Oakwood Stable’s Kensington Court opened a yawning lead for much of Saturday’s $25,000 ratings handicap and held on deep in the Colonial Downs stretch to win by a nose over newly imported Querry Horse.
Robert A. Kinsley’s Al, half of a 7-to-5 favored entry, closed ground in the stretch to finish third, two lengths farther back. Mark Buyck’s Aydoun checked in fourth in a field of eight horses rated at 115 or lower.
Trained by Julie Gomena, Kensington Court ran the handicap’s 2¼ miles in 4:01.75 on firm turf. The seven-year-old by Giant’s Causeway went off at 9.90-to-1 and paid $21.80 to win.
Kensington Court, ridden by Kieran Norris, grabbed the lead at the drop of the starter’s flag and went on cruise-control well ahead of his opponents while maintaining a steady gallop. He led by 10 going into the final run down the backstretch and was up by 15 entering the final turn.
His pace slackened on the final turn, and Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Querry Horse gradually cut into the leader’s margin. The Leslie Young-trained newcomer, was only 2½ lengths back at the furlong pole and gaining a bit of ground with every stride under Gavin Sheehan.
Al and jockey Jack Doyle closed from the back of the field, but their bid sputtered near the sixteenth pole as 7.90-to-1 Querry Horse drew onto Kensington Court’s withers. Norris went to work to keep his mount moving forward, and they reached the finish line with a couple inches to spare.
In the evening’s opener, Why Not Racing’s Jump Ship sailed to the lead in midstretch and won the $30,000 maiden hurdle by 2¼ lengths.
Trained by Lilith Boucher and ridden by her husband, Richard Boucher, Jump Ship went off as the 3.30-to-1 second betting pick behind Sherry Fenwick’s Anticipating, who finished second.
Nervous at the start, Jump Ship was well back early as Convivial and then All Out of Aces set the pace with 5-to-2 Anticipating right behind them. Anticipating grabbed the lead on the final turn, but Jump Ship made steady progress on the turn and took the lead shortly before the furlong pole.
The seven-year-old Virginia-bred ran the 2¼-mile distance in 4:04.28 and paid $8.60 to win.
Gill Johnston’s Lost Story finished third, and jockey Jack Doyle claimed foul against Anticipating and Darren Nagle. Lost Story was on the inside entering the stretch, and Anticipating lugged in slightly despite Nagle’s left-handed whip.
Doyle pulled Lost Story out of the tight spot and was 2¾ lengths behind Anticipating at the line. Colonial’s stewards disallowed the foul claim.
The coming week’s jump races at Colonial will be run on Friday rather than Saturday as originally scheduled. On tap are a $30,000 maiden hurdle for three- and four-year-olds and a $20,000 ratings handicap for horses pegged at 110 or lower.
(NEW KENT, VA — 8/23/19) —- Colonial Downs officials announced that the Thursday August 22nd card of racing, which was cancelled due to severe storms, will be made up on Wednesday September 4th at 5 PM. The final week of Colonial’s summer season will now include four consecutive cards on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The finale on the 7th includes five Virginia-Bred/Sired stakes worth $100,000 each and a $50,000 steeplechase stakes.
Entries for the September 4th make up card will be taken on Thursday August 29th along with entries per normal for the Thursday September 5th program. For more information, visit colonialdowns.com.
(NEW KENT, VA — 8/22/19) —Thursday’s nine race program at Colonial Downs was cancelled due to severe late afternoon thunderstorms that rolled into the New Kent area right around when racing was scheduled. For the safety of the equine competitors and racing fans, the entire card was cancelled shortly before 6:00 PM. The program is expected to be made up.
Racing at Colonial resumes Friday (August 23) with a nine race card beginning at 5 PM. The 17th running of the Grade 3 New Kent County Virginia Derby highlights the meet and is scheduled for Saturday August 31st. The Derby Day card will be draw this coming Tuesday.
(NEW KENT, VA — 8/17/19) —- Despite the fact that Da Hoss Stakes winner Extravagant Kid was invading from Kentucky (via Toronto), the son of Kiss the Kid has strong Virginia ties with owner David Ross of DARRS Inc. who was instrumental in bringing racing back to the Commonwealth. Sheldon Russell rode the 6-year-old gelding to a one-length victory covering the 5-1/2 furlongs over firm turf in 1:02.08.
“It’s just wonderful to see a great horse win a great race,” Ross said. “We actually had a horse years ago win this race when it was written at a mile called Pass Play. This horse has not won only here but he’s won at Churchill,
he’s won at Woodbine and he won at Saratoga last year. He’s just a terrific horse.”
can’t tell you how impressed I am with the operation here — it’s just been a step above anything I could ever have imagined,” he continued. “We’ve been supporting Colonial for years and it’s so good to be back and so good
to see the quality of the operation. It’s only going to get better from here.”
