NEW KENT – The dispute over the thoroughbred racing season is no closer to a resolution than when it officially went to court last month.
According to Michael Kelly, representative for the attorney general's office, the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) has requested an extension for its initial response to Colonial Downs’ appeal in Richmond Circuit Court until Sept. 26.
Colonial Downs is insisting that the VRC overstepped its powers in June when it ordered the racetrack sign a 2015 thoroughbred season contract with conditions.
The track formally filed an appeal last month and the VRC was given until Aug. 15 to file its response.
Though Kelly could not comment on the exact reason why the VRC had requested an extension, he said that, “all parties are interested in reaching a resolution.”
“We want to see the important enterprise of horse racing get started up and succeed,” he added.
The VRC ordered Colonial Downs in June to enter into an eight-week and 24-day 2015 thoroughbred racing season contract with the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (VHBPA) by July 1. By doing so, the four Off-Track Betting (OTB) facilities that were closed in January after the two parties refused to sign a 2014 thoroughbred season contract would be reopened.
As part of the proposed agreement, the VRC agreed to recant its request for a 2014 thoroughbred season, meaning that the season would be canceled.
"They have the right and power to order us to enter into a contract but not with special terms," said Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart in a phone interview last month. "They exceeded their statutory authority."
VHBPA Executive Secretary Frank Petramalo said that his organization is unaffected by the appeal and is anxiously awaiting the result.
The horsemen's association is a nonprofit organization made up of 1,300 thoroughbred owners and trainers who race at Colonial Downs and award purses, or set amounts of prize money, to the winners.
The VHBPA and Colonial Downs have been at odds for months over the 2014 thoroughbred season schedule. As a result, four of the eight OTB facilities were shut down after arguments over the length of the thoroughbred season led to the contract's expiration in January. The remaining four OTB facilities also cannot take bets on any Virginia thoroughbred racing, since a contract has not been signed between Colonial Downs and the VHBPA.
Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.