Monthly Archives: July 2020

Scenes from Opening Night 2020 at Colonial Downs

Here is a series of photos from opening night festivities at Colonial Downs from Tuesday July 28. The “spectator-free” meet was delayed by one day when Monday’s originally scheduled card was postponed due to extreme heat advisories. Photos supplied by Coady Photography and the Virginia Equine Alliance.

Colonial Downs races on opening night — and throughout the 2020 season — will be held without spectators.
Skies of different colors were evident trackside as neighboring thunderstorms avoided the track itself .
Trainer Michael Stidham’s Branco Maria won the first race of the season, which was held on dirt. It was jockey Trevor McCarthy’s first of four wins on the evening.
Jockey statues surround the paddock clock area.
Fans can watch and wager Colonial Downs racing action at any Rosie’s Gaming Emporium or VA-Horseplay OTB, and online at,, and
Ferris Allen, Colonial’s leading all time leading trainer, had a win opening night with River Trappe.
Trainer Michael Stidham gives a deserving shower to Hansel Stakes winner, Guillaume, who is owned by David Ross. The 2-year-old Hard Spun colt was broken by Madison Meyers of Ballyerin Racing at the Middleburg Training Center.
Jockey Forest Boyce rode three winners Tuesday might including a pair for trainer Claude McGaughey.
Horse identifier Stan Shina checks horses into the paddock for the first race Tuesday.
Jockeys Katie Davis and Trevor McCarthy in the Virginia Racing Commission’s licensing area before the races on Tuesday.
Guillaume (#3) came from behind to beat Merchant of Hope (#8) in the Hansel Stakes.
Trainer Michael Stidham saddled two winners on Tuesday’s card.
First race winner Branco Maria cools off before getting his picture taken.
John Marshall, Colonial Downs Executive VP of Operations, is interviewed by Scott Cash of WVEC-TV on Tuesday.

Guillaume Wins First Start In Virginia-Certified $40,000 Hansel Stakes at Colonial Downs

Guillaume rallied on the outside and overtook Merchant of Hope in the final strides of the $40,000 Hansel Stakes for Virginia Certified 2-year-olds on the Tuesday night opening night card at Colonial Downs. The son of Hard Spun is owned by DARRS Inc., trained by Mike Stidham and was ridden by Trevor McCarthy, the same owner-trainer-jockey combination who were leaders at the 2019 Colonial meeting. 

The victory was third of four on the night for McCarthy and second for Stidham. “When we saw that his race was for Virginia-certified horses, it got on our radar,” said Stidham. “He was impressive at this distance but we’ll be looking to go longer in his next start.”  

Guillaume came on strong in the stretch to win the 2020 Hansel Stakes. Photo by Coady Photography.

Named after a famous Canadian ballet dancer, Guillaume’s performance impressed owner David Ross.  “Mike did a great job getting the horse ready and Trevor did a phenomenal job getting out in the lane and just getting him to the wire in time. The horse was moving forwardly at the finish. He’s an exciting horse to watch.”  

Guillaume was making his career debut in the Hansel and banked $24,000 for the half-length victory. He covered the 5 ½ furlongs over a fast track in 1:04.38 and paid $6.40, $3.40 and $2.10. The winner was broken at the Middleburg Training Center by Ballyerin Racing’s Madison Meyers and Kieran Norris. The Center recently underwent a multi-million-dollar upgrade.  

Merchant of Hope set the pace in the five-horse field through fractions of 22.85 seconds for the opening quarter, 46.11 seconds for a half-mile and a five-furlong split of 58.06 seconds. The son of Bayern paid $4.00 and $2.40.

Jockey Trevor McCarthy guides David Ross’s Guillaume to victory. Photo by Coady Photography.


It was another 1 ¾ lengths back to third-place finisher and post-time favorite Sky’s Not Falling who returned $2.10 to show. Natural Attraction and Dare to Promise completed the order of finish. 

