03/17/2014 3:46PM

Colonial Downs: Meeting set for March 27 over live-racing dates

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The Virginia Racing Commission scheduled a meeting for March 27 to consider live-racing dates at Colonial Downs this year after adverse weather prevented many commissioners from attending a meeting Monday at the New Kent racetrack, the executive director of the commission said after the meeting.

Despite the lack of a quorum, representatives of Colonial and of the state’s horsemen’s group, the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, each gave presentations at the meeting in support of their own notions for the length of the 2014 live meet at Colonial. A dispute between the two groups on the number of live race dates for this year’s meet has resulted in a stalemate in negotiations for a live-racing agreement and the blackout of Thoroughbred signals at the state’s off-track betting facilities.

Bernie Hettel, the executive director of the racing commission, said the presentations supported the positions staked out by the track and horsemen’s group last week during a negotiating session with a mediator. During those talks, Colonial insisted on a six-day meet with purses of $500,000 a day, while horsemen pressed for 28 days over eight weeks. The mediator left the meeting after one hour, saying the two sides were too far apart to make any progress, multiple officials said.

Hettel said the commission will continue to hold meetings with Virginia racing constituents in advance of the March 27 meeting. In December, the racing commission approved a 25-day meet for Colonial in 2014, even though Colonial did not seek approval for the dates. Hettel said it was unclear if the commission will attempt to hold Colonial to the 25-day meet.