The ongoing stalemate over 2014 live racing days at Colonial Downs has caused the wagering on Thoroughbred simulcast signals to halt in order to comply with a law that stipulates that the track must have a contract with the official horsemen’s group in order to conduct such wagers. The ongoing dispute has not moved as several mandated deadlines set by the Virginia Racing Commission have passed.

The heart of the dispute centers on the number of live racing days and the total number of weeks the New Kent racetrack will offer.  Colonial Downs, citing ongoing financial hardship, continues to insist that a four week meet with just 12 days of racing is the only viable option while the VA HBPA wants and eight week meet with at least three or four days of live racing each week.

Colonial’s proposal is the shortest in the track’s history and a departure from the model currently in use.

Looking to reduce the track’s overhead, Colonial has been willing to conduct an eight week meet if the horseman are willing to shoulder a number of related expenses including the human ambulance, the jockey insurance, stall rent, manure disposal, the horse shuttle to and from Maryland, horsemen’s programs, fourth floor grandstand hospitality and advertising in the Daily Racing Form.

The VA HBPA found the expense shifting proposal unacceptable.

While statistics show sweeping downward trends in both handle and attendance along with live Virginia-bred foals, the savings attributed to a shorter meet appear to be Colonial Down’s primary goal.

“Obviously there is a conflict between what is good for the Virginia horse industry and what is good for Colonial’s bottom,” VA HBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo published in a letter dated today (Jan. 31, 2014. “The Virginia HBPA is willing to work with Colonial on accommodating those competing interests but not at the expense of an industry killing contract.”

In a statement released by Colonial Downs, president Ian Stewart said, “We have offered to sign the exact same contract as last year. We have also offered several alternatives in an attempt to accommodate their wishes. However, despite extensive efforts by Colonial Downs to reach a compromise, the VaHBPA has refused to sign a new contract.”

Other off-track wagering facilities will remain open but can only accept wagers on standardbred racing.  The closed facilities will not reopen “until we reach a contract resolution that will allow us to re-open them.”

The horsemen’s reluctance to sign the “exact same contract” stems from a series of purse discounts and expense sharing arrangements they no longer wish to continue in a new contract.

Colonial Downs’ statement click here.

VA HBPA’s Open Letter click VHBPA Open ltr01312014

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