Virginia-Certified program to undergo changes

The Virginia-Certified Residency Program will undergo some changes for the years to come.

The program encourages people to send their young horses to Virginia for a minimum six-month stay prior to the conclusion of the horse’s two-year-old year. Horses that do so then become eligible to receive bonuses of 25% for wins in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, with those bonuses going to the “developer,” the person who owned the horse at the time of its first career start.

Certified horses also are eligible for some, though not all, of the state-restricted races contested at Colonial Downs.

“[O]ver 4,000 horses have cycled through Virginia farms – benefiting from the horsemanship for which Virginia is known,” the state breeder group, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, said in a release. “The program has filled Virginia farms and training centers, while rejuvenating the infrastructure that supports those facilities.”

But to “help us stay within our budget,” the VTA is adding three new restrictions to the certified program.

First, the bonuses will accrue only when horses win open-company races. They will no longer apply to state-bred contests. That figures to have its greatest impact in states with robust state-bred racing programs, including New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Second, beginning with foals of 2023, the program will no longer pay any bonuses for wins in West Virginia. That should have a significant impact on a number of owners; in 2021, two of the top four recipients of funds from the program, including leader Taylor Mountain Farm LLC, raced primarily in West Virginia.

Third, during the Colonial Downs meet, only horses racing at Colonial can earn bonuses. The meet is slated to be nine weeks this year, and growth is expected to come in future years. That will take two months off the table for out-of-state owners and incentivize people to send their horses to Virginia.

That last moves in the direction outlined by Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Colonial’s new owner Churchill Downs, back in April.

“I don’t like your purse construct where you’re paying purse money to horses that are winning out-of-state,” he said at the time. “Now that you’re running race days here, it’s puzzling why you’re paying horses to win races in a different jurisdiction. That’s your purse money that should be invested in your racing program.”

Additionally, owners have been eligible for a 25% bonus when their Virginia-bred horses win at Mid-Atlantic tracks. Beginning with the foals of 2021 – and thus, two-year-olds of this year – those bonuses will go to the developer, that is, the person owning the horse at the time of its first start.

The two programs have an annual budget of $4 million.