06/24/2014 11:51AM

Colonial Downs unlikely to hold 2014 meet, focus shifts to 2015

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The possibility of a 2014 live meet at Colonial Downs appears nearly extinct following an ultimatum by the Virginia Racing Commission that shifts the focus on conducting a meet in 2015.

After a months-long contract dispute over racing dates between the Virginia horsemen and Colonial Downs management – one that has stretched past the track’s originally scheduled opening day for live racing – the VRC tasked the two groups in a June 23 meeting to agree on an eight-week schedule for 2015 with no live meet this year.

The government body instructed that it wanted to see an agreement reached by early July.

The VRC had originally directed the track to host a 25-day meet over five weeks in 2014, and closed Colonial’s off-track betting facilities in February when a deal could not be reached with the horsemen. If the 2015 plan is put in place, the VRC indicated that it would allow the OTBs to re-open to raise purse funds for next year’s meet.

Colonial Downs, located in New Kent County, Va., also has the option to still host what remains of its assigned race dates in 2014, but Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Frank Petramalo Jr. said that Colonial’s spot on the Mid-Atlantic racing landscape made that unlikely.

“Obviously, we would be disappointed if we don’t run in 2014,” he said. “It looks like that probably will be the case, if for no other reason, here we are at almost July 1 and there’s nothing on the planning board for racing this summer. We normally run in June and July to take advantage of a window created by the cessation of Maryland racing after the Preakness and the beginning of the Timonium meet at the end of August. It would be very difficult to put together a meet that would be successful to run in that window.”

One silver lining that could come from the plan to aim toward 2015 is that a half-year’s worth of OTB income would boost the purse structure for next year’s meet. Petramalo speculated that purses could be raised 50 percent to almost double their normal levels if Colonial runs the proposed dates and the OTB parlors are re-opened in a timely manner.

“I think we’d be able to not quite double the purses, but substantially increase them because obviously we’d be banking money,” he said. “Bear in mind for the first five months of this year, the OTBs have been shut down. Through May, that’s probably cost us about $1.1 million that would have gone into our purse account.”