Monthly Archives: July 2020

Training Begins at Colonial Downs Ahead of 18 Day Season That Kicks Off July 27

Opening day for training at Colonial featured a combination of sun, clouds and showers.

The first horse onto the track was Mo Margarita from the barn of James Tsirigotis, Jr., who has eight horses here from Tampa.

“The Tampa horsemen definitely played a big role in the success of our ‘racing revival’ last year and I’m certainly glad to see so many of them return,” said Director of Racing and Racing Secretary Allison DeLuca, who serves in the same role at the Oldsmar, Florida, oval.

The Sunshine State outfits are topped by last year’s co-leading trainer Mike Stidham, who will again have a string at Colonial this summer. The 62-year-old native of Neptune, New Jersey, won 10 races during the 2019 meet including stakes scores with Embolden in the Jamestown Stakes and with Doc’s Boy in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Kitten’s Joy. He surpassed the 2,000-win mark in November.

First horse on the track for training was Mo Margarita.

“We enjoyed racing here last year,” Stidham said. “We had a lot of grass horses that we were able to run that we couldn’t get in at other tracks. We won a lot of races. Our horses liked the grass course and the dirt surface was good as well.

“We’re anxious and looking forward to another good meet,” he continued. “We will have a strong presence at Colonial and plan to run as many as possible this year.”

In addition to Stidham and Tsirigotis, others trainers who have made the trek from the western peninsula of Florida include Mike Campbell, Francisco Machado, Abdul Williams, James Dimmett, Jonathon Feron, Joseph Minieri, Mauricio Nunez, Derek Ryan, Dennis Ward, John Fennessey, Sarah Nagle, Moises Yanez, and Whitney Vallis to name just a few.

James Tsirigotis Sr. watched his son’s horses work out Monday morning. A trainer for 49 years, he also runs the track kitchen at Tampa Bay Downs.

Among the prominent new trainers to have a Colonial Downs outfit is that of Christophe Clemente. The Paris-born Clemente, who saddled Tonalist to win the 2014 Belmont Stakes (G1), though based in New York this time of year he will have a contingent of eight horses here. Earlier this year, Clemente notched his 2,000th victory.

Of course, Virginia-bred, -sired or -restricted runners will be featured prominently during the Colonial Downs season with numerous stakes opportunities sprinkled throughout the meet with as many as six such events planned for the opening three programs.

“Move in day was hectic – we have 100 horses at home; trying to get a batch down here,” said trainer Karen Godsey. “Mom and I were throwing hay the other day trying to get it all done.  We have 11 (horses) here so far, nine or 10 more to come from the farm and some from other tracks. We’ll trickle them in — I’ll bring another couple more every day.

Karen Godsey shipped ten horses into the Colonial backstretch from Her Ashland-based Eagle Point Farm over the weekend.

“It feels great to be back especially after this year that we’ve all had — at one point, didn’t even know we’d be here,” she said. “I hope I have as a good meet as I did last year but don’t know if you can get lucky twice. What the Beep, winner of the 2019 Tyson Gilpin Stakes is back and will compete in the same Virginia-bred stakes this year (Sept. 2).”

Another Virginia-based trainer David Bourke arrived over the weekend and will have 10 horses here for the meet. “I just brought the first set out to train and the track feels great — it has a really nice cushion on it. It is all manicured and looks A1,” he said. “We fortunately brought better a bit better stock with us this year. We have two really nice 2-year-olds. We have something more to look forward to than we did last year. The quality in our stable this year is better.”

Virginia trainer David Bourke was among the first to work out his horses Monday and referred to the dirt track as “A-1” quality.

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 1000 spectators will be admitted to the outdoor areas of the grandstand and the track apron.

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

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

Colonial Downs Team Member Brings Youthful Passion To The New Kent Race Office

Sausville, who grew up outside of Saratoga in upstate New York, won’t just savor the action as a fan. He has been able take his intense passion for racing and turn it into a budding career. This summer, he will be working in the racing department at Colonial Downs. He made a key connection last fall when he met Colonial’s Vice President of Racing Operations Jill Byrne on Breeders’ Cup weekend at Santa Anita. Byrne offered him a position during the 2020 meet and he arrived in New Kent two weeks ago.

