Letter To VA HBPA President David Ross from Ian Stewart, President at Colonial Downs.

Colonial Downs Desperate and Dying a Slow Death! Latest News. 4-8-14


What’s really going on,

Colonial Downs president, Ian Stewart, released a letter to David Ross, president of the Virginia HBPA, regarding the ongoing contract dispute between Virginia horsemen and Colonial Downs race track in New Kent County, Virginia. Colonial Downs is offering the fewest possible days to run live racing in Virginia, in order to keep their pari-mutuel wagering license.

None of the proposals in this letter will promote Virginia racing and breeding. Racing is going backwards in Virginia and will continue as long as Colonial Downs continues to operate in this manner. Colonial Downs is trying to form (buy) their own horsemen’s group that will agree to their offer, to host only 6 days of live horse racing in Virginia, while they continue to operate their profitable off track wagering facilities for the other 359 days a year.

This dirty tactic by Colonial Downs will most likely fail and create even more tension between the Virginia horsemen and Colonial Downs. Virginia horsemen would like a long enough race meet where they can have multiple opportunities to race their horses, if at all. This would be almost impossible in a 6 days race meet. Attempting to attract “quality” horses is dream, not a reality. All Colonial Downs will get is cheap horses that run for larger purses. There are simply not enough horses to fill race races at the higher levels. Where does Colonial Downs think these horses will come from? Colonial Downs feels for some reason that offering larger purses will make Colonial Downs a big player in the thoroughbred racing industry. Realistically Virginia racing will not thrive to the level of the major racing venues, unless casino gaming is offered. The letter ends with Colonial Downs claiming that a group of Virginia horsemen are willing to work with Colonial Downs to resolve the current dispute in favor of the boutique race meet. This is only partially true and the horsemen that may be joining this new group are not active owners and trainers in Virginia. If there is a group at all, it’s very small and insignificant.

Virginia Racing Commission Meeting Colonial Downs VaHBPA

Colonial Downs And Horsemen Meet With Virginia Racing Commission

Driving to Colonial Downs to see if they want to continue to have thoroughbred horses race at their “horse track”. Goodluck horsemen and Colonial Downs to signing a reasonable contract that keeps racing alive and well in Virginia. (By “reasonable”, I mean a 4 x 8). I predict 4 days x 7 weeks or maybe 3 x 7, but I won’t like it.
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  • They are now arguing about allowing Colonial Downs to open wagering for the Dogwood classic.


  • I believe they may need to pick up a sponsor down there someday ……….The 2014 TUMS DERBY…for non winners everywhere


  • So now Colonial Downs admits to taking money from the joint account with the horsemen to fund the purses for the Dogwood Classic. Interesting….. Sneaky….. Criminal?


  • Headlines…”It`s a Crock..of manure spreading at best” Maybe that is what the burn at track burning event they are charging $2 to get in….


  • Frank is making a proposal now…. This involves the Dogwood Classic…


  • Did you know dogwood`s fall of Virginians homes causing damages?


  • Thankfully I have Dubai pp`s to study


  • They allowed wagering at the Dogwood Classic…


  • But not the Florida Derby?


  • Discussing a 7 week, 3 days/week for 21 days of racing.


  • 7 and 21 are good numbers for gamblers ….ZERO NOT SO MUCH


  • More people from New Kent County attended this meeting.


  • From what I understand, just the dogwood classic.


  • New Kent residents should get free passes to smooze???


  • Db`s marketing logo “To get ass`es you need free pass`es


  • Dogwood`s are the things that fall on folks homes in storms ?


