CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – February XX, 2023 – The Virginia Equine Alliance – a non-profit, 501 (c) 6 organization that sustains, promotes and expands the horse breeding and horse racing industries in Virginia – has announced Jill Byrne as its new vice president of strategic planning.
“Byrne is a wonderful fit for the role, especially with her decades of experience in the horse racing and breeding industries,” said Jeb Hannum, executive director of the VEA. “From being in the heart of it by exercising horses, to working in strategic communications roles, Byrne has a thorough understanding of the industries.”
The organization will work with Byrne’s depth of industry expertise to further advance the community’s understanding and enthusiasm for horse breeding and racing.
Byrne’s other roles throughout her career have included serving as an on-air personality for TVG, the director of broadcast and programming for Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, the director of industry relations for the Breeders Cup and, most recently, the vice president of racing operations for Colonial Downs here in Virginia.
“I like to say that my career in the industry truly began when I was much younger, growing up on the farm and working with horses, from exercising them to caring for them,” Byrne said. “I am grateful to have had both hands-on experience as well as experience in strategically promoting the industries.”
Raised in Barboursville, Virginia, Byrne grew up on a horse farm with two parents who were both accomplished equestrians. She attended a boarding school near Belmont Park racetrack, and while most students her age may have chosen to spend their weekends differently, Byrne remembers fondly spending weekends with her father at the track.
“My love for the industry began at such a young age, and it has been a part of my life ever since,” Byrne said. “Growing up in Virginia, I have a close connection and passion for the horse breeding and racing industries here.”
Byrne attended the University of Virginia, where she studied history and political science, but her passions led her back to the racetrack. She has worked with many top horses, including Favorite Trick, who eventually became the only other two-year-old horse to win the honor of Eclipse Horse of the Year, aside from the world-renowned Secretariat.
One of Byrne’s passions is thoroughbred aftercare, meaning the care given to thoroughbred racehorses after their racing career is over to ensure a meaningful life beyond the racetrack. Currently, she works with the Virginia Thoroughbred Project based in Montpelier, Virginia.
Byrne says that she is looking forward to promoting and advancing Virginia’s horse breeding and racing industries in her new role with the VEA.
To learn more about the Virginia Equine Alliance and Virginia’s horse racing and breeding industries, please visit www.virginiahorseracing.com.
About Virginia Equine Alliance
The Virginia Equine Alliance is a non-profit, 501 (c) 6 organization which is comprised of the Virginia Harness Horse Association, the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, the Virginia Gold Cup Association, and the Virginia Thoroughbred Association. The purpose of the Virginia Equine Alliance is to sustain, promote, and expand the horse breeding and horse racing industries in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Alliance seeks to establish and support new and multiple venues for horse racing in the Commonwealth and to advocate and support legislation, regulations, and rules beneficial to the breeders and owners and trainers of horses (“horsemen”) in the state. The Alliance represents the interests of horsemen at meetings of the Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Agriculture, the Virginia Racing Commission, racing associations, breeder’s organizations, horsemen’s organizations, and other like groups. The Alliance is committed to increasing public awareness of the economic and environmental importance to the Commonwealth of the horse breeding and horse racing industries.