Alex Sausville expects have a busy summer working in the racing department at Colonial Downs.

Come Monday when the track opens for training, he will be a backstretch “gap” attendant every morning during training hours — overseeing the flow of equine traffic on and off the track, to and from the barn area. During the races, he will help insert Equibase timing system chips into each horse’s saddle towel as an assistant paddock judge. And in between, he’ll do anything else that is needed or asked of him. “I expect to have some long days but am looking forward to the experience,” he said.

Sausville didn’t grow up in a racing family, but his family had a lot of interest in the races given his proximity to Saratoga. “I’d go to the races and simulcast rooms with my father, uncle, and godfather pretty much every Friday and Saturday when Saratoga was racing,” he said. “We did doubleheaders those days — Thoroughbreds in the afternoon and harness, which was right across the street, at night.”

Sausville enjoyed everything about racing and thought about a career in the field but didn’t know how to go about it. After high school, he attended St. John Fisher College in Rochester for four years where he played basketball and got a degree in Marketing. After graduating, he heard about the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program (RTIP) from Gulfstream track announcer Pete Aiello and decided to pursue the opportunity.

Alex Sausville at work in the Colonial Downs racing office.

He ended up spending the next 1 1/2 years in Tucson taking courses in racetrack management, racetrack marketing and animal sciences among others. Students in the program get valuable hands-on experience interning at nearby Rillito Park — the birthplace of Quarter Horse racing — which has an annual six-week winter meet.

The combination of classwork and experience — and treks across the country to visit racetracks — came together quite nicely for him. “I realized this is what I wanted pretty quickly after I got out there,” he recalled. “The last two years have been the best of my life, from when I started there, to when I graduated from there (in December), to being able to visit tracks and gain new experiences. I loved so much of it and still love every second of it.”

Sausville’s fascination with traveling to tracks around the country started eight or nine years ago though. “I had already been to Keeneland, Belmont and Saratoga at that point, but the next place I visited was Beulah Park in Columbus. It was on its last legs. It was down to its final few race days left. There weren’t more than a dozen people in the place the day I was there. It was dusty and dirty. But you could visualize how nice the place was at one time. There was an air to it. I said to my family, if there are other places like this around the country, I want to see them.”

Future track trips would sometimes be as a family, as father and son, and on other occasions, solo. On one trip, he drove from school in Tuscon to New York and visited eight or nine different tracks on the way east. With help from RTIP’s Wendy Davis and Mike Weiss, he set up meetings at each with graduates of the program and with former guest speakers they had.

“I found there’s such a comradery among everyone. I got to see so many alumni from the program and meet people that all had a common ground. It was great to see the passion that brings everyone together. I grew up watching races from the rail with my dad. This gave me the chance to see racing from the inside.

As part of his duties, Sausville will manage the flow of horse traffic during training hours from the “gap” — pictured here — every morning.

“I’m trying to learn bits and pieces of everything,” he added. “When you watch racing as a fan, you see some of those bits and pieces. When you get into it more, you see all the avenues it takes — working hands on with the horses, working the sales, breeding. I spent five months helping foal out mares — something I never thought about doing when I was 16 or 17.”

Sausville was asked about some top highlights from his travels. “Arlington was great,” he replied. “I went to the Million and had an amazing time. Saratoga is my home and I sometimes get spoiled with it. Fairmount Park in Illinois stands out. I was there on a Saturday night when they had an 8:30 PM post time. The place was packed. They ran for lower purses but the crowds were jammed in along the rail. Same with Rillito,” he continued. “They didn’t run for a lot of purse money there. Maiden special weight races went for $1,000. But when the horses came down the stretch, people were three- and four-deep at the rail screaming. At every track, there is an experience that separates each one from the other.”

