VIRGINIAN-PILOT: “COLONIAL DOWNS STRUGGLES”

Based on statistics from the Virginia Racing Commission.

Based on statistics from the Virginia Racing Commission.

To read the story, click here.

VHN EDITOR’S NOTE: On Virginia-Derby day one of the largest newspapers in the Commonwealth – the Virginian Pilot out of Norfolk – took the opportunity to review the history of Colonial Downs on the occasion of the New Kent racetrack’s biggest day.  The flagship paper of Landmark Media Enterprises boasts the largest daily circulation in the state. Landmark also founded The Weather Channel.

First off, such in-depth coverage (or any coverage at all) is out of character for a paper which rarely covers horseracing or Colonial Downs.  It’s near neighbor, the Daily Press, has done a much better job over the years.  That said, for the most part, their account is fairly accurate and in some cases all too true.

At the risk of being labeled “half-empty” yet again, I would describe the article as “realistic” and even many of the reader comments ring true as well.  The writer Joanne Kimberlin summarized the Thoroughbred industry as thus: “Racing is in trouble across the country, a sport with an aging clientele, splintered leadership and an ever-shrinking pool of quality horses. The general public tunes in only for the Triple Crown.”

The article points out that handle, state taxes and attendance have all trended down since 2007.  Add to that list foal production which has also suffered from the general and industry economic declines and the loss of one breeder who annually produced 25% of Virginia’s foal crop.

One could say an analysis of this sort is “simply items on a list of dire predictions,” or one can see it as an accurate depiction of our only much beleaguered racetrack and industry.  You decide.

On a side note, one reader’s comments complained about how far away the horses are during turf races at Colonial.  Those of you who recall the debate almost 20 years ago may remember that a group of us advocated placing the turf course on the outside closest to the apron and grandstand.

The hitch was that Colonial Downs refused to spend the money to build a tunnel to move equipment to and from the infield and they didn’t want harness racing to be so far removed from the fans.  The icing on the dirt/turf cake was that a vocal group of horsemen vehemently opposed a dirt cross over (sighting safety concerns) even though such crossing are utilized at Santa Anita and throughout Great Britain and Europe.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda… – Glenn Petty 

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