03/14/2014 11:05AM

Colonial Downs, Virginia horsemen far apart on 2014 dates agreement


The Virginia Racing Commission on Monday will ask the state’s racing constituents to once again discuss their plans for racing dates in 2014 after a negotiating session failed to resolve stark differences between Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Officials of Colonial, the horsemen’s group, and the racing commission participated in a mediating session Wednesday that ended acrimoniously with “both sides farther apart than when they started,” according to Bernie Hettel, executive director of the racing commission. The mediator, a former federal judge, left the session after an hour when he concluded that he could not help to bridge the gap, according to Hettel and Frank Petramalo Jr., executive director of the Virginia HBPA.

Horsemen have asked Colonial to run at least 28 dates over a seven-week period. Although Colonial over the past several months has indicated it would be open to running approximately half that number of dates, it offered to run only six dates at the mediating session, the officials said, while offering average purses of $500,000 a day.

The dispute has resulted in the blackout of Thoroughbred signals at four of the eight offtrack betting facilities owned and operated in Virginia by Colonial. The other four have closed. Horsemen have said that Colonial cannot offer wagering on Thoroughbred simulcasts without a live-racing agreement for 2014. Colonial’s account-wagering operation continues to accept bets on Thoroughbred races.

Colonial typically runs a short meet over the summer when tracks in Maryland are closed. The track is renowned for its turf course.