07/02/2014 10:11AM

Colonial Downs granted stay in dates dispute

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The Virginia Racing Commission has granted a stay to Colonial Downs to comply with an order to reach an agreement with horsemen while the track seeks the opinion of a circuit court on the commission’s authority to enforce the order, the commission’s executive director said Wednesday.

The commission granted the stay after Colonial officials said they had filed a suit in Richmond Circuit Court asking the court to determine whether the commission was within its power to require the track to accept one of two options for live racing, according to Bernie Hettel, the executive director of the commission.

“It’s proper legal procedure” to grant the stay, Hettel said. “If a court says we can’t do it, then we will comply with the court order.”

Last week, the commission said Colonial must accept one of two options by July 1: cancel its 2014 live race meeting and reopen its offtrack betting parlors for the remainder of the year while agreeing to an eight-week, 24-day meet in 2015; or race for 25 days in 2014, a schedule that the commission approved late last year despite Colonial’s objections.

Colonial closed four of its eight OTBs and quit offering Thoroughbred simulcasts at the remaining OTBs in February, citing state law that requires a live-racing agreement with the state’s horsemen to offer betting on Thoroughbred simulcasts. The track and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have been unable to reach a live-racing agreement for 2014 despite the intercession of mediators and government officials.

Colonial has pressed the horsemen to accept a two-week race meet with six days of racing, while horsemen have held fast to an eight-week schedule with at least 24 dates. Because of the inability of the two sides to come to an agreement, it is highly unlikely that racing will the held at the track this year.