“I spoke to Brendan (trainer Walsh) this morning and he said the key to this horse is to take your time, just ride him with confidence,” said winning jockey Sheldon Russell. The faster they went early on the better. He made a really
nice move around the far turn and if anything, he may have made the front a little too soon.”
Longshot American Sailor set a wicked early pace through fractions of :21.45 and :43.80 before giving way. Meanwhile Russell kept Extravagant Kid mid pack before launching his move on the turn grabbing the lead approaching the furlong
The winner’s share of the $75,000 purse was worth $45,000 and took Extravagant Kid’s earnings past the $600,000 mark ($632,901) while improving his record to 11-10-6 from 36 starts.
Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Extravagant Kid paid $6.20, $4 and $2.80. Justaholic finished second and returned $3.60 and $2.80. Dubini was another length back in third and paid $5.
Oak Bluffs, Dirty, Smokin Nitro, American Sailor and Fairweather Friend completed the order of finish in the eight-horse field.
Earlier in the evening, Mr. Jagermeister, the Minnesota-bred champion 3-year-old of 2018, took his act on the road and won the $100,000 Chesapeake Stakes in wire-to-wire fashion. The son of Atta Boy was ridden by Leandro Goncalves
and took the field of five through fractions of :22.35, :45.19 and :56.98 en route to an easy 1-1/4 length score covering the six furlongs over a fast track in 1:09.69.
“I just hoped I’d break good and see where he put me,” Goncalves said. “Every time they came to me I had more and more. It’s a long stretch and this was the first time I have ridden here. He’s an awesome horse and he’s been training
good. He just proved again how good he is.”
Trained by Valorie Lund, who co-owns the 4-year-old colt with her sisters Kristin Boice and Leslie Cummings, Mr. Jagermeister earned $60,000 for the win, his ninth in 16 starts, and boosted his bankroll to $433,537.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been to Virginia or to Colonial,” said Lund. “I haven’t run here before. I came because I was looking
for a place to run this horse and just happened when I talked to the stakes coordinator (Shane Burke), he’s a guy I knew from the west coast years and years ago and he talked me into coming.”
“He’s getting better with age,” she continued. “I didn’t really expect him to run at all at two but he wouldn’t let me not run him. Even
at three I was very conservative with him. I didn’t think he was going to be good until he hit four. This is his year. He’ll get even better yet. He is a Minnesota-bred. I foaled this mare that my sisters and I were partners with in Minnesota because that’s
where we run in the summer”
Sent off as the 11-10 favorite, Mr. Jagermeister paid $4.20, $2.80 and $2.10. Lewisfield overtook Speightsong in mid-stretch to secure the place spot, returning $2.60 and $2.20. Speightsong paid $3.40. Old Time Revival and Petrov
completed the order of finish.
Eagle Point Farm’s homebred filly What the Beep overtook longshot English Heiress in deep stretch to win the $100,000 M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes by a length in the first of four six-figure stakes races restricted to Virginia-Bred/Sired horses on August 10th. Forest Boyce rode the Karen Godsey-trained 4-year-old who covered 5-1/2 furlongs over a firm turf course in 1:03.80.
“Karen does a great job and I’ve worked this horse plenty over at Laurel. I thought we had a really big chance,” Boyce said. “I knew I needed to lay a little closer to the pace because there wasn’t a whole lot of speed in the race. Luckily we got there just in time.”
Owner-trainer Godsey was both ecstatic and emotional afterwards. “My family fought so hard for Colonial Downs to get here originally, then fought so hard for it to come back (after a six-year hiatus). The mare’s dam was the first winner I had as a trainer and to win in front of this huge crowd was awesome. Her mother was nothing but heart,” she added. “I just want to go home and hug her. There’s not a lot of breeding to either of them but they have just heart. They’re blue collar, hard knocking horses. I’m so happy and thankful for all the people that worked so hard to get the track up and running again. It’s hard to put into words how I feel.”
The win was the third in 13 starts for the daughter of Great Notion. With the victory, her bankroll increased
English Heiress (Sam English) took second while Pink Pearl was third (Godolphin & Morgan’s Ford Farm).
Favorites continued to rule the roost as Lothenbach Stables’ Elusive Mischief made the most of dropping back into restricted company and cruised to a one-length tally over Eagle Point Farm’s Braxton in the Meadow Stable Stakes.
Sheldon Russell rode the Ian Wilkes trained son of Into Mischief, who got the 5-1/2 furlongs in 1:03.72. The 4-year-old colt, who won the Punch Line Stakes against Virginia-breds last fall at Laurel, picked up his fourth victory in 10 starts overall. The $60,000 winner’s share pushed his earnings to $183,747. Braxton, a 31-1 outsider was second and Ready to Run (Susan Cooney) was third.
“Everything had to go just right and it all came together for the horse,” said Nicola Ward, assistant trainer for Wilkes. Russell echoed the sentiment. “We had a perfect trip and once we were able to drop into position around the far turn, he finished up nicely.”
