06/12/2014 4:18PM

Deal for Colonial dates coming down to the wire


The Virginia Racing Commission and state government officials are engaged in a last-ditch effort to save the race meet at Colonial Downs this summer as the window to reach an agreement between the track and horsemen rapidly closes.

The racing commission’s executive director, Bernie Hettel; the commission’s chairman, J. Sargeant Reynolds; and Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Maurice Jones, are scheduled to hold a conference call on Friday morning to discuss the options left to the state in the wake of a stubborn dispute between the track and Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association over a live racing agreement, Hettel said Thursday.

“It’s going to take sacrifice on both sides,” Hettel said.

Under the track’s typical race dates in previous years, Colonial would have opened last weekend. However, the dispute between the track and horsemen has prevented the track from opening, and now the racing commission is attempting to come up with a schedule that would satisfy both sides, perhaps by running only on weekends and only on the turf, Hettel said.

Colonial typically draws most of its horses from Maryland, which is on its usual summer hiatus. Laurel Park in Maryland opens on Sept. 5, while at Colonial, the track’s harness meet is scheduled to start on Sept. 17, meaning any Thoroughbred dates would likely need to be held prior to Labor Day.

Colonial and the Virginia HBPA have been without a live-racing agreement since early this year. Negotiations have bogged down on the number of race dates and Colonial’s demand that horsemen compensate the track for losses at its off-track betting locations, which have been unable to offer Thoroughbred simulcasts since February.

The track had initially pushed for a six-day race meet, with horsemen in support of a 32-day race meet. In May, the commission approved a 25-day meet at the track, even though the track did not indicate it supported those dates.

Hettel said the commission and state government have not yet given up hope that an agreement can be reached, but he said the deadline for bringing the track and horsemen together is “fast approaching.”

GBL More than 1 year ago
They only needed 2 weekends, one with classy races. 4 race dates total. Each day could have special promotions. The big dollar days speak for themselves and the other racedays could have nice freebies or a band after the races...do a day event with local wineries or brew pubs from Richmond. It would be great with great crowds for four days total. What is the Racing Comission, County and Racing Commishes thinking? The horsement have had bad negotiations on this from the beginning. Taget warehouse? airport?.. I hear Henrico County need a new trash dump facility but maybe it is too far?
danelvington More than 1 year ago
99-1? Someone told me MGM Las Vegas has it at 200-1. I bet the 2014 harness meet is the last ever. I will be the closing day and am sad over it. Blame the county and the horsemen. The county could have put some of its 500k into the negotiations, but NO, and the horsemen want to continue with a long meet, which has only been a failure. 20 years ago everyone questioned the location. County and horsemen are at fault on this one. Bet is on: Target or Giants Foods fullfilment center or warehouse. I like the New Kent airport where it is and they just cleared trees at the County dump for more visibility, but I get it. Sad, but whatever.
Alice Haraden More than 1 year ago
I respect your reporting - Accurate and Fair - but really can't believe you are wasting the newsprint on this...Racing in Virginia is DOA. Despite the fact New Kent County makes money on racing, some County Commissioners don't want racing anymore. Word is some folks want a regional airport and industrial park there. The track makes money on OTB and Account Wagering and wants to limit race dates (its self interest) to save money but they have good points for a shortened meet and the Horsemen's Association is blind to that, and they lose the most. Money has been lost. No Compromise in sight. Odds are 99-1 AGAINST. The fact is: Racing is COMPLETELY DEAD in Virginia. You heard it here first, the track facility, although very nice, will be torn down by the end of 2015 and all racing in VA (Thoroughbred and Harness) will be a distant memory.