  • By they way thanks for the updates …The $25 I saved in gas and $5 on tums will be wagered to support horse racing Saturday
  • no pictures from the crock smart phone?
  • No decision on a contract between Colonial Downs Race Track and the horsemen today. There will be another meeting on April 11th, 9 a.m.
  • What came of the Florida meeting that was reported to be happening a few days ago Chris?
  • Sarah : I would guess a hefty expense account ?
  • Sarah McCord I talked to a CD administrator who was on the inside, but they could not tell me details. All I did find out was Jacobs wasn’t stuck on the short meet like Ian Stewart seemed to be, but he wants to run 8 weeks with harness racing mixed in. 3 days standardbred and 3 days thoroughbred. And where would we train? I can’t imagine it would hurt Colonial and maybe it would be best to cut into the turf course and build a inner harness or dirt track. Run more dirt races and ease up on the grass. I hate to say it, but restrict maiden claiming races to dirt.
  • I don’t know the %s but restricting mcl at Cnl to dirt will move most of the races off the turf.
    Like you said in your first letter Chris the cheap grass is the reason people come.
    You can’t take all the mcl off the grass. The condition books are almost entirely maiden claimers. You can raise the claim tag on the bottom grass but you’ll probably get the 5k horses running for 16 or whatever bottom is.
    If we are to assume that is one model actually on the table (a scary thought) It might be ok moving a higher percentage to dirt
    IF they would hire a good track man and give us a safe racetrack. You know from training there That that track is not even good enough to gallop on a lot of the time.But why do that when you have a huge swath of turf that will hold up to running nearly every race on the card for an 8 week meet??? other tracks limit their turf is because it’s a precious resource that won’t hold up to the abuse of daily racing. But with a 24 day meet, colonial is in a position to be able to run everything on the turf. That’s their big selling point!tearing up the grass for a harness track seems insane. I would rather they resurface the dirt to harness and leave us only a thin strip to train on than rip up the turf (biggest asset of colonial).
    How would they handle training? Separate hours? Who gets the late shift when it’s 110 in the shade?
    This seems like an impossible suggestion to me to run both at once without building a separate training track.
  • Exactly, Sarah McCord, they have no clue what that proposal involves. You are right about taking all the MdCl races too, but then maybe Colonial will realize what the place is good for when no races fill and people just put their 5k maiden claimers in the MSW races. I thought about the strip of dirt, but Jessica McKinney shot it down when she said they would not want to spend the money to put up another rail and backtracking would be a bitch without an outside rail on a narrow track. If Colonial does a 6 day meet, and they won’t, with insanely high purses, we should all just show up with the same horses that we have been bringing and get good entry dates so all the big outfits can’t get in the races. Now that’s an idea, although I really don’t want to give them the horses to put on their show because what they have not realized yet is that they do need us, we don’t need them. Most of betting public, especially the people who are blaming us horsemen, only can tell the class of a horse by the price on the racing form. Anyway… I just wish Jacobs sold the place a long time ago to people with a vision to grow thoroughbred horse racing and a clue how to manage a race track.

Looks like Colonial Downs will no longer be able to offer their circus style meet complete with ostrich racing, camel racing, mascot racing, man against horse racing and fireworks. Oh, did I forget horse racing? Colonial Downs certainly did as the horses are the last thing they want at their overbuilt facility. CD wants to host only 6 days of racing in 2014. If they wanted that in the first place, then all they needed was a half mile track, a few bleachers and a hot dog stand.

VA Bred "Chedi" Training at Colonial Downs.

VA Bred “Chedi” Training at Colonial Downs.

Colonial Downs president, Ian Stewart is not being one hundred percent honest about their agenda. Live horse racing cost money and if Colonial Downs was to have it their way, there would be no live racing at all in Virginia. Off-track wagering is where the big profits are and in order for them to conduct business, the Commonwealth of Virginia requires live racing. The Virginia Racing Commission is in charge of making sure the horseman (VHBPA) and the racetrack come to an agreement on these days. Colonial Downs opened in 1997 with the intentions of eventually getting a 50+ day race meet. Instead, it peaked at about 35 days and has been reduced down to 28 days, as of 2013. This year the race track has proposed a 6 day meet in attempt to drastically cut the fat. Live horse racing, the fat, is of no interest to Colonial Downs as it cuts into their off track wagering profits. Understandably they run a business and the goal of any business is to make profits. The problem is that they need horses and horsemen to put on their show. Without horses, there would be no racing and without racing, no wagering on thoroughbred horses in the Commonwealth of Virginia and no Colonial Downs. Virginia horsemen, who make Colonial Downs possible, are not going to be run out of their own town by agreeing to such a pathetic proposal. With 2 days of stakes races, and maybe a weather cancellation, the reality is that local trainers and owners will not even get a chance to race their Virginia bred horses.

