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.”
Now we can all speculate as to what is going on here. But, my guess is that the original Horseman association is not as much of a tightly knit group as we thought. Everything I have heard is that the horsemen want racing in Virginia and are willing to make sacrifices. Plus, they know and understand no matter what that Jeff Jacobs has the upper hand and is still in control of the situation. The VRC also wants racing to resume, even if it is with a new Horseman association. It appears as if FP may have lost his troops throughout this lengthy battle. Will be real interesting to see who comprises this new Old Dominion Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. If you took a poll today, you would find that fans simply want all this nonsense to end and to re-open the OTBs with the thoroughbred racing signals. We can all live with a shortened live racing schedule, especially if its better racing than the claimers we’ve seen in the past. Ironically, the date Jeff Jacobs is threatening to shut everything down is the best racing day of the year…Breeders Cup! Sure glad I’ve got by OTB seats booked at Charlestown.
Actually, Disrespected Fan, the Virginia horsemen have been almost unanimously united behind the VHBPA. Jacobs had to go to out of state to ask one of his crony Tim Valente to be a front man for his sham competitive group. Ian Stewart from Colonial has refused to name any members of the group except for the single individual. In other words, this “new” group is nothing more than a sham for track management.
Under Virginia law, the organization representing the “majority” of horsemen is the recognized group. One individual cannot outweigh the entirety of the horsemen in the Commonwealth.
Jacobs obviously doesn’t want to operate a racetrack. The Racing Commission will not recognize this so-called group, and if Jacobs keeps his word, he will close Colonial and get out of Virginia. Hallelujah! An opportunity for a fresh start for the industry.
Actually, Virginia Horseman, I have been more critical of Colonial Downs than perhaps anyone else on this site. But the Horsemen have to accept some of the blame as well. The VHBPA may be as you say “unanimously united”, but what has that accomplished for you. “Jacobs obviously does not want to run a race track”, you say. Would you choose to operate a race track that consistently loses money each year? Perhaps Jacobs does need to go, but the VHBPA needs to look in the mirror as well. You are fighting a battle that you can’t win and you don’t even know it. The majority of horse race fans, enthusiasts and bettors don’t care about your self-absorbed interests in running $10,000 claimers to occasionally get a photo of yourself in the winner’s circle. Most bettors don’t care if you run a three day meet or a 6 week meet, just as long as the OTBs are open with the thoroughbred signals available from throughout the country. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a fresh start on both ends of the spectrum. That would be refreshing for all of us!
Colonial Downs has not been consistently losing money every year. The track management’s refusal to enter into an agreement with the horsemen – as required by state law – is the reason why they claim to losing money now. Well, duh. Under the interstate compact, the horsemen’s only leverage is to cut off the signal for track operators (and OTBs) that refuse to enter into a contract with them.
Jacobs has no one to blame for his predicament but himself.
And don’t fool yourself into thinking you can build a thoroughbred industry by running a handful of stakes races and ignore entirely the middle and lower tiers of competition, which you dismissively call “$10,000 claimers. More horses run in, and more money is wagered on claiming races than on any other type of horse racing.
If just 2 people from Va. are members of this new horsemans group they will have a group that is majority Virginians. We know now that the majority of the VHBPA are not Virginians at all. The VRC has allowed a group of people from out of state to take away my right to play the races. The law allowing pari-mutual wagering in Va. was passed as an amendment to the state constitution. Does anyone else see a lawsuit here? The VRC should approve this contract ASAP. The future of horseracing in Va. depends on it. The VHBPA just keeps squawking that Jacobs has to go, but they have no plan if he does. As I have said before there is not a big enough fool in America to build a racetrack here. The VHBPA majority is from out of state and if they can end racing here they can eliminate competition. Lets hope that the VRC is smart enough to see who the real sham organization is.
HBC – you’re beating the drum of the “out-of-state” majority pretty hard, but I’m not sure I see it. Leaving aside the issues with the new group, a quick glance at the VHBPA website shows that 13 of 14 board members, plus the executive director, apparently live in Virginia. That means that, wherever horsemen come from, the entire decision-making apparatus for the organization is based in Virginia. The idea that out-of-staters are trying to “eliminate competition” by convincing Virginia to kill itself doesn’t seem to me to hold water.
