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COLONIAL DOWNS RACING DAYS – Although the VRC awarded racing days last month, the purse contract remains unresolved. This is primarily because Virginia H.B.P.A. executive director Frank Petramalo has been out of the country enjoying a well-deserved vacation in India.
As you may recall, if the two sides can’t reach an agreement on the purse account contract, the VRC will order the race meet to be run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, three days a week. Such a schedule would be bad for both parties and that is exactly why the Commission was using it to get the two parties moving.
At issue is the amount of the purses for the two marquis races – the Derby and the Turf Cup.
It wasn’t a surprise when following the February VRC meeting, Colonial Downs did not send out their typical press release outlining dates and times for the 2009 meet. After all, there were issues to resolve.
It was subsequently a bit surprising when such a press release arrived last week.
Do we take this to mean that Colonial is now ready to capitulate on the marquis race purse issue when Petremalo returns? The issue is simple: The horsemen want to cut the purse from the Derby from $750,000 to $600,000 and the purse from the Turf Cup from $600,000 to $500,000. Both are Grade 2 stakes, and the total savings would be $250,000.
Colonial Downs points out that they have cut those purses every year for the past three years starting when both races had purses of $1 million each, and that they are seeking Grade 1 status for both. But, the world is a different place today. Every track seems to be reducing stakes purses, even the likes of Keeneland, who most thought was “recession proof.”
It seems a silly argument considering the current economic times. In addition, all the feedback from the likes of Bill Mott, Johathan Shephard. Todd Pletcher and Barclay Tagg is that the magic number for three-year-olds on the turf is $500,000. Literally, if you offer it, they will come.
None of those trainers, and others like them, take a $500,000 purse lightly, and all will understand and be sympathetic with the reduction. In the end, the math drives the bus – the winner’s share is $300,000. Last time we looked that was real money. In addition, remember the trainer gets $30,000 of that, and that amount still motivates folks would good horses to find their way to New Kent.
VTA BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTIONS – Information will be coming your way late this week or early next week about the 2009 elections.