Tag Archives: Colonial Downs

THERACINGBIZ.COM: IN VA, COLD WEATHER, HEATED DISAGREEMENT

(Nick Hahn) One of the coldest Virginia winters in decades has left racing leaders in Virginia in a bad mood and made an impact on the 2014 meet at Colonial Downs in a developing dispute.

It might even make you long for one of those sweltering Colonial summer days.

“It has done nothing to help the cause,” acknowledged Virginia Racing Commission executive director Bernie Hettel about the frosty January.

To read more, click here.

“INDUSTRY KILLING” CONTRACT DISPUTE SHUTS DOWN THOROUGHBRED WAGERING AT CLN’S OTBS

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

VA RACING COMMISSION MEETING CANCELED DUE TO WEATHER

The Virginia Racing Commission meeting scheduled for tomorrow, January 29th, has been  cancelled because of weather concerns.

The weather previously interrupted the Commission schedule on January 22 when the January 21 deadline for Colonial Downs and VA HBPA to work out an arrangement for 2014 live racing days. That extension expires on tomorrow.

Up to this point, the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Colonial Downs have not been able to reach an agreement on race days for 2014. VA HBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo agreed to extend the contract between the VA HBPA and Colonial Downs through Tuesday, January 21, 2014, at the request of Reynolds.

The VA HBPA has requested eight weeks of racing to include between 24 to 32 race days, while Colonial Downs has maintained their original request to the Racing Commission for 12 race days over four weekends. Without the extension granted at the truncated January 22 meeting, the Thoroughbred signals to Colonial Downs OTBs would have ended  although the facilities could remain open as wagering could be continued on harness racing. The compromise extension expires tomorrow.

VA RACING COMMISSION AWARDS 2014 RACING DATES

The Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) today citing an impasse between Colonial Downs and the Virginia H.B.P.A. (V.H.B.P.A.) approved the same live racing days as in 2013 – 25 days over 8 weeks.  Colonial Downs had advocated 12 live days over four weeks and the V.H.B.P.A. advocated 32 days over 8 weeks.

When the word of a stalemate reached the VRC, the commissioners had little choice but  to approve one or the other’s proposal or to craft their own.  The latter ultimately proved to unpopular with all the parties in attendance which were charged with reaching an agreement regarding the days of the weeks and the post times for 2014.

Colonial Downs president Ian Stewart gave a lengthy presentation citing truncated meets Monmouth and Retama Parks as posting successful numbers that dramatically reduced previous losses posted at the New Jersey and Texas racetracks.  The overall proposal noted the New Kent racetrack need to find financial viability and stability and included endorsements from a sample of CLN employees imploring the commissioners to approve the racetrack’s application and support their means of supporting themselves and their families.

Stewart pointed out how average daily purses at CLN had decreased from purses higher than 94% of the other racetracks tracked by the Jockey Club in 2001 to a level in 2012 that was higher than just 58% of those North American tracks.   Stewart pointed out that a “boutique” weekend race meet over a four week period would cut the tracks overhead back to a manageable level and that the increased purses and increased simulcast and tradition wagers per race would fuel new and realistic growth.

He closed stating that an “unsustainable financial model can’t go on indefinitely” leaving the audience wondering how long owner Jeff Jacobs will tolerate continuing to operate an under performing asset with no relief from alternative gaming in sight.

V.H.B.P.A. Executive Frank Petramalo opened his counter argument saying that the primary issue was, in fact, the number of weeks the live race meet would last, and not the total number of live days offered.

He noted that a short window of time 4 to 6 weeks makes it extremely difficult for horseman to maximize the number of starts needed to earn enough purse money to justify the expense of shipping either temporarily or for the entire meet.   Petramalo also pointed that the 2013 schedule of 5 weeks and, what turned out to be, 24 days of live racing saved the racetrack $200,000 in purse money and the same amount in promotional and marketing dollars. In all, Petremalo estimated the New Kent track saved an additional $100,000 for a total of $500,000.
While he agreed that Colonial Downs needs “a solid fiscal foundation,” he deemed the 25 day and 5 week VRC motion to be a “disadvantage to horsemen and the Virginia Racing Industry.”