The following is a very misleading statement from Ian Stewart (President of Colonial Downs Race Track):

“There continues to be a great deal of misinformation about the current dispute between Colonial Downs and the VHBPA and I would like to set the record straight.
Why is there no wagering on thoroughbred races at Colonial Downs’ OTBs?
The VHBPA, the thoroughbred horsemen group, unilaterally elected not to extend the contract between it and Colonial Downs because the VHBPA disagreed with the Virginia Racing Commission’s order regarding 2014 thoroughbred race days. In past years, when the VHBPA and Colonial Downs have been unable to agree on race dates, they extended the contact while they worked to a compromise. The VHBPA unilaterally chose not to do this and to bring about the purposeful shutdown of wagering on thoroughbred racing in the OTBs.
What is the disagreement about thoroughbred race days?
After a series of negotiations between Colonial Downs and the VHBPA, the Virginia Racing Commission awarded 25 days of racing over 5 weeks. Colonial Downs was willing to accept this compromise; the VHPBA was not. After more negotiations, when the VHBPA did not get the 8 weeks of racing it demanded, it forced the VRC to stop wagering on thoroughbred racing at our off track facilities. In an effort to reach a compromise, Colonial Downs offered many alternatives to the VHBPA, all which were rejected, including 7 weeks of racing with a cost sharing arrangement between the VHBPA and Colonial Downs. Unfortunately, throughout these negotiations at no time were Colonial Downs and the VHBPA close to an agreement.
But days and weeks are not the real issue. The reality is that racing at Colonial Downs has to improve. In 2004, racing for $200,000 allowed Colonial Downs to put on a quality thoroughbred race meet. In 2014, $200,000 a day (the amount the VHBPA wants to race for) will result in Colonial Downs offering a much lower end meet. We need to offer higher purses to attract better horses. The amount of purse money is relatively fixed, albeit diminished after the cessation of wagering on thoroughbred races. Therefore the only way to raise purses is to reduce the number of race days.
None of this is a mystery to the VHBPA. Unfortunately, the VHBPA wants to expand low-end racing opportunities for its members, 80% of whom are not Virginians, regardless of the quality of those races. Colonial Downs is willing to provide opportunities for Virginia horses, breeders and owners to race at Colonial Downs and its vision for a thoroughbred meet includes racing opportunities for these Virginians. However, we believe the overall emphasis of the race meet needs to be on offering high quality thoroughbred racing. Colonial Downs aspires to be one of the highest quality TB tracks in the country. Continuing as the VHBPA wants us to will not get us there.
What’s the future?
As every other state around us enriches its purse account with casino gambling income, Virginia will need to differentiate itself to survive. Colonial Downs has one of the finest turf race courses in America. If we offer high, competitive purses, we will become a stop on the national thoroughbred circuit. With this attention will come more wagering on quality racing. With more wagering comes greater purse funds and the potential for more race days. Conversely, continuing to do what we have been doing for the last several years and continuing to fall behind by offering lower daily purses is the closest thing to a sure bet to make racing in Virginia irrelevant and unsustainable. A high quality meet is the best bet to promote, grow and sustain a native Virginia thoroughbred industry.
Change is disruptive but Colonial Downs is committing to changing Virginia racing. We appreciate your patronage and support as we work to bring quality thoroughbred racing back to Virginia.
Ian Stewart, President ”

Colonial Downs Race Track

Steve Crocker Visits His Champion Thoroughbred.

The TRUTH is Colonial Downs Race Track offered the horsemen 12 DAYS of racing and then, when they did not accept, they offered 6 DAYS of racing. Since Colonial loses money when the doors are open for live racing, it’s in their best interest to minimize live racing to what the commission allows. Colonial is required to have a certain amount of live racing days in order to keep off track wagering open. CD has been taking racing days every year in order to keep profits higher. Colonial Downs has never and probably will never be considered a world class track. It is currently irrelevant and obviously is unsustainable since live racing is not the priority of Colonial Downs. The turf course has been worse every year since it opened. It’s very hard and lacks “grass” since money for maintaining the course has been cut back. Cut back on watering, fertilizing and reseeding. I know this because I have been on that turf course since the days they started racing on it. There are much better turf courses across North America. Colonial Downs current reputation: “Cheap Turf Track” where you can run your 5k claimers and that is why owners and trainers show up to race.

If you are asking why is Colonial Downs not offering thoroughbred wagering, the answer is: Colonial Downs has offer the horsemen 6 days of live racing. This is unacceptable and totally outrageous, so the horsemen will not agree to those terms. The Virginia Racing Commission, not the horsemen, has shut down wagering until Colonial Downs offers an acceptable amount of racing days that the horsemen can agree on. Ian Stewart put a spin on the story talking about improving Colonial Downs and the quality of the meet. This is just a slick way of trying to make a 6 day meet for out of state horses sound great, while forgetting the local horsemen who made Colonial Downs happen in the first place.

