Jill Byrne, pictured at the Global Symposium on Racing in Tucson, Ariz.
Jill Byrne, who stepped down in December as vice president of racing operations at Colonial Downs, has accepted a new position as vice president of strategic planning for the Virginia Equine Alliance.
Byrne, a Virginia native, began her duties on Feb. 1.
The alliance is a non-profit organization comprised of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, Virginia Harness Horse Association, Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Virginia Gold Cup Association. It is designed to sustain, promote and expand the horse breeding and racing industries throughout the commonwealth of Virginia. It is funded by a percentage of advance-deposit wagering and historical horse racing machines.
“This gives me an opportunity to stay in Virginia and continue to help and promote the entire Virginia horse industry, not just throughout the state but the country, and to remind people of the importance and history of the horse in Virginia,” said Byrne. “It’s a great opportunity for me to continue what I started four years ago.”
Byrne came to Colonial Downs in 2019 after the approval of historical horse racing machines provided the economic stimulus to reopen the New Kent track that had been closed since 2013. Prior to that, she served as senior director of Industry Relations for Breeders’ Cup Ltd. She spent nearly a decade as director of Broadcast and Programming at Churchill Downs racetrack.
“We are delighted to have Jill and lucky to have her expertise,” said Jeb Hannum executive director of the Virginia Equine Alliance.
Hannum said the Alliance recently completed a five-year strategic plan that was presented to the Virginia Racing Commission in December and that Byrne was part of the process in developing it.
“The Virginia Equine Alliance conducted a similar strategic plan five years ago,” said Hannum. “We did a second round in 2022 and found it to be very helpful as it documented what we need to be thinking about on a path forward.”
The strategic plan focuses on five key components: marketing and communications; racing, pari-mutuel wagering and revenues; agribusiness and incentives; and infrastructure. In addition to Colonial Downs, Virginia offers standardbred racing with two 14-day meets in the spring and fall at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock as well as steeplechase race meets, including the Virginia Gold Cup.