He further predicted that the horsemen’s  group’s board of directors would likely be disinclined to fund the loan needed to front load the purse account so 100% of the purses could be paid out during the meet.  Previously, the V.H.B.P.A. had arranged this loan for the “gap funding” to fund the future purses earned from wagers placed after the meet until the end of the year. The organization has at times personally guaranteed this loan and they have always borne the interest costs as well.

The assembled breeders and horsemen were not enamored with Colonial Downs proposal and assertion that their 12 days could grow to 16 days in as little as “three years” or the VRC’s motion of compromise.  They consistently advocating additional time to break the stalemate and the desire for more racing days and expanded financial opportunities as a result.

Breeders and horsemen in attendance included Debbie Easter, Wayne and Susie Chatfield-Taylor, Stephanie Nixon, Woodberry Payne, Marshall Dowell, Nellie Mae Cox, John Tucker, Bob Bouse, Brooke Royster, Marjie Flowerws, Cynthia Curtis, Lenny Miles, Chris Koon and others.

In response to VTA Executive Director Debbie Easter’s request for more time, VRC Chairmen Stuart Siegel insured everyone that the commissioners would be interested in any revised plan agreed to by the two parties in some reasonable period of time if that would make “more people happy.”

D.G.  Van Clief stated he was not a “fan of the status quo” that he “defaulted to the compromise” offered, and that he would vote for it reluctantly.” Eventually, all five commissioners voted yes to the schedule of 25 days over a 5 week period.

Sarge Reynolds, who offered the motion, read a written statement lamenting that the parties “could not agree on the best path forward,” and Stran Trout shared the he was “equally disappointed.” Commissioner Carol Dawson, whose car was rear ended by a tractor trailer near the exit ramp (she was not injured) approaching the meeting, simply noted that to be successful, horsemen and horses “have to have horse racing.”

In the end, the measure passed 5-0.

The VRC then approved the Standardbred racing dates with various caveats to be settled by the parties, the 2014 licenses for the ADW companies EZ Horseplay, TVG, XpressBet and Twin Spires and approved the racing dates for the Virginia Gold Cup (May 3, 2014) and the International Gold Cup (October 25).

VRC CONSIDERS TWO MAJOR ISSUES AT MEETING

At its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the Virginia Racing Commission will address two important matters critical to racing and breeding in the Commonwealth – 2014 live racing days and which entity will administer and promote the 2014 Virginia Breeders Fund.  The meeting will be held in the Virginia H.B.P.A. building at Colonial Downs on December 11 at 10 a.m.

Colonial Downs and the Virginia H.B.P.A. had not reached an agreement as of Thursday of last week regarding the total number of days or the number of weeks  the race meet will be held.  Colonial Downs’ executives are proposing a further truncated schedule of only 12 live racing days spread out over a four week meet.  The live racing would happen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each week.

Colonial Downs sites on going and rising expenses, trends from the 2013 live race meet along with a purse increase generated by the reduced number of days as justification for the shortest meet in Virginia’s pari-mutuel racing history.

The Virginia H.B.P.A. is advocating a schedule similar to 2013.

For the first time since its inception in 1996, two entities are competing for the contract to administer and promote the Virginia Breeders Fund.  The Virginia Thoroughbred Association and former VTA Executive Director Glenn Petty’s Equisport Solutions have both submitted proposals.

The VTA proposal will utilize Executive Director Debbie Easter and Easter Associates which the organization hired to run its business affairs in June of 2013. Petty was ultimately responsible for the administration and promotion the Fund for ten years from 2003 to 2013 while he was Executive Director.

According to sources, the VTA proposal is a continuance of the 2013 contract including the various programs and awards and a contract fee of $190,000.  The contract amount is 15.2% of the total estimated VBF for 2014.  The fee charged by other Mid-Atlantic states ranges from five to ten percent of the those state’s fund’s total value.

