Horse Racing

CDI aims to almost double the colony’s race day


By 2026, the gaming conglomerate that owns Colonial Downs is aiming to nearly double the number of races at the grass-centric Virginia track, potentially expanding the current boutique-style summer race from 27 up to 50 days.

That news was revealed Thursday morning by Bill Carstanjen, chief executive officer of Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI), who briefly mentioned the daily gain during a quarterly earnings call with investment bankers.

The reason is that it has everything to do with CDI’s game revenue and seems to have very little to do with the overall scope of the race in the region.

Almost set aside in the larger discussion that CDI is moving ahead with its acquisition of Colonial and its gaming business network, Carstanjen said that CDI is “working on plans to ramp up the race” due to The company’s strategy is to maximize the number of horse racing machines (HRMs) it can operate in various locations in the state.

“Based on Virginia law, we will have to host one race day for every 100 HRMs in operation in the state, up to 5,000 HRMs that we are authorized,” Carstanjen said.

“Clonial Downs will host 27 race days this year with around 2,700 HRMs already deployed. Over the next two to four years, we expect to grow up to 50 race days at 5,000 HRM,” said Carstanjen.

Expanding the race schedule with that intensity will almost certainly create a strain on horse availability in an area of ​​the country that is geographically dense with competitive racetracks, but has a history of being competitive. strong recent efforts to avoid cannibalism overall mid-Atlantic purebred products.

Frank Petramalo Jr., executive director of the Virginia Knights Protection and Mercy Association, told TDN in a phone interview that he hadn’t heard Carstanjen’s comments, but he was aware that Virginia law allows that extent to be extended.

While owners and coaches generally welcome the prospect of increased race days, Petramalo calls for restraint for the sake of the circuit in general.

“What I said to both Bill Carstanjen and [CDI president] Bill Mudd, our goal has always been to have a sensible program in the mid-Atlantic race,” said Petramalo. “We thought something smaller [50 dates at Colonial] would fit in the mid-Atlantic. I could certainly change my mind, but I told both the Bills that it was important to continue the partnership between Virginia and Maryland and Delaware. [and] certainly Pennsylvania. “

Petramalo continued: “We have a lot of races [in the region] and the number of horses is decreasing. We think the way to success is to try to streamline racing programs. Now I know it’s a consequence for every state, but you can’t keep running through other race meetings. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

After being closed for six years, Colonial reopened under new management in 2019, ushering in the HRM wallet era in Virginia and establishing a reputation as an indie “back” track.

Petramalo said that earlier in Colonial’s history, it had a contract with Maryland racetracks calling for the Maryland race to cease operations in June and July while Colonial ran unacceptably. In turn, Colonial did not seek to extend its schedule beyond that agreed time frame.

“Even after Colonial bought that contract outright, we still had a partnership. We are not against each other,” explains Petramalo.

“Sure, we want to race 50 days,” continued Petramalo. “But it has to make economic sense to do that. Right now, we’re not really competing with Maryland because we race Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and they race on weekends. We still have a lot of people going back and forth, and we both prosper that way.”

CDI owns four other Thoroughbred races across the country – Churchill Downs, Turfway Park, Fair Grounds and Presque Isle Downs – and is in the process of receiving regulatory approvals to close a $2 Colonial sale, 4 billion dollars. But beyond its presence on the Presque Isle, the games company is a new player to the traditional mid-Atlantic cooperative racing area.

Recent history raises the question of whether CDI can play well with its neighbors and horsemen.

Under CDI’s stewardship during this century, the gaming corporation purchased and subsequently closed three major racecourses: Hollywood Park, Calder Racecourse, and Arlington International Speedway. The closure of Arlington last year capped a series of decades-long acrimonious relationships with the riders, and CDI is still working on it. litigation in federal court about a $775,000 wallet account dispute.

“We continue to analyze where additional HRM deployments are located in Virginia,” Carstanjen said on the July 28 call. “We are prioritizing locations based on population, disposable income, and availability. It is possible through local referendum to allow HRMs in designated locations. We will provide updates on future earnings calls. “

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