Monthly Archives: June 2019

Colonial Downs Mount Fee To Be Highest In Mid-Atlantic After Guild, Virginia HBPA Pact

The following appeared in The Paulick Report June 27th.

The Jockeys’ Guild and the Virginia HBPA have reached an agreement on a mount fee schedule for races to be run at Colonial Downs beginning with their opening day, August 8, 2019.

The mount fee schedule calls for a minimum fee of $125, the highest in the mid-Atlantic area. Racing is returning to Virginia for the first time since 2013.  Daily purses are expected to average a minimum of $500,000 a day for the 15-day meet with a $1.8 million stakes schedule led by the $250,000 Virginia Derby (Gr. III) on August 31.

“I would like to thank Frank Petramalo, Jr., Executive Director of the Virginia HBPA and his board of directors for working with the Guild to reach this agreement,” said Terry Meyocks, President and CEO of the Jockeys’ Guild.  “We are excited to see racing return to Colonial Downs which is noted for its turf racing program and the widest grass course in the country. We would also like to thank Jill Byrne, vice president of racing operations for prioritizing health and safety for the horses and riders for the upcoming meet.”

“We’re delighted with the reopening of Colonial Downs, which has one of the best turf courses in America. We invite all jockeys to come and “kick some grass” in Virginia,” said Frank Petramalo, Jr.

The 2019 Colonial Downs meet will be conducted on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from August 8 through September 7.

Scenes From The Virginia Yearling Futurity At The Warrenton Horse Show Grounds

The annual $22,500 Virginia Yearling Futurity took place at the Warrenton Horse Show Grounds on June 23rd under a “Chamber of Commerce” type morning with sunny skies and comfortable temperatures. The 2019 festivities were sponsored by the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and the Virginia Breeder’s Fund.

Virginia HBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo looked right at home serving as Futurity emcee.
Jim Arrison was top handicapper in the Virginia-Bred/Sired Colt & Gelding division and won $200 for his efforts. Attendees who selected the order of finish closest to the order of Judge Patrick Lawley-Wakelin won the prize.
The nice weather made for a relaxing morning to view 31 yearlings compete in three divisions and a championship round.
The door handle on Eagle Point Farm’s truck/trailer combo fit right in with the Futurity event.
The Riverview Farms trailer had Futurity ribbons on display just above the wheel base.
VTA Vice-President Amy Moore (South Gate Farm) studies the field as she prepares her picks for the Judging contest
Entry #212, a 2018 Green Jeans chestnut filly bred by Althea Richards, won the Best Turned Out horse award at the event.
Virginia-Bred/Sired Fillies line up for judging.
Virginia-Certified Yearling runner-up was a 2018 Power Bid chestnut filly bred by Tigertail Ranch/Irwin Olian.
Attendees and participants enjoy the Futurity activities.
Virginia-Certified horses line up for judging.
Eagle Point Farm’s Karen Godsey is all smiles at the Futurity.
Billy Howland is shown with his Virginia-Certified filly.
VTA Executive Director Debbie Easter and Board Member Jim Arrison prepare to award ribbons in the Certified class.

2018 Kiawa Colt Earns Yearling Futurity Grand Champion Honors June 23rd

A 2018 bay colt out of Kiowa was named 2019 Futurity Grand Champion at the annual $22,500 Virginia Breeders Yearling Futurity, held June 23rd at the Warrenton Horse Show Grounds. The event was sponsored by the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and the Virginia Breeders Fund. The Judge for the competition was Patrick Lawley-Wakelin.

The champ, who also won the Virginia-Bred/Sired Colt & Gelding division earlier in the day, is owned/bred by Corner Farm (Ned Moore & Gillian Gordon-Moore) and John Behrendt. He is by Union Rags out of Kiowa by Stephen Got Even.

2019 Yearling Futurity Grand Champion is by Union Rags out of Kiowa by Sephen Got Even. Photo by Anna Purdy.

Runner-up in the Colt/Gelding division was a 2018 colt by Congrats out of Pearls by Black Tie Affair, owned and bred by Morgan’s Ford. Third place honors went to Stay In, a bay colt by Dialed In out of Stay Here by Dehere, owned and bred by Quest Realty /Daniel Wukich. Next in order was Canherun (Quest Realty/Daniel Wukich), Pauping (Quest Realty/Daniel Wukich & Lee Ann Smith), a 2018 Falsehood colt (Morgan’s Ford Farm), Lewandowski (Patricia Ramey & Maciej Szware), Point of Grace (Quest Realty/Daniel Wukich) and Ipnops (Sara Collette). 

