From a Colonial Downs release
Seeking to elevate Virginia thoroughbred racing to the highest levels nationally, Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart announced today that the track’s focus for the future will be to build a nationally recognized, quality boutique Thoroughbred meet. “Colonial Downs is recognized as having one of the finest turf courses in North America. We are now going to implement our vision of creating one of the highest caliber Thoroughbred race meets in the country,” said Stewart.
Colonial Downs will host a six-day Virginia Derby Festival every September with purses averaging over $500,000 a day. Sponsored by Jacobs Investments, the Grade II Virginia Derby will return to national broadcast television. “These purses, combined with national exposure, will allow us to build a universally recognized brand where Colonial Downs becomes a much anticipated destination on the national calendar for quality Thoroughbred racing,” stated Stewart.
Colonial Downs will move from a race meet averaging purses of $200,000 a day over multiple summer weeks to an annual fall turf festival offering some of the largest daily Thoroughbred purses in the country. Reinforcing Colonial Downs’ commitment to the Virginia thoroughbred industry, the annual racing schedule also will include additional days of Thoroughbred racing earlier in the year written with conditions attractive to Virginia thoroughbred horsemen.
“Unfortunately, this bold paradigm change to high-quality Thoroughbred racing in Virginia is not shared by the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA),” Stewart observed. Colonial Downs has proposed these plans over the course of the last six months, but they have been rejected by the Virginia HBPA. The Virginia HBPA’s refusal to extend the Thoroughbred horsemen’s agreement caused the Thoroughbred simulcast signal to be turned off in Colonial Downs’ OTBs. Stewart noted that the consequences of the Virginia HBPA’s unilateral decision have caused significant harm to Virginia Thoroughbred racing, including owners, breeders, Colonial Downs, its customers and employees. (Colonial Downs’ most recent communication to the Virginia HBPA terminating contract negotiations is located on Colonial Downs’ website and outlines future plans for Virginia Thoroughbred racing.)
Mr. Jeffrey P. Jacobs, the owner of Colonial Downs, has desired for the 17 years he has owned the track to advance Virginia Thoroughbred racing to the top tier of racing nationally. “Virginia’s pledge in its Racing Act is to ‘maintain horse racing of the highest quality.’ We are not achieving that goal,” said Jacobs. Spreading racing out over eight to ten weeks with daily purses that are no longer competitive has resulted in a steady decline in the quality of racing, significantly lower foal production in Virginia, and an unsustainable racing model for all stakeholders. Given the significant history of horse racing in Virginia, the undeniable quality of Colonial Downs’ turf course, and the rapid decline of Thoroughbred breeding and racing in Virginia, Jacobs is convinced that now is the time to change the paradigm of Virginia Thoroughbred racing. He stated, “We want to be part of the success story of Thoroughbred racing and find our niche in the national racing scene. We recognize that creating a new direction in Virginia Thoroughbred racing without a horsemen’s contract and without the ability to send and receive a racing signal is an uphill battle, but is a battle worth fighting. The end result will be long-term, high-quality racing of which all Virginians will be proud.”
Colonial Downs is in the process of identifying a group of horsemen who share this vision for Thoroughbred racing in Virginia and who want to implement this paradigm by entering into a new horsemen’s agreement with Colonial Downs. In light of the damage done to Virginia racing by the Virginia HBPA’s unilateral actions, Colonial Downs realizes that, unfortunately, there may be no Thoroughbred racing in Virginia this year. “There may be no thoroughbred racing in Virginia for several years. Nevertheless, I bet you even money that when Colonial Downs brings thoroughbred racing back to Virginia, it will be the beginning of a new era of stability, growth, and pride. On the turf, the great Thoroughbreds often come from behind to win. That is exactly what Colonial Downs will do,” concluded Jeff Jacobs.
It appears to me that Colonial Downs has just called the bluff of Virginia Horsemen. This take it or leave it message from Colonial leaves the VHBPA with no choices in the matter. Accept the deal and you’re screwed or reject the deal and you’re screwed. It is also sending a message to the Horsemen, either get some leadership that agrees with us to accept one of our two proposals or split forces to form another group that will work with us. No matter what, we are all still out in the cold my friends!
The more the sport is pitched as “The Sport of Kings” and a playground of the wealthy, the more it will decline.NASCAR got arrogant and the fans have stayed away, too many Jockey Clubs and Horseman’s Associations have the same mentality. The VHBPA needs to remember they are irrelevant without the bettor, but the VHBPA still takes the attitude that they have the pull in Richmond to get their way and preserve their purses.
Thanks for checking in, Fan and Kurt. Not sure I entirely agree with you, Fan – the current situation also screws Colonial, not just the horsemen. And while Jeff Jacobs may have deeper pockets than any individual horseman, the problem he faces in a prolonged standoff is that racing at Colonial is such a small part of any horseman’s livelihood that most, if not all, will simply load up elsewhere. As for the arrogance, Kurt, well, you could probably write a very long book about all the mistakes horsemen’s groups and racetracks and racing regulators have made over the years…
I’ve been going to Colonial since it opened and the last few years or more the product has gone down. They use to get some of the better Jocks, Trainers and Horses and the last few years they haven’t been getting anything close to that? It felt like they were in a class of their own years ago but lately they are on the same scale as Laurel, Charlestown, Mountaineer etc.They use to have an on-site Handicapping Tournament that brought people from all over the United States and was a big success but they quit that and started a contest online. I qualified for the NHC at the Track when they had it there and when I went to Vegas I had a bunch of people come up to me and say how much they enjoyed Colonial Downs and that was back in 2002. You guys had a good thing going and maybe greed on both sides has won over and left the Track, it’s Employees and of course the fans on the sidelines wondering if this is the end of something that was once really special back in the day???
Inquiry and many objections
After spending another glorious weekend of racing at Charlestown, I must say they know how to do it right! Great hotels and shuttle service every 20 minutes,24 hours a day to the track and casino. The OTB was again buzzing and they are heavily booked for Derby day as well. Aside from having to travel a few hours to get there, it is a great alternative while Colonial Downs and the Horsemen continue to ruin the horse racing product in Virginia. And don’t forget, you have an opportunity and voice to make an impact just as they have in the dispute. Colonial shut down the OTBs, the Horsemen pulled the plug on thoroughbred signals and now everyone needs to boycott EZ Horseplay. Colonial Downs and the Horsemen have totally slammed the door in the face of bettors, so now its time to return the favor. Anyone who continues to play EZ Horse Play as this fiasco continues is being a total hypocrite!
Do you want to hear something really funny? I learned today that Colonial Downs management is actually transporting EZ Horseplay machines to their location on Broad street Richmond in order for horseplayers to use them to wager on the Kentucky Derby. That is hysterical. Just another example my friends of how Colonial Downs is working hard to improve the quality of racing at Colonial Downs for you the fans! As Ronald Reagan used to say, “Here we go again!” You cannot even wager many of the tracks on EZ Horse Horseplay because the machines won’t accept the wagers. Just another snow job by Jacobs Investments on how they want to make life more enjoyable for you the horse racing enthusiast!