Earlier in the card, Wesley Ward’s Amsden went gate-to-wire in a $40,000 five-furlong maiden turf race for two-year-olds. The American Pharoah colt won by three lengths. Last year, Ward connected in a Colonial turf sprint with another two-year-old, Four Wheel Drive, who captured the Rosie’s Stakes and went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.   

Colonial Downs’ summer meeting continues racing through September 2 on a Monday through Wednesday basis with a first post of 5:30 EDT. A special Sunday program has been added August 2 to make up for the cancellation of Monday’s scheduled card. 


Colonial Downs Post Time For Tuesday’s Opening Day Card Pushed Back One Hour to 6:30 PM

UPDATE AS OF TUESDAY 7/28 AT 9 AM — Post time for Tuesday’s opening day card is now 6:30 instead of 5:30 PM.  Safety First as Due to Heat Conditions

(NEW KENT, Va.) – July 27, 2020 – In an abundance of caution, Colonial Downs Group is postponing today’s opening card at the Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County. With heat index forecasts over 100 degrees, the change is to safeguard the health of people working, transportation of horses and horses racing during these conditions. Monday’s races will be re-scheduled for Sunday, August 2.

Horses got a chance to exercise on Colonial’s Secretariat Turf Course in advance of Tuesday’s rescheduled opening card.

The opening day program now becomes Tuesday July 28 now with nine races scheduled and a first post of 5:30 PM.

Colonial Downs Group, a subsidiary of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, announced last week that it will alter course from hosting limited spectators to a “spectator-free” racing program for the 2020 race meet. The change to “spectator free” racing enables Colonial Downs to focus extra care towards key operating areas, such as the jockeys’ quarters, paddock supervision, racing office and the stabling area during COVID-19. Under spectator-free designation, fans are encouraged to tune into the TVG Network to watch live racing from Colonial Downs and wager via;; and

Horses got a chance to exercise on Colonial’s Secretariat Turf Course in advance of Tuesday’s rescheduled opening card.

About Colonial Downs: In its first partial year of operations, Colonial Downs Group opened four locations, created more than 1,000 jobs, and contributed more than $14.4 Million in taxes and racing industry payments in Virginia. At Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in Richmond, Hampton, New Kent, and Vinton we offer innovative historic horseracing (HHR) gaming technology and full card simulcasting. At Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent County, we offer live thoroughbred racing at the best turf track in the country and will run 18 days in 2020.

Horses got a chance to exercise on Colonial’s Secretariat Turf Course in advance of Tuesday’s rescheduled opening card.

Colonial Downs Group has made a $300 million investment in the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to a recent study, the company’s operations were poised to generate $26.1 million in state tax revenue, $17.9 million in local tax revenue, and $445 million in overall economic activity in Virginia in the year 2020, along with contributing $25 million annually to Virginia’s horse industry in future years. The Colonial Downs Group looks forward to reopening fully and achieving those goals moving forward.

Wednesday’s Virginia-Bred/Sired Stakes Races at Colonial Feature 2019 Evans, Jamestown & Gilpin Stakes Winners

River Deep, winner of the 2019 Edward P. Evans Stakes, will try to defend his title Wednesday (July 29) at Colonial Downs against six other Virginia-bred/sired horses including Todd Pletcher trainee Largent and 2019 Jamestown Stakes winner Embolden. The $60,000 one-mile turf stakes has been carded as the eighth race.

Morgan Ford Farms’ River Deep won last year’s Evans courtesy of a disqualification when initial first place finisher Speed Gracer was tagged for interference and placed fourth. Forest Boyce will ride the Phil Schoenthal trainee who enters with a bankroll of $298,130. The 6-year-old Arch gelding has a won pair of other Virginia-bred stakes — the Bert Allen and Hansel, both in 2018.

River Deep and jockey Sheldon Russell win the 2019 Evans. Photo by Coady Photography.

Dare To Dream Stables’ Embolden has earned “top-three” finishes in all six of his starts. The 3-year-old The Factor colt will make his 2020 debut Wednesday. He finished 2019 with a third in Remington’s Springboard MiIe and preceded that with runner-ups in the Atlantic Beach Stakes and Grade 3 Futurity Stakes at Aqueduct and Belmont respectively. Trevor McCarthy, Colonial’s leading rider last year, has the mount for trainer Michael Stidham. Embolden was bred by Nancy Terhune and Ernest Frohboese.