2019 Reserve Champion honors went to Rsheperdsgait, a chestnut filly bred and owned by Rebecca Shepherd. She is by Friend or Foe out of Fancy Dancer by Citidancer, and won the Virginia-Bred/Sired Fillies category earlier. 

Reserve Champion Rsheperdsgait won the Virginia-Bred/Sired Filly category. Photo by Anna Purdy.

Runner-up in the fillies division was a 2018 Lutetia, bred and owned by Morgan’s Ford Farm. She is by Competitive Edge out of Lutetia by Midnight Lute. A 2018 gray filly out of For Finery, owned and bred by Robin Richards, took third place. A 2018 filly out of Green Jeans (Robin Richards) took fourth followed by Rodanthe (Douglas Daniels), a 2018 Leva Mae (Susan Cooney), and a 2018 Cape Cod (Darlene Bowlin).

Owner/breeder David Ross’s 2018 Unostrike chestnut filly won the first place prize money and ribbon in the Virginia-Certified Yearling division which featured 14 entrants. The winner is by Munnings out of Unostrike by Macho Uno.

Certified Yearling division winner was a 2018 Unostrike filly bred and owned by David Ross.

Runner-up was a 2018 Power Bid chestnut filly, owned and bred by Tigertail Ranch/Irwin Olian. She is by Custom for Carlos out of Power Bid by Touch Gold. Moonzano was third (Quest Realty/Daniel Wukich) followed by Baba (Woodslane Farm/Rene Woolcott), a 2018 Coastin Along filly (Breeder, Lana Wright; Owner, Janet deTeran & Mark Sell), Harry Hotspur (Mary Slade), a 2018 Ziggy Biggy colt (Lady Olivia at Northcliff, LLC) and Shoscombe Prince (Henry Nothhaft). Also competing were Princess Kia Rose (Joanne Krishack), a 2018 Noworriesforme  filly (Lady Olivia at Northcliff, LLC), Island Philo (Mary Slade), a 2018 Monocle colt (Patricia Ramey & Maciej Szware), Ms Mad Dog (Quest Realty/Daniel Wukich) and Dreamingofsavannah (Richard Hackerman). 

Judge of the 2019 Yearling Futurity was Patrick Lawley-Wakelin. Photo by Anna Purdy.

A groom’s award was also given to the Best Turned Out horse in each division. Pauping won in the colt & gelding class while Baba was best in the Certified division. Best Turned Out overall was a 2018 Green Jeans in the Fillies category.

Just Like Mom, Fionnbharr Breaks Maiden In Second Start

The following appeared in The Racing Biz and was written by Frank Vespe

It took the Royal Academy mare Embarr two tries to break her maiden, which she did at Colonial Downs back in 2011 at odds of 31-1. 

In that respect, at least, Fionnbharr looks like a chip off the old block. The three-year-old Exchange Rate filly, Embarr’s first foal to make the races, broke her maiden Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park, also in her second career start, and also at long odds. She paid $40.20 to win.

“I’m shaking,” trainer Susan Cooney said in the winner’s circle after the race, adding, “There’s a lot of time and money into it before you actually see results. We had her almost ready to run last fall , but with the wet weather and the turf courses all chewed up, we decided just to put her away and wait for the spring.”

Susan Cooney’s Fionnbharr scored her first lifetime win Saturday Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue.

Patience, of course, is one of the most important tools in the trainer’s tool box, and so Cooney started Fionnbharr out at five furlongs and followed up with today’s tilt, in a $40,000 maiden special weight race, at six. Both, she figured would be too short to showcase Fionnbharr’s talent to optimum effect.

“We were [expecting a good effort today],” she explained. “I thought it was still going to be a little short for her. I think she’s going to be like her mother, a mile a mile-and-a-sixteenth is gong to be her best distance.”

But under an astute ride by Sheldon Russell, the six-furlong distance proved to be just what the doctor ordered. Fionnbharr covered it on a firm turf course in 1:09.92 to post a 2 3/4-length victory.

The sophomore broke alertly before settling in a cozy spot along the rail a couple of lengths behind the 2-5 favorite Little Skiff, who was joined on the lead early by first-timer Shikaka. Little Skiff, with bug boy Avery Whisman up, took over rounding the turn, went clear in upper stretch, but began to wander towards the outside, finishing the race well out in the middle of the class.

Given an inviting seam, Russell and Fionnbharr shot through it and went on to the victory. Little Skiff held second, while Alleria rallied for third.

