Racing Roundup: Voting For Venezia Award Opens; Distance Program & More

Gainesway Stable's Blind Ambition goes gate-to-wire to post a two-length win in the fifth running of the $125,000 Elusive Quality for 4-year-olds and up on April 28, 2018 at Belmont Park. Credits: Annette Jasko | NYRA
Belmont Park Opening Day ceremonies on April 27, 2018 include a ribbon cutting, recognizing local community leaders and elected officials in celebration of kicking off the spring/summer meet. Credits: Adam Coglianese | NYRA

Fans Can Vote Online To Select Venezia Award Winner

ELMONT, N.Y.— An internet ballot box is now open that will allow racing fans nationwide to select the 2018 recipient of the Mike Venezia Award. Created in 1989, the Venezia Award honors jockeys who display extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship on track and off.

The award is named for the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born rider who lost his life on October 13, 1988 when he fell from his mount and was then trampled to death during a Belmont Park race. His 25-year career ended on that date after he recorded more than 2,300 winners.

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The finalists for the 2018 Venezia Trophy are Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano, Manny Franco, Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Jose Ortiz.

Fans can cast their ballots online until May 15 at The winner will receive the award at special ceremonies at Belmont Park on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28.

Run Farther, Earn More...

A bonus program that rewards the owners of horses who race over longer distances is being continued for the Belmont Spring and Summer meeting. Open maiden special weight, other-than-one allowance races and two-other-than allowance races will all receive a purse increase when the race distance is 1-1/4 miles or beyond. When the distance bonus is added in, those races will be worth $90,000 each.

“NYRA is committed to writing long distance races to both grow interest in this style of racing and allow for longer distance turf runners to continue to develop,” said Martin Panza, senior director of racing operation at the NYRA.

Management is aiming for the distance bonuses to be as successful as the newly renewed bonus program for 2-year-olds. This year, eight maiden special races worth $100,000 each are being offered during the spring season that lead up to the $150,000 Astoria for fillies to be run June 7 and the $150,000 Tremont for colts and geldings the next day.

The Astoria and Tremont will be the first two stakes for juveniles of the season. They will be part of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

New York-bred juveniles are also going to the starting gate questing for bonus dollars in both state-bred and open two-year-old races.

Winners in a state-bred or open juvenile races will earn an additional $9,000 for their owners and $4,000 for their trainers. Second place finishers will earn rewards of $4,500 and $3,000. Sow horse owners and trainers will collect $2,500 and $2,000 respectively.

A Virginia Racing Rebirth...

Racing fans can expect the return of live racing at Colonial Downs in New Kent County, Virginia as early as 2019.

Revolutionary Racing and Peninsula Pacific announced this week they have purchased the track that has been shuttered since 2013 for an amount “in excess of $20 million.”

Colonial Downs opened for business in 1997 and averaged as many as 45 days of racing per year. In its later years, live racing suffered greatly in Virginia when the local horsemen and Jacobs Racing, the track operator, got into a prolonged battle.

Since then, a horsemen's group known as Virginia Equine Alliance has been operating the state's off-track betting outlets. They have also been offering pari-mutuel wagering at the Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup race meetings at The Plains, Va. under the sanction of the National Steeplechase Association.

Part of Colonial Downs earlier money problems came from competition from neighboring states where the racetracks received financial enhancement from sources outside of pari-mutuel wagering.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recently signed legislation to legalize “historical horse racing,” a slot machine form of betting that uses the result of previously run horse races to generate numbers.

The targeted re-start of 2019 for full-fledged pari-mutuel on track betting may be a rosy outlook. A Revolutionary Racing study anticipates a four-year rebuilding period will be needed to get the off-track system (including historic horse racing) back to full operating speed.

Observers of the Colonial purchase are taking a long look at the competition the Virginia track will receive from neighboring Maryland. In its previous incarnation, Colonial ran in the summertime — when the Maryland tracks were shut down. Now, pari-mutuel racing is a year-event activity in Maryland.

Despite the corporate hurdles facing them, Colonial's new owners are seeing smiles on the face of the commonwealth's horsemen and horsewomen.

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