Twin Creeks Racing and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Largent brings an impressive resume into the stakes. The 4-year-old Into Mischief gelding is fresh off an allowance optional claiming win March 28 at Gulfstream. In five starts, he has three wins and two seconds with earnings of $98,670. Largent is 3-for-3 on turf. He was bred by Lazy Lane Farms.

Other entrants include Black Prong — who was third in the Evans last year — along with Fionnbharr, Carbon Data and Ismusbemyluckyday.

Six Virginia-bred/sired horses will compete in the $60,000 Camptown Stakes including 2019 M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes winner What the Beep, Jamestown Stakes runner-up Bella Aurora and New York/New Jersey invader Tan and Tight. The 5 1/2-furlong turf test for fillies and mares three and up is the fourth race on the card.

Bella Aurora captured the 2019 Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue.

Eagle Point Farm’s What the Beep enters 2020 action with a bankroll of $153,503. Jockey Forest Boyce, who directed the winning Gilpin effort last year, will be up again. Trainer Karen Godsey’s home bred — a 5-year-old Great Notion mare — finished fourth in last year’s Camptown. What The Beep is 3-for-7 on turf.

Country Life Farms’ Bella Aurora is the highest money earner in the field with $154,140. The 3-year-old Carpe Diem filly capped off 2019 with a win in Laurel’s Gin Talking Stakes. Bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm and trained by Mike Trombetta, Bella Aurora will be ridden by Keiber Coa.

e Five Racing Thoroughbreds’ Tan and Tight is trained by Michael Stidham and gets the services of jockey McCarthy. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly powered home in a maiden special weight January 19 at Aqueduct over a sloppy dirt track. She returned to turf in her only start since — a tight runner-up at Monmouth July 5. Overall, she has finished second in all three of her career turf outs. Tan and Tight was bred by Jim and Katie Fitzgerald.

Rounding out the field is Solarte — Camptown runner-up in 2019 — along with Determined Love and Chasing Midnight.

Tuesday’s (July 28) $40,000 Hansel Stakes, open to Virginia-bred, sired and certified two-year-old horses, will be contested at 5 1/2 dirt furlongs as the fourth race. Only three of the eight horses entered have made a start and each won their maiden special weight debuts — Natural Attraction, Merchant of Hope and Sky’s Not Falling, an early 9-5 favorite. The latter was bred in Maryland by Larry Johnson and won his five-furlong bow at Delaware July 1. The Seville gelding is trained by Trombetta and will be ridden by Coa.

Embolden won the 2019 Jamestown Stakes at Colonial Downs. Photo by Coady Photography.

Second early choice is David Ross’s Guillaume, who is a Kentucky-bred colt by Hard Spun. Trevor McCarthy will ride for trainer Stidham. Ross, whose stable name is DARRS, Inc., was leading owner at Colonial last year with five victories.

Others entered include a pair of Susan Cooney-trained Virginia-breds — Stay In and Canherun. Dare to Promise and Alpha Queue round out the field.

Colonial’s season continues through September 2 with cards every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 5:30 PM. A makeup card for Monday’s (July 27) heat-related cancellation will be held on Sunday August 2 at the same time. The track will feature a nightly All-Turf Pick-5 wager that covers the program’s final five races.

The 2020 race meet will be presented “spectator-free”. In Virginia, bets can be placed at any Rosie’s Gaming Emporium or at any VA-Horseplay Off Track Betting location. Online betting is available through,, and All of Colonial’s races will be aired on TVG. More details are at

Colonial Meet Preview; Opening Day Card Cancelled; Make Up Day on Sunday Aug. 2; Entries Taken Tues. July 27

UPDATE AS OF MONDAY JULY 27 AT 1o:30 AM. The Opening day card at Colonial Downs has been cancelled due to extreme heat expected. The card has been rescheduled for Sunday August 2.  Horsemen will need to re-enter horses —they will be taken Tuesday July 27. Three non-betting steeplechase races will precede Sunday’s pari-mutuel card beginning at 3:30 PM. 
Charmn Charlie Ray won the first race of the 2019 Colonial Downs. Photo by Coady Photography.