“She broke really well,” Cooney explained. “She was in a good position [in her first race at Delaware Park] — she also broke well — but she was a little green and when horses were around her, [Russell] said she backed off just a little bit, so she wasn’t as forwardly placed last time. When the gap opened up, and Sheldon said go, she went.”

Fionnbharr now has a win from two starts — just like Mom did eight years ago — with earnings of $26,540.

Of course, if Fionnbharr could go on to anything like the career of her dam, that would be wonderful news for Cooney, who is the trainer, owner, and breeder of the Virginia-bred. Embarr won five stakes, earned just shy of $360,000, and was graded stakes-placed in her career, which ended in 2014.

“She’s very much like her mother except she’s not nervous,” Cooney said of Fionnbharr. “She’s really determined. She’s aggressive with other horses and wants her own way. It’s her world and we’re living in it. She lets us hang around with her.”

The whole family is something of a labor of love for Cooney. She also owned and trained Embarr’s dam, In Too Deep, by The Deep, and bred, owned, and trained Embarr. So she knew what to look for when it came time to send Embarr to the breeding shed four years ago.

“At the time I was looking for a stallion that wasn’t too big because that was going to be her first foal, and she’s a small mare,” she explained. “I was looking for turf or synthetic, and on paper [Exchange Rate] matched really well.”

Cooney said that, if all goes to plan, Fionnbharr will make her next start in her home state, at the new Colonial Downs. The track offers four stakes for Virginia-bred or -sired runners on August 10, including a pair for older fillies and mares, the one-mile Nellie Mae Cox and the 5 1/2-furlong M. Tyson Gilpin.

“We’re thrilled [with Colonial’s rebirth]. We’re really happy,” Cooney said. “The new owners, the management and everybody, really seem like they want to make it a success, which is a nice change. I’m really excited. With the purses we’re offering, I think we’re gonna get good horses and good racing, and everybody’s going to stand up and notice.”

Nearly $73 Million Wagered Last Month At Colonial Downs’ New Gaming Emporiums

The following piece appeared in the Virginia Mercury publication and was written by Ned Oliver.

Clyde DeBoll spent a recent evening at Colonial Downs Gaming Emporium in New Kent. Photo by Ned Oliver.

Bettors have responded enthusiastically to Virginia’s foray into expanded gambling, wagering $70.8 million last month at two new casinos opened by Colonial Downs.

“I’d rather come down here instead of buying a scratch ticket,” said Clyde DeBoll, a 65-year-old retiree from Henrico as he entered the New Kent race track with a friend a little before 9 on a recent weekday morning. “It’s more for the excitement and entertainment for me.”

May was the New Kent location’s first full month in business. A second location opened in Vinton, a small town outside Roanoke, on May 9. A third is scheduled to open in Richmond this month and a fourth later this year in Hampton. (Plans to expand into Northern Virginia and Southside Virginia are also in the works, but will be subject to a local referendum.)

Branded as Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, the casinos are filled with hundreds of historical horse racing machines, which the General Assembly approved in 2018 to provide a revenue stream to revive the state’s horse racing industry, which all but collapsed when Colonial Downs, the state’s only live race track, closed in 2014.

The games look and function like slot machines but rely on pari-mutuel wagering pools to set jackpots and draw on the results of randomly selected old horse races to pick winners.

Betting generates $885K in tax revenue

Patrons bet $58.2 million at the track in New Kent, which features 600 video gambling terminals, and $12.6 million at the 150-terminal Vinton location, according to a revenue report submitted to the state’s racing commission.

Together, the spending generated $531,000 in state tax revenue, the majority of which will be directed to the state’s general fund, and $354,000 in local tax revenue.

Colonial Downs’ cut came out to $3.9 million, according to the report.

“This tremendous response is helping us deliver on our promise to bring significant jobs and tax revenues to Virginia and its localities,” said Colonial Downs Group Chief Operating Officer Aaron Gomes in a statement. “And we are literally just out of the gate and getting started with great expectations to come.”

Colonial Downs in New Kent County. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Lottery officials say no sweat

State lottery officials say the new casinos don’t appear to have had a negative impact on their sales last month, which totaled $103.2 million in scratch tickets and $87 million in sales of lottery tickets and other games.

“Here’s the bottom line: Virginia Lottery sales increased in May, beating both the previous month and May of last year,” said lottery spokesman John Hagerty.

Like Colonial Downs, the lottery is also branching out into new gambling territory, launching a mobile app that allows people to buy instant scratch tickets on their phones at traditional retailers as well as at a growing number of bars and restaurants.

The app launched statewide on May 6 and has so far seen $200,000 in sales.

