Colonial Downs formally appeals VRC order for 2015 thoroughbred season

NEW KENT – The dispute over thoroughbred racing is officially off to court.

Colonial Downs is insisting that the Virginia Racing Commission (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 in Richmond Circuit Court last week.

According to Michael Kelly, representative for the attorney general's office, the VRC's initial response will be due on Aug. 15.

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 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 six 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.

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