The featured race is a $42,000 turf allowance for 2-year-olds at 5½ furlongs. A field of nine will battle in the eighth race including seven last-time-out winners. The only two that did not prevail most recently were Sunshine City and Crown and Coke, who raced in stakes at Royal Ascot and Churchill Downs, respectively.

A jockey colony of some 30 riders will be based in New Kent for the six-week meet including Trevor McCarthy, last year’s top jock with 15 wins. Through July 22 this year, McCarthy is ranked 30th in the country by purse earnings with $2,576,300. Daniel Centeno, who tied for second with 13 victories, is back as is Forest Boyce, who finished fourth in the standings. The trio will be busy on opening night. McCarthy and Boyce have nine mounts each while Centeno has eight.

Veteran jockeys Chuck Lopez and Alberto Delgado are part of the group. Lopez competed at Colonial in 2019 and collected seven wins. The 59-year-old has 4,301 wins from over 30,000 starts. Delgado will be riding for the first time since 2017. The 56-year-old, who has 2,932 victories from over 25,000 starts, rode California Chrome to his first two wins in 2013. Lopez has six mounts Monday while Delgado has two.

Two dirt races are included in the opening card on Monday.

Mike Stidham and Jamie Ness, co-leading trainers at the 2019 meet with 10 wins each, have horses entered Monday. The former, who won the 2019 Virginia Oaks with Carnival Colors and Kitten’s Joy with Doc Boy last summer, has Princess Grace in the seventh and Palio in the fifth. The latter sends Hazels Little Man out in the featured eighth.

Also supporting the opener are Graham Motion, whose English Bee captured the 2019 New Kent County Virginia Derby (G3), and Wesley Ward, whose Four Wheel Drive won the Exacta Systems Rosie’s Stakes then went on the win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1). Motion’s’ Dance Recital appears in the seventh and Ward’s Sunshine City competes in the feature. Both Ferris Allen, Colonial’s all-time leading conditioner, and King Leatherbury, fifth leading all-time trainer nationally with 6,503 victories, have a pair entered.

The track will feature a nightly All-Turf Pick-5 wager that covers the program’s final five races. Colonial is in a unique position because its track lights illuminate the grass course instead of the dirt oval. Three of the five legs in Monday’s wager have either a 13- or 14-horse field.

The early steeplechase races will be a staple of every Monday card this summer. Opening day’s pair feature 10-horse fields and seven in each raced most recently in Virginia — either at the Middleburg Spring Races or the Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow which both took place in June.

Racing will begin at 5:30 PM and finish under the lights in 2020.

The 2020 race meet will be presented “spectator-free” out of an abundance of caution so Colonial Downs’ personnel can focus extra care towards key operating areas, such as the jockeys’ quarters, paddock supervision, racing office and the stabling area.

The season continues through September 2 with cards every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 5:30 PM. The Grade 3 Virginia Derby highlights the meet and will be contested on Tuesday September 1 along with other five stakes.

In Virginia, wagering on Colonial Downs races can be placed at any Rosie’s Gaming Emporium or at any VA-Horseplay Off Track Betting location. Online betting is available through,, and All of Colonial’s races will be aired on TVG. More details are at

Timing Morning Workouts – Behind the Scenes at Colonial Downs with George Horner

Available data includes charted lines from its most recent races, jockey and trainer stats, comparative speed figures along with other variables.  At the very end of each horse’s body of work is a listing of recent workout times which can also aid bettors in that selection process.

George Horner is based in the Colonial Downs press box from 6-10 AM each morning.

While a workout is not performed at full racing speed, it is faster than a horse’s daily maintenance exercise of jogging and galloping. Morning works are compiled at every track and stored in a database, then appear in the racing program. That workout line includes the date, track abbreviation, distance of work, track condition, time, and ranking of the workout compared to others. A bullet symbol indicates that the workout was the fastest at that track, at that distance, that morning. The symbol “b” after a work indicates the horse was breezing — going very easily and possibly even under a hold during the workout.

