From a Colonial Downs release
Jeffrey P. Jacobs announced today a closure date of November first for Virginia’s only horse race track and statewide system of off track wagering facilities absent Virginia Racing Commission (“VRC”) approval of a marquee series of races accompanying a long term contract with a newly formed horsemen’s group.
Colonial Downs has proposed three days of national caliber, high-end racing with an additional 17 days of summer racing for Virginia horsemen and support of several steeplechase events elsewhere in the Commonwealth. This race schedule is facilitated through an agreement with the Old Dominion Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, a horsemen’s group currently being formed.
Said Jacobs, the owner of Colonial Downs, “It is very simple. We want to focus our prize money each year on several high quality days of nationally ranked races involving some of the top trainers, jockeys and horses in America. Our former horsemen’s group wanted to see our purse money spread out over more days of lower quality racing, and they did not want to compensate us for losses incurred by opening up the stables and backstretch for them all summer long. That approach does not work. A perfect example of that approach is Suffolk Downs outside of Boston. Suffolk Downs runs over 60 days/ year of low quality racing, loses millions of dollars each year, and recently announced that after 70 plus years of racing it is ceasing all operations this November. We do not aspire to be the Suffolk Downs of the South. We aspire to be the Saratoga of the South.”
“Unlike most businesses, we are not permitted to just put forward the product that we know is in the best interest of our customers, employees, and shareholders,” added Ian Stewart, President of Colonial Downs. “We need the approval of the Virginia Racing Commission to enter into an agreement with horsemen who share our vision of bringing high quality thoroughbred racing to Virginia. Colonial Downs is now on life support. Because Colonial Downs does not currently have a thoroughbred horsemen’s contract approved by the VRC we cannot by law receive thoroughbred race signals from out of state racetracks in our network of off track wagering facilities. This situation has cost numerous jobs and caused us to miss this year’s thoroughbred racing season, as well as created losses of several hundred thousand dollars per month. These losses are unsustainable. Therefore, we have notified our employees this week that we will be ceasing operations on November first. The only way we will be able to avoid a shutdown is if we are able to secure Virginia Racing Commission approval of our race schedule and new horsemen’s contract before then.”
Said Jacobs, “The Virginia Racing Commission should not delay in approving our race schedule featuring our 3-day marquee series of races and our 17 days of summer racing, as well as the accompanying contract with horsemen who share our vision of high quality racing. It is time to return the Virginia Derby to national television. I realize that we are 15-1 long shots, however, we are either going to improve the long-term fundamentals of thoroughbred racing in Virginia or we are moving on down the road.”