While the VTA is a non-profit organization (501c4), the affiliated for profit agency, Easter Associates, is scheduled to be paid $165,000 in 2014 which includes Executive Director Debbie Easter’s salary.  The Easter Associates management contract fee is approximately 86% of the VTA’s proposed VBF contract amount.

Petty’s Equisport Solutions, also a for profit entity, has submitted a proposal that calls for a $140,000 fee, a savings of $50,000 to the Fund. His proposal calls for the $50,000 savings to be utilized as seed money for a new Virginia Certified Program modeled after the popular one in Delaware.

Equisport’s fee is tied to the growth of total handle which would increase the value of the Fund. “The shrinking Virginia industry which produced an all-time low number of state-bred foals last year can no longer afford so much overhead. It’s a problem I had planned for and it involved tough decisions regarding staff and pay cuts, but I never had a chance to affect the needed changes,” said Petty.

“With my proposal, I’m looking to continue my 30 year effort on behalf of Virginia’s owners and breeders at a fair price while advocating some positive changes for the Fund,” he continued. “My proposal includes consulting services to the VRC and the industry designed to focus on issues that would grow handle, increase the Fund and better utilize tax dollars now being channeled to the General Fund and away from the racing and breeding industry which generated them in the first place.”

Petty has been involved with the Virginia Breeders Fund since co-authoring the original regulations. On behalf of Virginia’s breeders and the Fund, he also helped expand the SWF network from six to the current 10, establish ADW wagering which now produces almost 50% of the total wagering and pass legislation that pays 1% of every wager, including ADW, to the Virginia Breeders Fund.

Virginia was the first state to have a law that requires telephone and computer betting companies to make financial contributions to the related state’s Breeders Fund.

DOGWOOD CLASSIC SET FOR APRIL 5TH

Dogwood_Generic-_2013_2(Colonial Downs Press Release) A day of world class steeplechase racing and trackside tailgating will return to Colonial Downs on Saturday April 5th as the second annual Dogwood Classic helps usher in the area’s spring outdoor festival season.

The 2014 Dogwood Classic will play host to a day of National Steeplechase Association (NSA) sanctioned jump races held over the Secretariat Turf Course, all while vehicle tailgating takes place on the 1¼ miles dirt track, which is positioned just outside of the turf course.

The Dogwood Classic continues a spring tailgating tradition at Colonial Downs and will feature new price points for tailgating spots along the rail, a per person general admission option, and day-of ticket sales.

Reserved vehicle tailgating spaces are only $200 for a spot along the home stretch, or $125 for a spot along the backstretch and in both turns. That price also includes six Dogwood Classic admission tickets to be used by the purchaser and their passengers.

Additional friends that want to join a tailgate can purchase a general admission ticket for $10, whether it’s in advance or at the gate day of. Those additional guests can park in the main general lot in front of Colonial Downs. There will be a $15 per vehicle parking charge in that lot, so guests are encouraged to carpool.

Dogwood attendees will be encouraged to prepare picnic food, beverages and tailgate décor based around the Dogwood Classic theme, which will be announced soon. There will be “best of” competitions in categories like tailgate décor, fancy hats, and men’s & women’s themed attire.

Reserved tailgating spots and general admission tickets will be made available to past purchasers beginning Monday November 18th and will go on sale to the general public on Monday November 25th.  Tailgate spaces and tickets can be purchased at dogwoodclassic.com or by calling 804-966-7223, ext. 1033.

As an added bonus, anybody that buys a tailgating space by February 28th will be invited to an invitation only “Dogwood Classic Launch Party” on Saturday March 1st in downtown Richmond featuring live music, “for fun” casino games along with complementary food and beverages.

PICKELSIMER DIRECTOR OF RACING AT TURFWAY

Leading Trainer A. Ferris Allen and Tyler Piickelsimer. (Laurie Asseo Photo, TheRacingBiz.com)(TDN) Colonial Downs’ Racing Secretary Tyler Picklesimer has been promoted to the position of director of racing and racing secretary at Turfway Park, it was announced yesterday.

