05/13/2014 5:36PM

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.