In my opinion, we should have never let it get down to 5 weeks of racing and nothing short of 45 days is acceptable for racing to survive in Virginia. No one cares about high

Chris Crocker Horse Racing Colonial Downs

Morning Workout at Colonial Downs Race Track. Keep Virginia Racing Alive!

purses. The only draw, for the horsemen, to Colonial Downs is the cheap turf races. Delaware Park, 3 Pennsylvania tracks and Charles Town offer enough purse money with a legitimate racing meet. Wagering is wagering and even though graded stakes races might draw international attention, Colonial Downs needs a quantity of all classes of horses to fill races so there can be wagering in the first place. The use of the phrase “Quality Racing” means, “Lets have as few racing days as possible so we can cut cost of live racing.” That’s THE TRUTH!

– Chris Crocker

I’m sure we are all going to miss the ostrich races at Colonial Downs.

Facebook gave it’s users the option to create a short video of our Facebook activity in the past years. Some people realized how irrelevant their postings were and others embraced their sharing history of accomplishments and milestones. We all share things that only our mother cares about and I am sure guilty of that. Some of us noticed inappropriate photos or language that showed up and maybe that will remind people not everything should be shared. The golden rule of social media postings is, “If you don’t want your grandmother to see it, then don’t post it”. Unfortunately social media can be shameless, but there are still people who keep it clean and PG. I try to keep my postings appropriate for all audiences and especially family friendly. I avoid political bias and only rant on something I am truly passionate about. I am sure I will break a rule now and then, but as long as my mother is on Facebook, I’ll stick to a higher standard.

Thoroughbred Horse Racing Partnerships and Crocker Racing Stable: Owning a horse is serious business, Don’t gamble him away.

via Thoroughbred Horse Racing Partnerships and Crocker Racing Stable: Owning a horse is serious business, Don’t gamble him away..

This 4 year old filly has missed four days of training because the ground is simply too hard and dangerous to train on. The recent snow and ice, that has plagued the majority of the United Sates, has interrupted training operations at Crocker Racing. Currently we are training at a farm where we can take advantage of the safer footing and uphill terrain. We train at various speeds and intensities, three to five miles a day. A thoroughbred race horse training on a dirt race track probably wouldn’t hold up to the same training that can be accomplished on natural footing. I have never liked dirt tracks for race horses and believe a dirt track contributes to the majority of breakdowns in North America. Horses training and racing on dirt are limited to the distance and intensity of training they can tolerate without the risking serious injuries. In a perfect world, all horses would be racing and training on grass. Most tracks, unfortunately, are dirt and we must train accordingly. The all weather, synthetic surfaces were designed to simulate the feel and give of turf, reducing racing injuries to horses. Michael Dickinson introduced this synthetic material to thoroughbred racing in hopes to accomplish a safer race track. More on synthetic tracks in another posting. I’ll go into the pros and cons of the Tepta race track.

Crocker Racing Stable Filly 2014

3YO Filly trained by Chris Crocker. Crocker Racing Stable.

This funny filly just can’t contain herself after having 4 days of only turnout. She can gallop and jog in her 1/2 acre paddock, but she feels the need for speed. She loves to train and the day following this video, she was a bear to gallop. She was not fun to ride at all. She was leaping out of her skin. The video was posted on a social media site and while most found it cute, that she was so full of energy and happy, others started creating their own story. One person posted that it was cruel to keep a race horse cooped up in a stall. She obviously didn’t notice the open door to a large paddock and didn’t take a second to read the video description that accompanied the YouTube post. One person even tried to tell us the blanket was bothering her. She has been in this exact same blanket for a month. She was actually reacting to the feed buckets rattling and the blower that we use to clean out the barn. You can post anything online and someone will find something bad to say about it. A basket of kittens can even prompt a negative comment. People who are not involved with horse racing get a lot of misinformation from people who think they know what goes on at race tracks. I have found that these people don’t realize how much these horses are loved and cared for at the track. In any business, there are people who disgrace their industry with unethical acts and practices. Horse racing is not immune to these bad apples. We need to educate the public about the positive sides of racing and I hope to help do that in future postings.