At Colonial Downs, George Horner is responsible for providing those times. Based in New Kent for the first time ever this summer, he is the track’s official clocker. Horner spends his early morning hours alone on the grandstand’s top level with a cup of coffee, a pair of binoculars and several stopwatches. The sunrise setting can be serene at times, and hectic at others.

The clocker’s tools of the trade.

“After a busy Saturday, a clocker can feel like they just had a workout,” said Horner on a recent morning. “You need to be able multi-task.”

Over 600 horses are expected to stable in the backstretch for the six-week meet which runs from July 27 – September 2. Colonial’s dirt track is open six days a week from 6 -10 AM for training except for a 30-minute break halfway through when it is closed for grooming. Every horse gets a chance to utilize the track each morning during that period. If a horse is going to do a published work out — once a week on average — Horner is notified by radio from one of two gap attendants as the horse makes its way onto the track — in theory.

“Sometimes a trainer will just call or text me on my cell,” he said. “Or they may call a land line in the press box. Or the starter may call if the horse works from the gate. And other times, you just look out on the track and see a horse galloping that begins speeding up and gets to that work speed when they hit the start pole. You can see every horse on the track even if they weren’t called in. Through years of watching and learning, you can kind of just tell when that is happening.”

George Horner’s view of the track from the fifth floor press box.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Horner started clocking at Thistledown Racetrack in 1989 once he gave up training horses. He has clocked at Delaware Park, Tampa Bay Downs, Presque Isle Downs and even at Arlington Park for a summer. At Colonial, Horner arrived with a pair of 16 x 50 binoculars but he plans to invest in a 10 x 50 model to get a wider viewing range. The New Kent oval is the second largest in the country at 1 1/4 miles around.

Colonial had 200 horses on the grounds July 18 — nine days before its opener — and had 20 work that morning. “The track here is so big you sometimes can’t tell for sure who the horse on the backside is,” he said. “Identifying horses can be a challenge no matter what the track. Two horses worked out of the gate together this morning. One had a marking on his right hind leg and the other one didn’t. I recorded the times, looked at my computer after and pulled up the markings to distinguish one from the other. You have to note things like that to keep up then fill in the details after.”

He said Arlington, which employed four clockers, was the most challenging of his stops. “We had 200 horses work out some mornings,” he said. “After the break is when you have your problems. You’d see 70 or 80 line up to get on the track and knew a lot were going to work. You can cover it with four though. For the clocker, it can be a mental workout some days.

Alex Sausville and Kiersten Estes are gap attendants at Colonial Downs. They notify the clocker when a horse is going to work out.

“At Tampa there are two clockers,” he added. “It’s a smaller track so you don’t need to use binoculars as much. You get to know the rider’s style and saddle towels over time. You try to catch every horse but in reality, nobody can catch every horse. There could be a horse working five-eighths and you caught him at the half mile mark. You’ll be able to gauge what that first one-eighth was though. You’re not going to be off much. It is not 100% accurate. If three people are clocking, not everybody is going to have the same time. There’s a human element to it.”

Every trainer has a different method of approaching workouts for their horse. “They want to see the time it takes to get over the work and how the horse comes out of it,” said Horner. “How tired did he get? Do you stretch him out next time to a half mile from three-eighths? That’s one thing about this game — there’s no right way. Some guys work three-eighths a lot, some five-eighths and a few will even work a mile.

“Workouts can be misleading,” he added. “It’s all about how the horse works that half mile. A big factor is the first one-eighth. If he breaks slow but finishes good, the time might appear average but it was done right. He had horse left at the end. Sometimes you can see how easy it looked — the rider is sitting calm and cool on him, finishing well on his own versus being fast early and spent at the end. It’s how they do it more than the time,” he continued. “You look for a horse that does it comfortably and easily and has a ton left.”

George Horner looks out over the 1 1/4 miles turf course.

