Horseman's Association, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horseman's Association, and the Maryland Horse Breeder's Association. The task force proposal will be presented today to its member groups.
Management at Colonial Downs has reportedly told shareholders it will consider closing its four off-track betting centers in Virginia and rely upon other revenue sources, such as management of video lotteries at truck stops in the state of Louisiana, to help supplement purses at the track.