Picklesimer, who had been the assistant racing secretary since 2002, will oversee the holiday and winter/spring meets at the Northern Kentucky oval. He takes over from Rick Leigh, who is semi-retired.

“I have been fortunate to work some of the premier race meets and signature events in racing,” said Picklesimer.  “I have been even luckier to work for excellent racing secretaries who were great teachers of both the sport and the business of horseracing. I am looking forward to building upon those experiences and working with our horsemen and management team to produce a successful meet.”

A 1994 graduate of Northern Kentucky University, Pickelsimer was hired that same year by Turfway as a placing judge. From 1997 to 2000, he worked as the horse identifier at River Downs, and since 1998, he has been a tattoo technician for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. Since 2010, he has served on the Horse Identification and Microchip Committee of the North American Racing Secretaries Association.

In 2008, Picklesimer earned the dual position of director of racing and racing secretary for the Thoroughbred meet at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., a role he continues. He also serves the Virginia Racing Commission on the Racing Safety and Medications Committee, the Code Revision and Rules Committee, and the Virginia Breeders Fund Advisory Committee.

OLD NEWS: JACOBS WITHDRAWS OFFER TO BUY MTR

OK, so we missed this when it went down almost two weeks ago, but…

CHESTER, WV – August 16, 2013 – MTR Gaming Group, Inc. (NasdaqGS: MNTG) (the “Company” or “MTR”) announced that its Board of Directors has received notice from Jacobs Entertainment, Inc. (“JEI”) that it has withdrawn its non-binding unsolicited proposal to the Board of Directors that the Company acquire JEI.

Prior to JEI’s withdrawal, the Board of Directors, in consultation with its financial and legal advisors, reviewed and carefully considered JEI’s proposal, and, as previously disclosed, the Board of Directors continues to review strategic initiatives for the Company with the assistance of its financial advisor. The Company has not set a definitive timetable for completion of its review and evaluation process and there can be no assurances that such review will result in any transaction being announced or completed. The Company does not intend to provide updates or make any further comment until the outcome of such review is determined or until there are significant developments.

According to TheRacingBiz.com (which reported on this in a timely manner!), Jacobs had presented an unsolicited offer to MTR Gaming to sell that company the holdings of Jacobs Entertainment, Inc.  Those holdings include Colonial Downs and its network of off-track betting centers, two Colorado casinos, three Nevada casinos and 23 video poker truck stops in Louisiana (here).

Under the terms of the proposal, Jacobs would have sold his company to MTR Gaming for more than $144 million in MTR common stock.  That, coupled with the approximately 18 percent of MTR which he already owns, would have given him an estimated 60 percent ownership of the combined company.

MTR Gaming is comprised of Mountaineer Casino in West Virginia, Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania, and Scioto Downs harness track and slots facility near Columbus, Ohio.

PAULICK ON COADY

CoadyJeff(The Paulick Report/Ray Paulick/paulickreport.com)

I don’t recall exactly where or when I first met Jeff Coady. Some racetrack somewhere. I won’t forget the details of that first meeting, though.

He had a camera around his neck and a warm smile. He stuck his hand out, introduced himself and said, “Let me know what you need. We’ll be happy to get it for you.”

And he really meant it.

Jeff was working as the official photographer at whatever racetrack it was I was visiting. Could have been in Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico or any number of states where Coady Photography – the company his father started and that he and brother Jack had worked for since their teenage years – was track photographer. I had recently been named editor of Blood-Horse magazine.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

RACETRACK REFLECTIONS: JEFF COADY 1951 – 2013

CoadyHat

JEFF SANS HIS FULL HEAD OF WHITE HAIR. (Jeff Coady Facebook)

Like everybody that knew him, I was saddened to learn of the death of track photographer and all-around good guy Jeff Coady.  It’s been a tough summer in our house, but the death of Jeff at the very young age of 62 is a well-needed dose of perspective.  Some days we all say “I’m just glad to be alive” and today I really mean it.