Convenience store ‘skill games’ challenged

Meanwhile, both Colonial Downs and the lottery face competition from gray-market games that have sprung up in convenience stores, bars and truck stops around the state over the past two years. Manufacturers of those terminals insist they’re not slot machines, despite their appearance, arguing they incorporate elements of skill that side-step the state’s gambling statutes.

So far, they have not faced a legal challenge in Virginia, but this month the commonwealth’s attorney in Charlottesville warned business owners to get rid of them within 30 days or face prosecution.

The biggest operator, Queen of Virginia, maintains they’re legal, noting that they survived similar legal challenges in Pennsylvania. In other states, including Georgia, they’re regulated and taxed.

Games that allow people to bet money and win cash have popped up around the state, including in this Richmond corner store. Manufacturers say they’re games of skill, not chance. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Gambling study ongoing

Amid the newly flourishing patchwork of gambling opportunities, state auditors have embarked on a study of what a fuller legalization of gambling might look like.

The review was prompted by a Southwestern Virginia coal baron’s unsuccessful push to open up the state to full-scale casinos in Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth. The entities would not be tied to the race track and would feature table games like black jack.

Lawmakers promised to revisit the subject when they meet next year.

Until then, bettors say they like all their new options. DeBoll, the retiree who spent a recent morning at Colonial Downs, said he was prepared to bet $200 over the course of about five hours. And despite the early hour, the place was already starting to buzz by 9 a.m.

“If I lose it I leave, but I was here last week and someone hit $23,000,” he said. “If I won $23,000, I’d be happy for a while.”

A Morning Visit To Horseshoe Hill Farm In Ashland

Here are some scenes from a peaceful morning in June at Stephanie Nixon’s Horseshoe Hill Farm in Ashland.

She currently has about 20 horses that reside on site — five older, retired horses and another 15 Certified ones that are in the new Virginia Residency Bonus program.

“This time of year, it’s a bit more quiet so we do a lot of repair and maintenance work,” she said. “At the peak time, we’ll have between 40-50 horses here.”

Nixon employs three riders and three grooms. The farm features a 3/8ths mile track with a starting gate which she says “Is a big enough oval to break babies on.

Nixon, who is a first term Commissioner on the Virginia Racing Commission, specializes in breaking, training, stallions, sales preparation and rest/recuperation.

Horseshoe Hill Farms is off Route 54, several miles west of downtown Ashland and it borders the Hanover Golf Course.

The second Virginia-Certified bonus winner — courtesy of the new Residency incentive program — was Bird Mobberley’s Maryland-bred No Refunds, (shown below) who spent her six months in Virginia At Horseshoe Hill Farms. Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.

No Refunds was the second horse to win an Owners Bonus courtesy of the Certified Residency Program. Photo by Jim McCue.

Here are several other pictures from Horseshoe Hill.

Free General Admission As Racing Returns To Colonial Downs

Other Options Available at Various Price Points for Racing Fans

Colonial Downs is pleased to announce families are welcome as it offers free general admission to everyone during its upcoming 15-day race meeting, August 8 – September 7. Other seating options are available as tickets went on sale this past weekend.

Racing will run on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays during the month-long period. Gates open at 4 p.m. ET and post time for all race days is 5 p.m. ET. The highlight of the racing season will be on Saturday, August 31 with the return of the highly anticipated Virginia Oaks and Virginia Derby races. Flat racing is coming back to its Virginia roots for the first time since 2013, with an approximate $7.5 million in total purses.

Long On Value is shown winning the Jamestown Stakes at Colonial Downs in 2013, the last time thoroughbred racing was held in New Kent. Courtesy of Coady Photography.

“Interest in the horse community and among fans is growing exponentially as we quickly approach August 8, and the return of thoroughbred racing to Colonial Downs,” said Jill Byrne, Colonial Downs Vice President of Racing Operations. “We are already getting calls about ticket sales. It has been so long since we had live racing in the area fans are chomping at the bit to get their tickets!”

General admission will provide apron access with track and paddock-side viewing, covered bench seating and access to the Paddock Bar and Homestretch Hospitality tent. Additionally, Colonial Downs will offer clubhouse dining, clubhouse boxes, turf club dining and turf club suites at prices ranging from $5 per person to higher levels for full-season seats and suites. A full listing of all available options and prices, as well as advance ticket sales, is located at

Plans call for two steeplechase races every Saturday at Colonial Downs. Photo by Betsy Burke Parker.

