by Nick Hahn
There were expectations for the Virginia Racing Commission to establish some kind of summer meet at Colonial Downs at it May 19 meeting, but the assemblage only led to another deferral. After a morning hiatus to allow Colonial Downs and the horsemen more discussion time, the afternoon session led only to another special meeting, scheduled for Thursday, May 22 at 10:00 am.
“We had a very productive discussion,” Jim Weinberg, counsel for Colonial Downs, reported to the Commission. Frank Petramalo, executive director for the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association agreed. However, the extra time was not enough to bring forward an agreement.
“Obviously you need some more time,” stated Commission Chairman chairman J. Sargeant Reynolds. “I was expecting to have an agreement this morning.”
“We’re closer than I thought we were this morning,” said Petramalo. He made an additional request that the commission “set that (May 22) as a drop dead date for a final contract.”
Over the weekend, it’s believed that the horsemen and Colonial Downs discussed a seven-week meet run over three-day weekends as a ship-in meet with no training opening near the beginning of July. The two sides have been requested to forward points of disagreement to commission executive director Bernie Hettel on a daily basis until Thursday’s special meeting.
Meanwhile, the Commission’s earlier order — that, absent any other agreement, the sides run a five-week meet with 25 days of live racing — remains in effect. What happens is the sides ignore it, however, is unclear.
“Racing for 2014 is bleak and if we don’t have racing in 2014, the future of Virginia horse racing is bleak,” commented Reynolds. He suggested that there could be consequences for both parties if no agreement is reached, but, Reynolds added, at this point he is “not ready to wield an ax at one side or another.”