Among other things, his death reminded me how much I hate getting older. I hate that friends and family members die.  I hate my growing sense of mortality and an ever expanding list of aches and pains.  I hate that things change and not always in a good way.  I hate paying taxes and traffic…Need I go on?

Now, before I sound like too much of a curmudgeon I use “hate” with some degree of flexibility.  Some of the things above are downright hateful and some are just plain aggravating.  What I do REALLY hate is writing about people – good people – who have died prematurely.  In my book as I wing my way toward 60, anybody not pushing 100 dies prematurely.

A few years back, my mother and my sister died two months apart.  My sister died prematurely (just shy of 60), and when I gave her eulogy, I told the group assembled that if any of them were going to die anytime soon not to count on me to do their eulogy.  After two such speeches in less than 60 days, I was done.  In the same time frame and not long after, I found myself writing about people I knew and liked that had died – Noel Twyman and Chuck Hoovler to name a couple, and a few that I didn’t really know personally like Ned Evans.

So here I am writing a few words about Jeff Coady.

First off I was proud to call him my friend. I was glad I knew him and I appreciate the time we spent together.  We weren’t close by any measure, but we shared a common bond in an important stretch of time at an important place in our lives.

Coady Photography

A CLASSIC COADY HAPPY WINNER’S SHOT – KITTEN’S JOY, PRADO AND RAMSEY AFTER THE VIRGINIA DERBY.

The first two-years Colonial Downs was open, I spent a fair amount of time with Jeff – most of it in the winner’s circle and some of it on the racecourse and in his office.  His door was always open and I (like everybody else I imagine) was always welcome.  We spent a lot time talking about racing in the Commonwealth – what was right and what was wrong. And, of course, we talked about how we would make it better.

One of my jobs those first two years was trophy presentations and that was always fun since after any race, a stakes race especially, everybody in the winner’s circle is extremely happy.  It was my task to get the trophy and the winning connections there and it was Jeff’s to get them assembled and photographed as efficiently and as safely as possible. I fumbled a few times. Jeff never did.

Even though there were quite a few racetrack veterans involved in the management of Colonial Downs in its first two years of operations, there were still plenty of foibles.  Not so with Jeff Coady. When Jeff was on the track he was all business.  He was courteous, but firm. He didn’t tolerate any nonsense and he was quick to admonish anybody who in the wrong place doing the wrong thing.  That said, he always did it in a polite and professional manner.

He was always helpful and was willing to take me and other young photographers out on the racecourse to shoot a race.  He always explained the teletimers and finish line camera to keep neophytes from tripping them – no small feat on CLN’s expansive turf course where there is a teletimer every 10 feet (or so it seemed!).

He honored every request of every picture of every race every single time I asked him.  Sometimes he let me pay, but most times he didn’t.  In the digital age, he sent me files whenever I asked and if there is one photo credit I have never missed and will never miss it’s “Coady Photography Photo.”

Jeff loved Virginia and Colonial Downs along with his family and his Canon cameras.  Like all of us, he had some moments where racetrack management left him scratching his head, but his outlook always seemed to be that there ultimately was only one solution: Do your job, and do it well.

romanscrawfordcoady

DALE ROMANS, JERRY CRAWFORD AND JEFF COADY. (Nick Hahn Photo)

Jeff did his job well until he was too sick and too weak to do it anymore.  In June, Nick Hahn told me Jeff was in bad shape but still able to talk on the phone in short spells as his mediation and weakened condition allowed.  He gave me his phone number and I promised I’d call.

Mired in my own situation, I never did.  I picked the phone up on several occasions but I couldn’t push the buttons.  What was I going to say?  How are you?  (I’m lousy, I’m dying, I imagined an all too true reply.)  Just this past Sunday night, I made a mental note to call Jeff this week.  But, I didn’t and now it’s too late.

We all imagine we are braver than we are.  This time I was the coward when I didn’t call Jeff, but, like my sister, I’m sure he was brave until the very end.  That’s just the kind of guy he was.  And that’s just one of the reasons he will be missed. — Glenn Petty, August 28, 2013

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