Handicappers have to decide the value of workout lines in relation to the other data. “Past performances are the best indicator in a sense of how the horse has run,” said Horner. “There are plenty of horses that run fast in the morning but don’t run as good in the afternoon for whatever reason. They fall apart emotionally and get stressed out before they do it. In the morning, they’re out by themselves with no competition, in a relaxing mode. That happens more than you think.”

Growing up, Horner’s father had horses so he naturally gravitated toward the business. He started working at age 16 and became a trainer at the age of 19. Between 1977 – 1988, his horses made 1,130 starts and reached the winners circle 177 times.

“Racing is a tough business. It’s inconsistent and trainers have lots of ups and downs. When things are going good, it’s wonderful. When things aren’t going good, it’s not so wonderful. It’s so iffy. I give trainers a lot of credit.”

A sample of Horner’s notes from morning works.

When Horner was offered the clocker’s position at Thistledown in 1989, he took it and never looked back. He left to become a clocker at Tampa Bay Downs in 1999 and has been there since. Their season starts in late November and normally continues through early May. This year, it went through July 4 in an extended campaign. “It’s a seven day a week job, so you better enjoy it,” he said. “I know going into that meet I’ll get three days off — Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

“The job itself is pretty basic but it all happens very quick. You get the call or text, look for the horse, pick him up, time him, and just do your best. There’s one thing about it. You can do it as long as you can see and keep your wits about you,” said Horner. “You need to do something to stay busy, right?”

Colonial Downs Adjusts To Spectator-Free Racing

(NEW KENT, Va.) – July 21, 2020 — In light of the unprecedented pandemic impacting all walks of life and industries, Colonial Downs Group, a subsidiary of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, announced today that it will alter course from hosting limited spectators to a “spectator-free” racing program for the 2020 race meet, which opens Monday, July 27.

The decision to conduct the meeting without spectators is at the request of the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (V-HBPA).   The change to “spectator free” racing is out of an abundance of caution and enables Colonial Downs to focus extra care towards key operating areas, such as the jockeys’ quarters, paddock supervision, racing office and the stabling area.

Colonial Downs will host its summer season, spectator-free, from July 27 – September 2.

“We accept the position of our industry partners that adjusting to spectator-free racing is ultimately best for protecting the health and safety of our racing participants,” said John Marshall, Executive Vice President of Operations for Colonial Downs.  “Our team is prepared to deliver a quality racing product while ensuring a safely run meet, which is our chief objective.”

Colonial Downs joins the group of major racetracks in the region racing without spectators including Saratoga, Laurel Park and Penn National.  Spectators will not be permitted on the outdoor apron, grandstand seats and the 4th floor restaurant (1609) and suites will remain closed.

The 2020 Colonial Downs meeting will be conducted on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings, with first post time at 5:30 p.m. ET. The meeting will conclude on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

“Our horsemen fully support the decision to conduct racing without fans at Colonial this summer, otherwise the public health risk is too great,” said Frank Petramalo, Jr., Executive Director of V-HBPA. “There is a bright spot — all our races will be televised live on the TVG network, and people can wager on TVG or on other on-line sites.”

Two steeplechase races will be held every Monday at 4 PM and 4:40 PM prior to the pari-mutuel card which begins at 5:30 PM.

Fans are encouraged to watch Colonial Downs live on TVG channel 718 Xfinity, 399 Dish or 602 Direct TV, and wager by setting up an account on

As part of the protocols for jockeys participating in the upcoming meeting, Colonial Downs has established the following procedures:

  1. Jockeys must provide a negative Covid-19 test before arriving on Colonial Downs grounds for the first time, and the test must have been taken since last riding elsewhere.
  1. Jockeys who leave Colonial Downs to ride elsewhere, or enter another racetracks jockey’s quarters, will not be permitted to return to Colonial Downs unless they self-quarantine for 14 days and obtain and provide a negative Covid-19 test.