Tryon Summer, a Vickie Foley-trained Kentucky invader, took advantage of her Virginia breeding to return to the Commonwealth to win the Nellie Mae Cox Stakes by a diminishing half-length over Big Lick Farm’s Durven. The 3-year-old daughter of Discreetly Mine got the one-mile distance in 1:38.05. River Gal (Morgan’s Ford Farm) ran third.
Coming in off a seven-furlong dirt race at Churchill, Foley targeted this race for her Virginia-bred filly noting, “She’s a Virginia-bred and a very consistent, honest filly. We thought this would be a great opportunity for the money and she proved it to be.”
Morgan’s Ford Farm’s River Deep was moved up to the top spot in the Edward P. Evans Stakes following the disqualification of original winner Speed Gracer, who was placed fourth following a steward’s inquiry and a jockey’s objection for bothering K D’s Cat Bird in deep stretch.
The adjudicated victory gave Sheldon Russell his second win of the night. The Phil Schoenthal-trained son of Arch won for the seventh time in 21 starts including wins against Virginia-breds last year in the Hansel and Bert Allen stakes. The $60,000 brought the 5-year-old’s earnings to $295,475. Black Prong (Sarah Nagle) was moved up to the place spot and K D’s Cat Bird (Chris Kuhn) was elevated to third.
“It’s not really the way you want to win but a win is a win,” Russell said. “River Deep ran his race and ran great. It was always Phil’s plan to bring him back down and I was glad to see it all come together.”
“What’s special about this day is that it rewards all the breeders that hung in there for all those years and kept on breeding Virginia-breds,” said Schoenthal. “It would
have been very easy to ship their mares to Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York or everywhere else so it is gratifying to see these people being rewarded with $100,000 purses in their home state, on a beautiful night at a beautiful racetrack. It’s a great night
for Virginia racing and Virginia horse breeders.”
The following appeared in “The Racing Biz” and was written by Nick Hahn.
For trainer Karen Dennehy Godsey of Eagle Point Farm in Ashland, VA, the first stakes win of her career came on the first stakes race of the brief, 15-day Colonial Downs meet, the M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes for Virginia-bred or-sired fillies and mares. Godsey trains about a dozen
“I just want to go home and hug my mare (Toccoa).” she said. “You have the Toccoa thing, you’ve got that Colonial’s back. It’s a huge crowd. And everybody’s so excited to get this back going. The people worked so hard to get this back going.”
Godsey’s trainee, What the Beep, a four-year-old homebred filly by Great Notion, went off as the 6-5 favorite.
“Of course, I looked like I wanted to throw up all morning. I felt good about her being there, but you don’t like to be confident,” Godsey said. “Her mama, Toccoa, was nothing but heart. There’s not a lot of breeding with these horses. We don’t have a ton of money to breed big high-end horses. So, when the little blue collar, hard-knocking one wins this kind of money, it’s…”
Godsey couldn’t find the words. She didn’t need to.
After finishing second in a race at Laurel in early July, Godsey returned What the Beep to her farm in Ashland. Layouts proved to be the most successful for Toccoa, who raced most of her career at Colonial Downs. For Eagle Point, keeping horses in Virginia is a time-tested approach.
Godsey cared for the foal on an hourly basis through an illness as a youngster. She recalled “spending so much time with her and keep her healthy and to get her to this point. You know I pulled her out of her mama.”
She may have been sickly then, but What the Beep is turning into a runner now. The win was her third from 13 starts and pushed her career earnings to over $145,000.
It was jockey Forest Boyce who did the honors in the Gilpin, piloting What the Beep to a one-length victory in 1:03.80. After dropping to fourth on the inside Boyce found a path where Solarte was retreating and Up Hill Battle moved forward. At that point, Boyce felt better about her chances before anyone else did.
“I was feeling pretty confident around the 3/8th pole,” she said. “But you never really know. They’ll fool you every now and then.”
It was, perhaps, apropos that Boyce knocked down the first stake of the new Colonial meet. It was on the final day of the prior Colonial Downs meet – in 2013 – that she scored her first graded victory, piloting Nellie Cashman to a 19-1 upset in the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks.
“I’ve missed it,” she said Saturday after the win aboard What the Beep, which was her second win on the day. “This place got me going.”
Godsey watched the following stakes race, the $100,000 Meadow Stable Stakes, with anticipation as Eagle Point’s gelding Braxton, 31-1 at post time, gained ground on 2-5 favorite Elusive Mischief inside the sixteenth pole. But trainer Ian Wilkes’s Elusive Mischief proved stubborn.
Braxton settled for second, a length behind Elusive Mischief, who had another longtime Colonial Downs regular, Sheldon Russell, in the irons.
“He was able to just get me in a great position on the turn.,” said Russell, who was making his first appearance of the meet. “He just travelled very, very, nicely. Good job to Ian Wilkes and his team. He was ready today.”