If I were the VHBPA, I would be very nervous right now. If the new Horsemen Group has a plan and is willing to work with Colonial Downs on a new game plan for live racing and opening up the OTBs with thoroughbred racing signals, then I don’t see where the Racing Commission has any other choice than to approve the plan. It all goes back to what I have said before; the VHBPA has no power or control here and they just don’t seem to get or understand that, particularly since there is no existing contract. Hard core racing fans could care less about what horsemen group is represented here, just as long as racing resumes and the OTBs reopen with thoroughbred racing signals. By the way, is there an actual membership list of the VHBPA that can be made public?
The VAHBPA membership is comprised of anyone who has ever run a horse in Virginia. When you run a horse here you automatically become a member. That is why HBC was trying to imply that all of the VAHBPA are all ‘out of staters’ it just looks that way because people from all over the mid Atlantic have run horses at Colonial at some point in time.
Obviously you haven’t been paying a bit of attention to this dispute or the events that led up to the dispute. Colonial Downs makes money on their OTBs via Simulcast wagering. They lose money running a live meet as most racetracks do in this country for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the ownership/management of Colonial Downs has 3rd rate promotion of the product and 4th rate customer service skills. Colonials plan all along is to race the least amount of days they possibly can so they don’t have to actually work at promoting their product, since they have shown no desire to such since they took over managing it in 2005. The Horsemens group wants to run MORE race days which in your comment is what you want right? Colonial Downs is the ones who are threatening to close the track for good unless they get their terms met which means NO MORE RACING which according to your comment is what you don’t want YET you are siding with the track? Yes the Horsmens’ group is not innocent in this dispute and certainly the VRC isn’t either as they have let Colonial Downs push them around like a bully on a playground would a puny child. But if you can’t see that this new “group” the ODTBA is just a sham organization set up by Colonial Downs to get what they want then I really do feel sorry for you. I say and I hope that the VRC has enough guts to deny this “contract” and finally call Colonial on its bluff of shutting down. Quite frankly the State and Horse Racing doesn’t need a business like this in their midst and as much as I do love Horse Racing I say GOOD RIDDANCE to them!
Everyone seems to gloss over the fundamentals here. The VRC has a mandate to promote Virginia horses and Virginia horseman. When Colonial Downs holds high end graded stakes the best horses in the country will come and- often- win. This takes funds away from Virginia-bred horses. So, naturally, the VRC would prefer that CD have more non-graded races that are more competitive for Virginia horseman. However, those lower grade races doesn’t do much for CD’s handle. Would you prefer to bet on a Saratoga claiming race or a Colonial Downs race? The only way CD can see black numbers are to encourage higher stakes races to encourage greater national betting at Colonial Downs races. This is all about simulcasting. The Virginia Race economy isn’t self-supporting. It needs national and international wagering t survive. I hope each side can see the greater picture.
Very good point. The Tidewater with it’s Government salaries and pensions should be a great market, but like Laurel they can’t decide who they want at their track. Three of the 10 wealthiest counties in the country an easy drive from Laurel, can’t blame the recession.
Your argument, though good in theory, is not entirely accurate. Tampa Bay Downs a few years ago had tremendous betting pools for their races and their purses and quality of racing were not that much greater than what Colonial Downs has offered in the past. Conversely we’ve seen countless tracks who offer inflated purses b/c of gaming revenue still not see a rise in their pools enough to show a profit. Colonial Downs more and more is becoming an Island to itself. The 10 year no-compete clause with Maryland racing is almost over, and you can bet that Maryland racing officials are itching to be able to schedule summer racing dates once again. So now more than ever Colonial,the REAL Horsemen’s group, AND the VRC need to work together if they both have a sincere interest in VA’s thoroughbred racing/breeding future. They need to find incentives for people to breed a horse in this state and/or work with other states that are struggling such as West Virginia and Delaware and form some type of alliance, circuit that can strengthen all 3 states racing industry.