About Colonial Downs: In its first partial year of operations Colonial Downs Group opened four locations, created more than 1,000 jobs, and contributed more than $14.4 Million in taxes and racing industry payments in Virginia.  At Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in Richmond, Hampton, New Kent, and Vinton we offer innovative historic horseracing (HHR) gaming technology and full card simulcasting. At Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent County, we offer live thoroughbred racing at the best turf track in the country and will run 18 days in 2020. Colonial Downs Group has made a $300 million investment in the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to a recent study, the company’s operations were poised to generate $26.1 million in state tax revenue, $17.9 million in local tax revenue, and $445 million in overall economic activity in Virginia in the year 2020, along with contributing $25 million annually to Virginia’s horse industry in future years. The Colonial Downs Group looks forward to reopening fully and achieving those goals moving forward.

Colonial Downs Announces Covid-19 Related Protocols For Jockeys & Horsemen

The following was announced by Colonial Downs on July 17.

Jockeys: Must provide a negative Covid-19 test before arriving on Colonial Downs grounds for the first time. The test must have been taken since last riding elsewhere. Jockeys who leave Colonial Downs to ride elsewhere or enter another racetrack jockeys’ quarters will not be permitted to return to Colonial Downs unless they self-quarantine for 14 days and obtain and provide a negative Covid-19 test. Face Masks are required.

Horsemen: Paddock and winner’s circle protocol: Restricted to a maximum of 2 people accompanying each horse in addition to the jockey and valet. Face Masks are required at all times.

Virginia-Bred, Sired & Restricted Nominations Are Set For Colonial Downs Opening Week Stakes

Virginia-bred, -sired and/or -certified horses will be spotlighted in the first three evenings of racing at Colonial Downs – Monday, July 27 through Wednesday, July 29 – with six stakes races. Three of the events are for registered Virginia bred/sired runners and three for Virginia-restricted Thoroughbreds.

The opening night’s program will be highlighted by the $40,000 Van Clief Handicap for fillies and mares at one mile over Colonial’s renowned Secretariat turf course. Most prominent among the 30 nominees for the Van Clief is Dare To Dream Stable’s Embolden, winner of the Jamestown Stakes here last September. The Mike Stidham-trained son of The Factor has not raced since a third-place run in the $400,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park last December. The career earner of $181,000 is cross-nominated to the July 29 Edward P. Evans Stakes.

Embolden wins the 2019 Jamestown Stakes for 2-year-olds over the Colonial turf. Photo by Coady Photography.

Other noms of note include the 1-2-3 finishers in the 2019 Bert Allen Stakes — Alex Kazdan’s K D’s Cat Bird, Sarah Nagle’s Black Prong and Lady Olivia at Northcliff’s Accountable; Eagle Point Farm’s Braxton, runner-up in last August’s Meadow Stable Stakes; and Morgan’s Ford Farm’s River Deep, winner in last summer’s Evans.

Juvenile runners headline the Tuesday, July 28 card with a pair of $40,000 dashes – one open and one for the fillies. The 5 1/2-furlong White Oak Farm Stakes attracted 20 nominations most of whom are making their career debuts. One exception is Kingdom Bloodstock’s Merchant of Hope. The daughter of Bayern broke her maiden at Charles Town at first asking for trainer Phil Schoenthal and is cross-nominated to the open race.

The open division honors 1991 Preakness and Belmont Stakes champion Hansel and will also be contested at 5½ furlongs. In addition to aforementioned Merchant of Hope, other winners listed among the 30 nominees are O’Sullivan Farms and Huntertown Farm’s Natural Attraction and R. Larry Johnson’s and RDM Stable’s Sky’s Not Falling.

A trio of Virginia-bred/sired stakes – each with a $60,000 purse – will highlight the Wednesday, July 29 card. Fifteen horses have each been nominated to the Nellie Mae Cox and Camptown Stakes while 19 were nominated to the Edward P. Evans.

Bella Aurora (#4) was best in the 2019 Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue.