Russell won three races Saturday and was familiar to many in the Colonial grandstand. He won the riding title at Colonial Downs in 2011 and 2012.
“It’s been a while,” Russell commented. “I just happy that I was able to come out here today on the big day. Feels good to be back, this is where I started riding so it brings back some really good memories.”
Russell won his first race in England in 2005. His first win in North America came in 2007 at Colonial Downs.
Lots of people were feeling pretty good on Saturday.
“We’re proud of Colonial Downs for coming back like they have,” said Wayne Chatfield Taylor of Morgan’s Ford Farm, the owner and breeder of Edward P. Evans Stakes winner River Deep, who was put up by disqualification. “Feels like it was a real gift to win this one. It was just a wonderful day and the track is doing terrifically and we couldn’t be more pleased. Everybody was here.”
“This day is that, all the breeders that hung for all those years and kept on breeding Virginia-breds, when it would have been very easy to take your mares to Maryland, Pennsylvania, or New York or everywhere else,” added River Deep’s trainer, Phil Schoenthal. “You see those people being rewarded here now on a beautiful night at a beautiful racetrack for $100,000 races for their horses in their own state. It’s very rewarding. It’s a great night for Virginia horse breeders.”
NOTES The fourth stake of the evening, the $100,000 Nellie Mae Cox for older fillies and mares going a mile on the turf, went to Tryon Summer. With J. D. Acosta up, the Vickie Foley trainee sped to the front early and led throughout to win by a half-length in 1:38.05. Owned by Something Special Racing, LLC and Stewart A. Smith, Tryon Summer was bred by William Backer… The Susan Cooney-trained Speed Gracer was disqualified from first in the Edward P. Evans Stakes for interference in deep stretch, capping a difficult day for the trainer; her Virginia Fable was pulled up in distress prior to the Tyson Gilpin Stakes and vanned off… Crowds were gifted with lowered temperatures and humidity on opening weekend that only improved as racing moved into the evening. National interest on wagering was apparent as handle averaged well over $1 million per day over the three-day weekend.
The following appeared in The Racing Biz and was written by Frank Vespe.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Except when you do.
And for Colonial Downs, that second chance arrived August 8 on a gorgeous summer evening, along with a festive crowd and a 10-race card with full fields everywhere.
“I think this is a great thing. This is why we came down here. It’s phenonmenal,” said Vince Tucciarone. Tucciarone, who races as Fox Tale Racing Stable, sent out Charmn Charlie Ray, the front-running, upset winner of the first race.
It was the first Thorouhbred race contested in New Kent in more than six years, and in some ways, it seemed almost as if a clean break had been made from the bad old days, when the acrimony between former track operator Jacobs Investments and the state’s horsemen had let to the shuttering of the once-thriving operation.
“It was strange,” said Jason Beem, the track announcer. “I don’t know any of the sight lines. I don’t know any of the silks and that stuff.”
Beem was one example of what’s new at Colonial Downs. He replaced longtime voice of Colonial Downs Dave Rodman, whose main gig is calling the races in Maryland, which leads to something else that was new: while in years past, Maryland racing went on hiatus during the Colonial meet, this year, Colonial and Laurel Park will butt heads for much of the new Colonial’s inaugural meet.
The purses were something else dramatically new. While in years past, they were similar to or lower than the other major Midlantic tracks, this year — bolstered in part by historical horse racing (HHR) machines — they are substantially higher. Colonial is expecting to give away about a half-million dollars daily in purses, far higher than its nearby competitors.
And the look and feel of the place are new. Gone is the sedate green color scheme of years past; in its place is a more raucous red that is very, well, red. And the presence of the HHR machines means more people in the facility and more buzz on the grounds.
“I’ve been worrying so long that I can’t tell you what to feel,” said Debbie Easter. “It’s awesome. Everybody’s smiling, having a good time. It’s really good.”
Easter is president of the Virginia Equine Alliance — the industry-wide group that sprung up following the demise of the old Colonial — and director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, which represents the state’s breeders.
And, coincidentally, she put together the Virginia Racing Club, which owns the second race winner, Speed App.
“We just put together some poeple,”she explained afterwards. “You know, with racing coming back, we knew that Virginia-breds would have a big presence here. We put some people together and claimed a couple horses and hoped something fun would happen, and look at this!”
Speed App was making the 13th start of his career, the first dozen of those for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas before Easter’s group, which races in the orange and blue colors of the University of Virgiia, claimed the son of Flatter for $20,000.
How’d they claim a horse off a Hall of Famer for just $20,000 and then turn around and win a maiden special weight with a $50,000 purse? Easter was asked.
“We got the super-trainer here,” she answered. “We got the leading trainer here at Colonial Downs. That’s how it works.”
