05/13/2014 6:36PM

Colonial Downs cuts off talks with horsemen's group


Colonial Downs has once again cut off talks with the organization representing trainers in Virginia after the track said the organization rejected a plan that would require it to pay the track for the revenue lost this year due to a shutdown of Thoroughbred simulcasting, the track said late Tuesday.

Colonial broke off the talks six days before a deadline set by the state’s racing commission for the two sides to come to an agreement. Without an agreement by May 19, it’s unlikely that a live Thoroughbred meet will be run in Virginia this year.

Colonial said in the statement that it offered to run Thoroughbred races on 25 dates over a five-week period this summer if the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association agreed to “reimburse Colonial Downs for revenues lost during the VHBPA-forced shutdown of Thoroughbred wagering.”

Colonial has not offered Thoroughbred simulcasts at its OTB parlors in Virginia since early this year, citing the lack of an agreement between the two parties on a live-racing deal. Virginia law requires a live-racing agreement in order for the state’s tracks to offer simulcasts.

Frank Petramalo Jr., the executive director of the Virginia HBPA, said Colonial asked the horsemen to pay the track $1.5 million in reimbursements. Petramalo said he immediately rejected the offer, claiming that the horsemen had also lost $800,000 in purse revenue because of the dispute, with no expectation of regaining those losses.

“That’s how it’s done,” Petramalo said. “Each side bears its own costs in a contract dispute. We’re not going to repay their losses, and we certainly don’t expect them to repay ours.”

Petramalo said the only way Virginia horsemen could pay Colonial would be to use accrued purse funds. Total purse distribution at a meet this year at Colonial was expected to be around $5 million, Petramalo said.

Since late last year, Colonial Downs has pushed horsemen to accept a six-day meet over two weeks this year, but horsemen have balked, instead supporting 25 dates or more over seven weeks. Last week, the Virginia Racing Commission ordered the track and its horsemen to come to terms on a new contract for 25 dates of live racing this year by May 19, but the commission acknowledged it had few options to force the two sides to a deal.

Colonial also said in its statement that “it is reaching out to other Virginia horsemen” for a live-racing agreement. Federal law gives the horsemen’s organization representing the majority of trainers and owners in a state the right to negotiate with racetracks. Efforts by tracks in the past to form competing horsemen’s organizations have often led to bad blood between state racing constituents and to litigation.


danelvington More than 1 year ago
Yea Matt, the last comment was right on. Downs had agreed to the 25 day schedule originally...altho I think there was money issue attached, but look it was a good article: well written and fair, and you got a lot of comments, so obviously there is some interest in Va racing. The Va Racing Comm needs to know fans are upset the track and OTBs are closed. If anyone should recognize the problems, it is them. Send them your article and comments. A shorter, more successful meet would be in the best interests of everyone; that is so obvious. The Comm should hammer down on the parties to resolve matters....10-12 days over 4 weeks and training on the track would work...and that is all that is needed.
espl0de More than 1 year ago
Article fails to note that when the Virginia Racing Commission suggested a 5 day, 5 week (25 day) meet back in January, Colonial Downs accepted, while the VA HBPA declined. Regardless of trying to push a shorter season, originally Colonial would have accepted it before the shutdown...
Chris Potash More than 1 year ago
Stick a fork in Virginia racing - they're done. The track should have never been built so far away from the rest of the Northeast tracks.
c More than 1 year ago
It's not the VHBPA nor Colonial, it's the politicians in Virginia. They will not let the citizens of Virginia vote to have slots here. If we had slots, it would be a different story, with higher purses. As it stands now, there is no real reason to reach an agreement. We will just keep traveling to Maryland and Delaware to spend our money. I'm sure Delaware and Maryland are more than happy to fatten their tax revenues. We have ignorant politicians, with there own agenda in Virginia.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Have to admit Colonial is a great place for a nice lunch or picnic. Honestly wonder why they are running races there though - very few people attend - not close to the population centers and saddest of all the various factions have never really gotten along. Sort of like the "gridlock" in D.C.
jon g More than 1 year ago
So once again the horsemen cut off their noses to spite their face.They did that 15 yrs ago here at Rockingham Park,where they wanted higher purses,even though it was obvious to everyone,including people who were anti RP administration,that they couldn't afford it.At nearby Suffolk Downs,they wanted 100 dates even though it's obvious the place is losing alot of money AND there are only 400 horse stabled here. They agreed to 80 dates. And it's all 6 horse races. SD should run twice a week,50 dates max
Shawn Britton More than 1 year ago
Greed versus stupidity
Raymond Hackinson More than 1 year ago
Colonial Downs is a quaint racing facility I was there 3 years ago and enjoyed the ambiance I hope there is a resolution to the dispute If there is little revenue, how could the place survive? It probably costs large amounts of money to maintain the track and grandstand
Vickie Aument More than 1 year ago
This is just absurd - come on racing folks in Virginia - get your act together = Colonial downs is beautiful and I have a trip planned do NOT do this and Colonial - why ????
Sinatra Jeter More than 1 year ago
I think of the one hour drive to the nearest OTB parlor with nostalgia. I used to have to order the racing form just to see the past performances. It used to be that if you were not on track you could not place a wager on a horse race. Phone bets were legalized but you had to live in a state that allowed you to make bets. Non-wagering states still don't allow a person to open account wagering and if you live in a non-wagering state you would have to travel to an open track. I've been to Florida for a day. I've been to New York a couple of times. Again this year I was unable to place a wager on the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness forget about it. Just when they open a facility for wagering that is close to my non-wagering state (I didn't have to travel to Richmond or West Virginia to place a wager) Colonial Downs management and the horseman have a disagreement that they won't resolve. It is sort of a relief that the internet has been created to allow a person to at least get information and view replays of races. Yes I lived in purgatory. At least there are fantasy and contests that can be played from my home but I won't be playing the Rainbow Six on the 26th. I don't see anything to cheer about with Colonial Downs being closed and the OTB facilities not open to make a simulcast wager.