Tasting The Stars and Bella Aurora headline horses for the Nellie Mae Cox, a one-mile filly and mare turf stakes. The former is a Michael Stidham trainee who won the 2019 Just Jenda Stakes at Monmouth and was sixth in last year’s Virginia Oaks. A 4-year-old Bodemeister filly bred by Audley Farm, Tasting The Stars is three for four with $96,600 in earnings. The latter, trained by Michael Trombetta, won the 2019 Gin Talking Stakes and was runner-up in Colonial’s Jamestown Stakes. Bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm, the 3-year-old Carpe Diem filly has bankrolled $154,140 from eight starts. Also nominated is the Ian Wilkes-trained Urban Fairytale who is fresh off a maiden special weight victory at Gulfstream March 29.

The top two finishers from last year’s M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes were nominated to the Camptown. What The Beep, trained and bred by Karen Godsey at her Ashland, Virginia, Eagle Point Farm, prevailed by one length in the Gilpin and was a runner-up in the 2018 Camptown. English Heiress, a Patrick Neusch trainee, finished second behind What the Beep. Also nominated is Tan and Tight, a 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly conditioned by Michael Stidham. She has earned $100,000 from seven starts including a dominating maiden special weight win at Aqueduct in January. Bella Aurora, nominated to the Nellie Mae Cox in addition to the Camptown.

What The Beep captured the $100,000 Tyson Gilpin Stakes last August at Colonial Downs. Photo by Coady Photography.

Embolden and K D’s Cat Bird – both six figure earners – are among the Edward P. Evans nominees. Both are also nominated to the July 27 Van Clief.

The Colonial Downs season begins Monday, July 27, with racing conducted three days a week – Monday through Wednesday – with a first post of 5:30 p.m. EDT with provisions for a limited number of spectators in attendance for the 18-day schedule.

Under conditions established in Virginia’s Phase 3 reopening plan, which allows for outdoor venues to cap attendance at 1,000 spectators, Colonial Downs will plan the following protocols for the nightly meeting:

·         Up to 1,000 spectators will be admitted to the outdoor areas of the grandstand and the track apron.

·         Limited indoor seating available in the Jockey Club area on the third floor. Purchase of a table includes 2 live programs. Food and beverage table service will not be provided in the Jockey Club area. Food will be available in Rosie’s Kitchen and at rhe concessions located outside. Beverage service will be available at our bars located in the Jockey Club.

·         All guests will receive temperature checks upon arrival at the facility and a 6-foot physical distancing policy will be enforced.

·         Guests are required to wear masks indoors and encouraged outdoors.

·         Spectator capacity will be set to 1,000 people per race, get your tickets now!

On Line Betting Handle In Virginia Is Up 32%

In all, $61,803,279 was wagered in the first six months this year compared with $46,663,434 in 2019. TVG handled the most with $33,332,419, a 46% increase over $22,701,313 during the same time period last year. Bettors wagered $17,677,691 via Twin Spires, 9% more than 2019’s tally of $16,180,618. Xpressbet was next with $8,138,608 in handle compared with $6,347,946 — a 28% increase — while NYRABets, newest of the four, saw an 85% increase in business. They handled $2,654,560 compared with $1,433,554.

Saratoga’s summer season begins July 16.

Of the six-month reporting period, June’s handle of $15,624,034 was the best of any.
Aside from on line betting, all four Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums and their live simulcast centers reopened on July 1 along with two VA-Horseplay OTBs  — Breakers Sports Grille in Henrico and Buckets Bar & Grill in Chesapeake. The Windmill OTB in Collinsville is expected to open soon.

Additional favorable numbers could be on the horizon as racing heads into a prime weekend with major stakes on tap at tracks around the country. Del Mar hosts the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap on Saturday (July 18) and Saratoga — which opens Thursday July 16 — will host the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes and Grade 3 Schuylerville on opening day and the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks on Saturday.  Monmouth hosts a pair of Grade I stakes on Saturday — the $1 million Haskell and United Nations — while Meadowlands harness presents the $682,00 Meadowlands Pace Final.

The racing season in New Kent begins July 27.

And topping it off, Colonial Downs opens in less than two weeks! A six-week season will run from July 27 – September 2 with racing every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 5:30 PM. Virginia Derby Night is scheduled for Tuesday September 1, same week as the Kentucky Derby which is four days later on September 5.