I am convinced that this thoroughbred and bulldog photograph inspired the new Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl commercial for 2014 “Puppy Love”. I can’t help to think that Budweiser was trolling my Facebook pictures or saw a photo that I took back in 2010 of my thoroughbred race horse, Half Mask and my 3 month old bulldog, Winston. The horse is the photo is “Half Mask”, but the video features a thoroughbred race horse named “Jack Saw”.
Winston is an English bulldog and is just learning the ropes. He still doesn’t know that he is not a horse since he grew up around a barn full of excitable race horses. He has since learned that he will lose any fight, but knows which horses will play with him and which will try and kill him. He loved to sit under the yearlings feed tub and eat the feed that hit the ground. At that time, the feed looked much like his own food and obviously the taste wasn’t and issue for him. Winston also likes to graze like the horses and sometimes follows along on training exercises, but only when the horses are taking it easy that day.

Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial Puppy Love

The real life “Puppy Love”!

(Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl commercial, “Puppy Love”)
Half Mask was claimed by Crocker Racing Stable. Unfortunately he won the non winner’s of three race in which we claimed him out of. Losing that key condition cost us a potential win and money. The horse stood out in the form as he had been running better going long, further back, in his form and at tougher tracks. When watching his sprint races, with his current trainer, he was breaking slow and had to be rushed early to get in the race. While training him, I observed his laid back nature. He was not a horse that liked to be rushed and actually would settle in company with other horses. We spent the next 60 days putting some mileage on him with longer and more frequent workouts. He won his very next start wire to wire, going a flat mile and looked comfortable the whole way. He was coming from the outside post and circled the field around the first turn and took the lead by the first call. Ryan Fogelsonger was aboard that day. He was never pressured in the early going, which I believe gave him the confidence to draw off in the final stretch with only one possible challenger. Half Mask went onto run a huge second at Woodbine Racetrack in his next outing for more than double the original claiming tag. We decided to keep this race horse on the synthetic and turf surfaces since he showed the most promise there. After some rough trips at Woodbine following one of his best performances, we put him up for six months for next year’s racing season. He ran an impressive 3 starts in a 24 day span, when he came back. He ran a second, bounced back in six days to win a sprint, coming from behind with Mario Pino aboard. He was starting to act more like a sprinter by bolting to the lead in some of his longer races. His confidence was defiantly up and he was changing his running patterns. Eighteen days after the win, he ran another strong second. I have a pattern of running horses back sooner than most, but it is very calculated and not just haphazard. I have had much success with horses winning or improving on a 6 day, or less, turn around. More trainers are following my patterns, but I do not believe they fully understand how to do this safely and effectively. Not all horses are capable of running twice a week. I don’t like to keep horses in my barn that can’t run more often and I train them accordingly. For obvious reasons, I am not going into what it takes to train such a horse. I want to warn all the horse owners out there who may be reading this and wondering why their horses are not getting at least 3 starts a month. If you start pushing your trainer to run your thoroughbred race horse more often, it will no doubt end your horse or your relationship with that trainer. The trainer must be knowledgeable and fully understand how to apply the training and feeding techniques which allow horses to bounce back quickly. One of the downsides of racing horses too close, too often is the Lasix can be detrimental to the health of the animal. Rapid weight loss will also pose a problem and the horse’s performance will decline as well, if not controlled. A decline in performance can also lead to fatigue related injuries or even death. The problem with large racing operations is that the trainer doesn’t have time for individual attention and largely rely on assistants and grooms. Large stables can be very successful, but the trainers do not like to enter multiple horses in conflict of interest for their clients. A high percentage trainer entering two horses in one race, guarantees at least one loss if not two.
(Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl commercial, “Puppy Love”)
This blog just went on a wild tangent, but when I get going, I can’t help myself. Keep up with this blog for more answers to questions that you may have as an owner or a trainer new to the business. There are many successful trainers out there and they all have a specialty or system that works best for them. There is no one way to do things, but always keep in mind what is best for the race horse. Never do something just because someone else is successful at doing it because they may have a specific reason of why it works for them. I have said this before, but the horse training community consist largely of the “monkey see, monkey do” mentality. People are not taking the time to understand the why and how, but just copy what the other person is doing. This is never a good thing. I compare it to watching a pilot fly a plane. Just because you may be sitting next to him while he takes off and lands a plane, doesn’t mean you can copy his movements and accomplish the same results.

The original video that inspired the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial, “Puppy Love”. Well, in my opinion, a least.
Check out the video with a playlist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwN0Vv1d7eU&list=PLCA6ADB8EDF448579&feature=share&index=24