That leading trainer is A. Ferris Allen, III, who grew up in nearby Varina and is the all-time leader by wins in New Kent. He legged up Horacio Karamanos, the track’s all-time leading rider, on Speed App.
“It was really wild because there are like 40 people that own that horse. It’s the Virginia Racing Club, so it’s virtually all people that were excited to have racing coming back here,” Allen said. “Those people are all enthused about racing coming back to Virginia; a lot of them had a lot to do with racing coming back to Virginia.”
Speed App, off at 7-5, was one of just two winners in the first six races to return less than $15 on a two-dollar win bet.
The longest of the early longshots was Tucciarone’s horse, Charmn Charlie Ray, who paid $28.00. He was number six in the program and went off at 13-1.
“613’s my lucky number,” Tucciarone said. “Believe it or not, when i was 13 years old, I was in a severe car accident and it was June 13. So how do you like that? It comes around.”
It came around for Tucciarone’s trainer, Alan Bedard, too. It was the Parx-based Bedard’s second-ever starter, his first having come over a decade earlier.
“I’m gonna brag a little bit: I’m 2-for-2 at Colonial,” Bedard said. “We shipped down here in 2008, ran a horse, won a race, and went back home.”
That’s not how Bedard is approaching this meet, however. He said he has six on the grounds currently and expects a couple of more soon.
“We said, ‘They opened back up, the purses are fantastic, and it seems like they’re being very cordial to us,’” Bedard said. “So we shipped in a bunch of horses and are going to try to make it happen.”
Eight of the evening’s 10 races were over the Secretariat turf course, which — perhaps befitting a course that hadn’t been used in years — was a lush and inviting green.
“The turf course is so great here,” Beem said. “As an announcer it’s great because it’s so bright and green, the colors pop off it.”
Which isn’t to say everything was perfect. Lines to bet were long — at least one would-be winner was shut out at the windows — and at times there was confusion among the staff. One person in attendance said it was likely to be a “learning meet” for the new Colonial team, and that seemed to be the most apt description.
But for many Virginia racing fans and horsemen, it also had the feeling of a family reunion. Sometimes, it turns out, you didn’t even realize how much you missed that ne’er-do-well cousin until he reappears.
“There’s all this sappy stuff that goes with this,” said Allen, whose father was a fixture at the track until his passing several years ago and whose wife is also a Richmond-area native. “It’s all of that stuff. I’m not really a sappy person, but this place kind of brings it that way.”
KENT, Va. (Aug. 7, 2019) — Virginia-bred runners are featured Saturday
night at Colonial Downs in four $100,000 stakes races, all to be contested over
the Secretariat Turf Course and are the first such races to be run in the
Commonwealth since 2013. Under new ownership of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment
and renovated facilities, this meeting marks the re-birth of racing in the Old
Dominion state. In addition to the four stakes races, there will be two Steeplechase
contests as part of an expanded 11-race card that starts at 5 PM (ET).
deepest of the stakes quartet may be the Edward P. Evans which goes as the 10th
race. The one-mile event attracted a
field of nine, the most interesting of which is James Hackman’s and Glenn
Thompson’s Two Notch Road. The career earner of more than half a million
dollars has been a monster in Virginia-bred stakes, winning one in four
straight years most recently in 2017 when he captured the Meadow Stable. Tomas Mejia rides the Glenn Thompson-trained
the others looking to add to their resumes are Morgan’s Ford Farm’s River Deep,
the fourth-place finisher in this event last year who went on to win $75,000
Bert Allen Stakes by 8-1/2 lengths when it was taken off the turf and run over
a sloppy Laurel Park surface. A winner
in six of his 20 starts, the Phil Schoenthal-trained son of Arch will have his
regular jockey Sheldon Russell aboard; and Mary Slade’s Runninginthevale, the
Fear the Cape gelding finished second to River Deep in last year’s Bert Allen
and ran third the year before. Jevian Toledo gets the call from trainer Gary
distaff counterpart to the Evans is the Nellie Mae Cox Stakes, carded as Race 9.
A field of 10 will line up for the one-mile test including Fig Tree Farm’s
Sweet Sandy, a four-time winner topped by a victory in the 2017 edition of the
$75,000 William Backer Stakes for Virginia-breds. The Michael Gorham-trained daughter
of Flatter has earned $143,192 and will be ridden by Mychel Sanchez.
richest mare in the field is AJ Suited Racing Stable’s Drop Dead Red, a winner
of six races including the open $61,000 Politely Stakes at Monmouth Park. The daughter of Hold Me Back has made seven
starts this year with a six-length tally in an open allowance race at Delaware
Park best among them. Carol Cedeno will
ride for trainer Frances “Tres” Abbott III.
take center stage in Meadow Stable Stakes. The 5 1/2-furlong dash goes as the
eighth race with a field of 10 passing the entry box including defending
champion Homespun Hero, who races in the colors of Tag Stables and Bedlam. The
son of Hard Spun has earned of $226,184 for his connections. Mark Shuman trains
and J. D. Acosta is slated to ride.