“We have been working every day to rejuvenate North America’s most sought after turf course and prepare to reintroduce Virginians to the excitement of horse racing on August 8,” said John Marshall, Executive Vice President of Colonial Downs Group. “The level of enthusiasm is building at the track, across Virginia’s horse community and among horse racing lovers and followers around the country. The comeback of Colonial Downs is arguably one of the most positive developments the industry has experienced in recent times. We are going to provide an entertainment experience like no one has ever seen at Colonial Downs.”

30 Virginia-Certified Horses Reach The Winners Circle In May & Earn Bonus Awards

A total of 30 Virginia-Certified horses reached the winners circle in May and in turn, provided their owners with a 25% bonus on top of purse earnings they collected. Of those, 11 wins came from West Virginia-breds, 9 from Maryland-breds and four each from New York and Kentucky-breds. Horses bred in Pennsylvania won a pair. 

Lady George was one of nine Maryland-bred/Virginia-Certified horses that won a race in the month of May. Photo by Jim McCue.

In order to qualify for the Certified program, horses must spend a six month residency at a Virginia farm or training center prior to December 31st of their two-year-old year. Moving forward, horses receive a 25% bonus for wins at tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region.  

Parisian Diva, a three-year-old West Virginia-bred filly, earned two rewards in May courtesy of wins at Charles Town. On May 30th, she won a $24,000 allowance race by 5 3/4 lengths, which followed a four length win in a similar race three weeks prior. A perfect 4-for-4 this year, Parisian Diva collected another pair of wins and awards for owner/breeder Melinda Golden in April at Charles Town. Her 2019 bankroll stands at $74,130 and overall, is at $136,065. She is by Freedom Child out of Paris Heiress, and spent her six month residency at Brooke Royster’s Chance Farm in Gordonsville.

Other West Virginia-bred winners were High Fiber, Dubai Was Lit, Bootsie Boy, Ellie Bear, Unruly Julie, Rocket Ridge, Meltech, Merry Merry Mojo and K Town Brass.

New York-bred Show Prince captured his first win of the year May 30th at Belmont. Photo by Adam Coglianese.

New York-bred Show Prince authored a two length win at Belmont May 30th in a $66,000 allowance race, his first of 2019 and second overall. His previous triumph came in a maiden special weight race at Aqueduct in December. Owned and bred by Eric Myer, the three-year-old Posse gelding has earned $46,632 from a trio of starts this year and $103,192 for his career. He has finished fourth or better in all seven career outs. Prior to racing, Show Prince spent six months in Virginia at Myers’ Roseville Farm in Boyce.

Other New York-bred winners were Central Time, Tazmonian Devil and I Saw It. 

V.I.P. Ticket is a three-year-old Maryland-bred gelding owned by Designated Hitters Racing, LLC. Most recently third in the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness under card, V.I.P. Ticket collected a win prior to that at Charles Town May 9th. That was his third bonus award win of the year during a consistent 2019 campaign. From seven starts, he has finished third or better in each and has bankrolled $84,700. By Windsor Castle out of Touring Hong Kong, V.I.P. Ticket spent his Virginia residency at Karen Godsey’s Eagle Point Farm in Ashland. 

Determined Mission was one of 9 Maryland-bred horses that are Virginia-Certified to win a race in May. Photo by Jim McCue.

Maryland-bred Determined Mission also spent his six months at Godsey’s Central Virginia-based farm. The Dale Capuano trainee captured a $22,000 maiden claimer May 26th which provided the Taking Risks Stable with a 25% bonus. The three-year-old Old Fashioned filly won by seven lengths and sports a bankroll now of $22,902 from four outings.  

You Made It, another Maryland-bred, was best in a $22,000 claiming race at Pimlico on May 24th. Owned by James Wolf and bred by Larry Johnson, the three-year-old Congrats filly was claimed out of that race by Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds. In six starts this year, she has a win, second and a pair of thirds. Her residency was spent at Johnson’s Legacy Farm in Bluemont.

Three-year-old Maryland-bred filly You Made It handily won a $22,000 claiming race May 24th. Photo by Jim McCue.

Two-year-old Maryland-bred filly Lady George collected her first win May 10th in a $33,000 waiver maiden claiming race at Pimlico. Owned and bred by Lady Olivia Northcliff LLC, the daughter of Call Me George won by 2 1/2 lengths under a ride from jockey Forest Boyce. Lady George, who has earned $26,053 in two starts, spent her residency at Lady Olivia at North Cliff, LLC in Rixeyville.

Other Maryland-bred winners were Punk Rock Princess, Misty Fly, Questionoftheday, Zonda and So Street. 

Kentucky-bred winners were Dyna Passer, Shelly Island, Ellyb and Shakeshacklenroll. Fish to Fry and Well Tried were the two Pennsylvania-bred winners.