05/08/2014 1:34PM

Commission orders Colonial Downs to reach dates agreement

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The Virginia Racing Commission on Wednesday ordered Colonial Downs to come to an agreement with horsemen on a 25-day, five-week meet for this year by May 17, even though its executive director acknowledged that the commission has few options to force a deal.

Frank Petramalo, the executive director of the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said Thursday that horsemen supported the 25-day meet and that he had drawn up a contract for Colonial Downs to sign. He said the horsemen had not yet met formally with Colonial officials, however.

“Hopefully, we will be meeting with them within the week,” Petramalo said.

Colonial officials did not respond to requests for comment by Thursday afternoon.

The 2014 meet at Colonial has been in limbo due to disagreement between the track and state horsemen on how many racing dates should be run this year, with Colonial in support of a two-week meet with six racing days. Talks between the two groups – including one session with an arbitrator and Virginia Racing Commission officials – have failed to bridge the gap.

Bernie Hettel, the executive director of the commission, said Thursday that the commission needs time to hire racing officials to regulate the meet, requiring the May 17 deadline. He said the commission could revoke Colonial’s license to run a harness meet this year, suspend the license, or issue a fine of up to $100,000 as penalties for not running a Thoroughbred meet, but he said “all those options are distasteful.”

Colonial typically runs in the summer, when tracks in Maryland are dark. Most of the track’s races are held on its turf course.