Stables’ Elusive Mischief has a strong chance to dethrone last year’s victor.
The Ian Wilkes-trained son of Into Mischief won last year’s $75,000 Punch Line
Stakes on a sloppy track. He is unplaced in two starts this year but has been
running in open company stakes at Churchill Downs. Sheldon Russell has been
named to ride the career earner of $123,747.
sprinters will be featured in the evening’s first stakes race, the M. Tyson
Gilpin also at 5 ½ furlongs. With career
earnings in excess of a quarter million dollars, Danny Limongelli’s Up Hill
Battle is by far the richest of the seven entrants. Third in this race last
year at Laurel, the daughter of Street Magician was also stakes-placed in the
$75,000 Camptown and $75,000 Oakley, all in Virginia-bred company. Trained by
Hugh McMahon, she will be ridden by Katie Davis.
among her rivals is Eagle Point Farm’s What the Beep. Although the daughter of
Great Notion has just two wins from 12 starts, she has run well in
Virginia-bred stakes including a runner-up finish in $75,000 Camptown
Stakes. The Karen Godsey-trained filly
will have the services of Forest Boyce.
The following appeared in The Racing Biz August 5th and was written by Nick Hahn.
Approaching opening day on August 8, a diverse range of trainers, new and familiar alike, is assembling along the backstretch optimistically looking for opportunity in next generation of live racing at Colonial Downs.
One of the first to arrive on the backstretch was 77-year-old trainer Don Roberson who previously won with the only horse he ever started at Colonial Downs, a then-two-year old Long On Value. At the conclusion of his career, the 2013 Jamestown Stakes winner had become only Virginia’s 19th millionaire, a high accolade considering he was the only thoroughbred foaled in Augusta County in nearly two decades.
Roberson originally brought Long On Value to Colonial because he was a Virginia-bred and Roberson wanted to take advantage of incentives for state-breds. Now he’s back with a lengthy run of full stalls.
“I’m anxious to run,” said Roberson, joined by his daughter Carmen, about the upcoming 15-day meet. “Great place, I hope it works and I hope they run a longer meet next year.”
Roberson’s memories of Long On Value are strong, and fond.
“We knew he was a runner from the first time we started training him,” remembers Roberson. “From the word go, he was a freak. He could really run.”
Leaving Roberson’s barn after a sale, Long on Value traveled the world, racing successfully in England and Dubai, not to mention different tracks around North America. The trainer has also journeyed far.
“We’ve traveled the country. Won races at 57 different racetracks,” he said. “Bush tracks, quarter horses. A lot of ‘gypsying’ around. California to New Hampshire, Florida to Winnipeg.”
Heading a relatively small operation, Roberson remains very hands-on in the daily activities of his stable.
“If I get reincarnated, I’d like to get reincarnated as a racehorse because they get the best care in the world,” observed Roberson. “People love them.”
While Roberson still shoes many of his horses, owner Anne Buxton frequently takes shoes off of her horses. Buxton also won a race in Colonial’s first era but was then stabled at Bowie. Now with a small string, she showered Kid Creole Saturday morning after he was one of the few to gallop on Colonial’s turf course.
“He doesn’t have any hard shoes on. Just stays really sound behind that way,” explained Buxton. “So I just put shoes on when he runs. After he runs, then I take them right back off. That’s how he trains. That’s how I train a lot of horses. He been sound behind and won three races, so seems to work pretty well.”
Handling horses in the summer heat is nothing new for Buxton, who has spent a sizable portion of her career in Louisiana. The Colonial meet is a bit of homecoming for her; she was raised in Charlottesville and still visits regularly with her grandmother, who lives in Scottsville.
“I’m very excited about this meet. Looking forward to being in the winner’s circle, fingers crossed, because it’s just so easy,” says Buxton, laying down some sarcasm. “There’s a thousand ways to lose a race and only one way to win. They’ve done a good job for as long as it’s been since they’ve run a race meet.”
While growing up in Charlottesville, Buxton worked alongside the sons of Braeburn Farm proprietor Felix Nuesch. Patrick Nuesch now operates Braeburn and enters the grand re-opening of Colonial without his father who passed away in 2016 while Colonial was dormant. Seeing horses out of their shoes isn’t surprising to Patrick.
“I love to keep the young horses barefoot as Iong as I can,” commented Nuesch. “It’s more natural.”
Known for his disciplined and old-school approach to training and developing young horses, Nuesch opened the 2007 meet at Colonial Downs with four consecutive winners, one a 33-1 longshot. He credits a similar incentive program that brought Long On Value to Colonial as a savior of his family’s farm.
“It nice to get back racing,” observed Nuesch. “The residency program has helped us the most. It kept us profitable the last couple years.”
