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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

This is How Bad Things Are

Not surprising, when Colonial Downs owner Jeffrey Jacobs read the tea leaves and saw his plan to have a contract with another horsemen group approved by the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC)  was going to go down in flames, he threw in the towel in a colorful way.  He made a statement to  the VRC which indicated his vision for racing and how the Virginia HBPA was against it and realizing he didn't have the votes, he announced he was not seeking any racing dates for 2015 and turned in his license to operate a racetrack and OTBs effective November 1, after this year's harness meet concluded.

He then walked out and basically set the meeting into a tizzy.  No negotiations, no settlement imposed, not even the pleasure of the VRC pulling the license from Colonial Downs.  All of a sudden, the horse racing business in Virginia became extinct; extinct at least until the thoroughbred horsemen cave or someone builds another racetrack.

As is often the case with harness racing, those that race at Colonial Downs, a group who had no disagreement with Jacobs end up being out of business.  Granted, their short meet isn't going to realistically hurt any horsemen as with the current horse shortage, their horses will be welcome elsewhere.  But still, it has to hurt that they lost the race meet.

When you think of it, the cancellation of standardbred racing at Colonial after this year doesn't reflect well on the standardbred industry because it shows how little support there is for harness racing.  During the dispute with the VHBPA, there was no simulcasting of thoroughbred racing at the track's OTB offices, only simulcasting on standardbred racing was allowed.  Colonial Downs could have operated a standardbred meet if they wanted to next year (at least they could have applied for dates), but it is clear despite the abbreviated 24 day harness meet they conduct, simulcasting on harness racing elsewhere along with the live betting handle wouldn't cover the expenses and purses needed to conduct a meet.  Think of it, 364 days of harness racing simulcasting can't support a 24 day harness meet.

Is this how bad it is, without thoroughbred simulcasting, a harness track can't survive?  It's a sad statement of what harness racing has become.

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