One of Nuesch’s rivals during the upcoming meet is also one of his contemporary idols, Richard Boucher, who was bathing Jump Ship next to Buxton Saturday morning after he and his daughter, Mell, were the first to step onto turf in Colonial’s new era.
“He’s my hero. He’s an ironman,” praised Nuesch of Boucher’s work ethic. “He rides at the Foxfield Races (in Charlottesville) and drives home to Camden, South Carolina, and is up and going again the next day. He’s slim, trim and fit.”
Boucher frequently transitions between steeplechase racing and the flat course. This week, he will head to Saratoga to ride in a steeplechase stake before quickly returning to Colonial Downs for flat racing on Colonial’s opening day. Boucher won the last pari-mutuel race of Colonial’s first era in the 2014 Strawberry Hill races. He may have an opportunity to win the first of the new era. He’s scheduled to ride Brother Jerry for trainer Belinda Whitson in the first race.
“We missed the place,” acknowledged Boucher. “Hopefully, we’ll be back next year with more.”
Richard and his wife Lilith, who is a trainer, are based in South Carolina. They found success at Colonial Downs with Class Yankee and Class Bopper who won the Zeke Ferguson Stakes over the jumps as well as races on flat.
“As great as it’s ever been,” commented Boucher about the turf condition. “They’ve done a great job revamping it but the guys that built it in the first place did the right thing with the base and drainage. The weather on this peninsula is so perfect for that kind of grass (Bermuda). Where we went back around, you couldn’t see there wasn’t any hoofprint in the grass. They bounce right off that grass.”
“We like for him to ride our horses own because he knows them well,” added Lilith. “It’s fun to see him do it with the kids and do this together as a family.
The last time Colonial Downs held a grand opening, Karen Dennehy Godsey of Eagle Point Farm was 15 years old, about the same age as Boucher’s daughter.
“I didn’t completely comprehend the significance of the moment,” admitted Godsey.
As young as six, she recalls riding a pony at special events for the initiative to pass the first legislation permitting pari-mutuel racing. Her mother Donna Dennehy was running the Ashland farm during Colonial’s first era and passed the management torch to Karen shortly after her college graduation. In the time Colonial has been dark, Karen’s become a mother herself, and now raising a two-year old.
Saturday morning she worked one of her horses from the gate over the dirt course at Colonial Downs.
“I’m not going to lie. I was a little nervous,” admitted Godsey. “But then it’s kind of became like riding a bike. I don’t exercise ride much anymore. Every now and then I do to help understand what the more difficult ones are doing.”
In addition to the ten thoroughbreds Eagle Point has in barn 5 on the backstretch, Godsey plans on bringing in two more and helping out others that were part of the Virginia Certified Residency Program. Only one of Karen’s horses isn’t Virginia-bred or Virginia certified.
The all-time family favorite horse may be Toccoa, who won seven career races, six of them at Colonial, where she exclusively raced latter in her career.
“She would lay up all winter and just run at Colonial,” remembered Godsey. Toccoa made 29 of her 37 career starts in New Kent, and Godsey said the mare loved training and racing – right up until she didn’t. Toccoa won the second to last start of her career, in July of her 10-year-old season, and then ran fifth a couple of weeks later.
“One morning she didn’t want to go to track which was so completely unlike her,” said Godsey. “We retired her that day.”
Godsey is one of several trainers taking part in impromptu reunions on the backstretch. One of those resulted in a long-awaited prize for Godsey. She won a race late in Colonial’s first era with a jockey represented by agent Frank Douglas. Saturday, six years later, Douglas handed over a box of donuts.
“Luckily they weren’t the ones from six years ago,” chuckled Godsey. “Though they might be the only donuts I see. It’s so comfortable down here, but its drawing a higher quality thoroughbred so it’s all very new. It’s been five years since I’ve saddled a horse in my name. I’m knocking the dust off a little bit.”
Colonial’s opening night card includes two entries each for trainers Ferris Allen and Hamilton Smith who dueled each other regularly for training titles in Colonial’s first edition.
“We’re stabled next door to each other at Laurel, so in a grumpy way, we’re the best of friends,” commented Allen. “When he wins, I’m happy for him and mad at myself for letting him beat me.”
Allen has gathered horses previously trained by luminaries like Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas and from as far away as California’s Golden Gate Fields and is bringing them to Colonial in anticipation of the 15-day meet.
“That’s by design,” explained Allen. “We could have run earlier in other venues but wanted to target this meet. I’ve acquired horses to fit the need of the upcoming meet with the Virginia-bred and -certified program.”
The Varina native, who played baseball at William and Mary, is rejuvenating the pool house at his family farm for his accommodations during the racing season, one of many similarities for Allen of Colonial’s first era. Allen recalled the “dusty and frantic” scramble to open Colonial the first time around in 1997 and said he sees a few similarities in the upcoming preparations. However, it’s one of the differences, that will present a challenge to Allen.
“In refashioning things down there, they’ve created so much better racing that it’s going to be harder for me to win a race,” Allen said.
Still, he, like his counterparts, was happy to be back on the track in New Kent.
While the opening of a racetrack is like mobilizing a city, it can still be a small, small, world on the backstretch.
With new ownership, renovated facilities, and a $300 million investment into Virginia racing in progress, Colonial Downs is set to usher in a new era of thoroughbred racing this coming Thursday August 8th with a ten race program beginning at 5 PM. Thoroughbred horses last ran at Colonial in the summer of 2013.
A total of 107 horses entered the opening day card during the track’s first draw Saturday. Purses for the opener range from $30,000 – $70,000, and a total of $515,000 will be distributed over the ten races. Eight will be contested over the Secretariat Turf Course, the widest grass surface in the country, and three feature full 14 horse fields. The other two will be held over Colonial’s 1 1/4 miles dirt oval.
Featured race is a 5 1/2 furlong, $70,000 allowance optional claiming race on turf, carded as the ninth race. Ten of the eleven entrants bring six figure bankrolls into New Kent including top earner Sharp Art who will be making his 50th lifetime start. The 7-year-old Sharp Art gelding is trained by Thomas Vance, who is competing in New Kent for the first time. The tenth race is the final leg of a 50 cent Pick-5 wager that features an industry-low 12% takeout.
Secondary feature is a $65,000 turf allowance for two-year-olds at the same 5 1/2 furlong distance, carded as race three. A pair of $60,000 races will be run during the Pick-5 including a one mile allowance/optional claimer on dirt that attracted eight horses in the sixth, and a 1 1/16th miles turf race that drew a field of eight for the eighth.
“I think we had a very nice response from horsemen for the first draw,” said Director of Racing Allison De Luca. “We made allowance races, didn’t get out of the book, and have a lot ship ins scheduled. We had a great day. Nothing ever meets my expectations,” she added, “But today was pretty darn good.”
Long time fans will see a combination of familiar faces along with an assortment of new ones. All time leading rider Horacio Karamanos has seven mounts, one of which will be atop all time leading trainer Ferris Allen’s expected favorite in the second race, Speed App. Allen has one other horse entered Thursday. All time leading owner David Ross, who is President of the of the Virginia HBPA and uses the stable name DARRs, Inc., has a trio set to compete including Orbert in the kickoff race. Riders and fan favorites like Forest Boyce and Sheldon Russell have scheduled mounts Thursday. Newcomers include the country’s 17th and 21st top money earning riders, Trevor McCarthy and Paco Lopez. Jorge Vargas Jr. is 54th in money earnings and Daniel Centeno is 70th. J.D. Acosta has 3,271 career wins heading into this week’s action.
An average of $500,000 in purse monies will be distributed daily, or $7.5 million for the meet purse. $1.8 million of that figure will de dedicated to a series of weekend stakes races headlined by the Grade 3, $250,000 New Kent County Virginia Derby and the $150,000 Fasig-Tipton Virginia Oaks on August 31st. A pair of Virginia-Bred Stakes nights will be held on the meet’s opening and closing Saturday programs and feature a slate of $100,000 stakes. Two steeplechase races will be contested every Saturday including the $50,000 Randolph D. Rouse Stakes on September 7th.
“We have high hopes for this season,” said VP of Racing Operations Jill Byrne, who left Kentucky in February to come back to Virginia and help lead the rebirth. “Besides an extremely attractive purse schedule and top notch racing surfaces, we’ve added owner and trainer participation incentives to help horsemen. Owners of horses that finish after fourth place will receive $1,000 and trainers will receive $300 per start regardless of where they finish.”
From a customer perspective, lower takeout rates will greet fans come Thursday. In addition to the Pick-5 reduction, rates on win, place and show bets drop from 18% to 16% while rates on exacta, trifecta, superfecta, daily double, Pick-3 and Pick-4 wagers drop from 22% to 20%. Minimum cost is ten cents for a superfecta, fifty cents for a trifecta, Pick-3, Pick-4 and Pick-5, one dollar for an exacta and daily double, and the traditional two dollars for a win, place or show bet.
“With our new pricing, daily Pick-5 and the late afternoon post of 5 PM (EDT), we hope players around the country take notice,” added Byrne. “Our simulcast signal will start toward the end of Saratoga’s card then run in conjunction with Del Mar’s thru the evening hours. On track fans can expect a completely new experience. Every aspect has been freshened up, from the paddock, to the infield tote, to the dining rooms and beyond.”
Colonial Downs continues its comeback season through September 7th with racing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 5 PM. General admission is free. Tickets for reserved grandstand and box seats, the Jockey Club, 1609 Turf Club Restaurant and Sky Suites are available at colonialdowns.com. The track is located at Exit 214 off I-64 in New Kent, halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg. The New Kent venue also features a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium which hosts 600 Historical Horse Racing terminals.