Sausville estimates he has visited between 55 and 57 closed racetracks. “There is an element about seeing a closed venue. I love seeing what is left. I love the history of racing.  It’s what drew me into visiting. I went to Alabama and visited the Birmingham Turf Club.  It was a mecca at one time, but just never made it. To see it was amazing. It’s gorgeous to see what they built it for. They had been running greyhounds most recently but aren’t any more since the pandemic hit. To see that element of the past is just really exciting to feel it and experience it.”

Garden State Park, Great Lakes Downs and Pinnacle are some of the tracks he has been to that did not survive. “At Detroit Race Course, there is nothing left,” he said. “It’s just a couple of warehouses now. In other places, you can still see the grandstand or the track. Everybody in the industry started somewhere and has experiences. Take a place like Woodlands in Kansas City. Nobody knows what’s going on with it now but there are 10 people that started their careers there and had some of the best times of their professional lives there. I’ve heard some amazing stories about some amazing places and they are all genuine. I don’t know if I would have heard these unless people knew I had that level of interest.”

Before arriving at Colonial Downs, Sausville worked for five months at the 2,200-acre Stone Farm in Paris, Kentucky. After the Colonial meet ends, he will head back to Kentucky but instead of a farm, he’ll be based at Keeneland to help prepare for this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Working at Colonial though completes a “full circle” type experience.

“I’ve always loved watching races on TV and certain simulcast signals would catch my eye,” he recalled. “Colonial was one of them. One of my favorite horses won the 2012 Virginia Derby. I remember watching Silver Max win it upstairs at the Saratoga harness track on a small, dirty simulcast screen. Now eight years later, I get to look out at that beautiful turf course in person every day. It’s amazing to realize where I came from and where I am now.”

Colonial’s Jill Byrne could not be happier where Sausville is now. “I met Alex initially at Breeders’ Cup last year where he was working for Dora Delgado in the racing department. I knew if he was Dora-approved he had to have all the necessary qualities for a future in racing operations! Then I got to see Alex in action at the RTIP Symposium and it was even more obvious that he has the drive, knowledge and passion to learn everything about the racing industry and be a positive addition to our team at Colonial Downs. Alex is going to be a major force in horse racing’s future.”

Marsha Hudgins Brings Business Background To New Racing Commissioner Role

The VRC’s mission is to promote, sustain, grow and control a native horse racing industry with pari-mutuel wagering by prescribing regulations and conditions that command and promote excellence and complete honesty and integrity in racing and wagering.

Hudgins originally questioned whether she had the qualifications necessary to serve on the Commission board. She has been a longtime owner and breeder of sport horses like hunters and jumpers but had not been involved in horse racing per se. “I didn’t feel I was qualified and didn’t think I could be of any benefit to the industry,” she said. “I thought there were plenty of others who had longer and stronger backgrounds in the sport who could bring lots more to the table.”

After initially declining consideration, she began having conversations with people in the industry. “I still had doubts but knew upcoming years would be pivotal for racing in Virginia with historical racing, OTBs, the return of Colonial Downs and casinos. I started thinking that someone who is behind the industry, has business experience elsewhere and understands how business can impact the state should have their voice heard.”

New Racing Commissioner Marsha Hudgins at her farm in Suffolk, VA.

Hudgins ended up throwing her hat in the ring, was appointed by the Governor on May 19 and attended her first VRC meeting as a Commissioner on June 25.

Her horse farm is in Suffolk and she has attended many equine shows and competitions over the years in Middleburg, Charlottesville and The Plains among others. In addition to the Hampton based business she runs — her late husband Lester started the contracting company 40 years ago — Hudgins went to college for Physical Therapy and has more than a passive understanding of injuries, treatments and more in-depth knowledge of medications and breakdowns. She has practiced for 35 years.

She also earned a Masters of Business Administration from Old Dominion University. She has spent almost thirty years consulting with small business start-ups as well as large corporate entities across the region in targeting and managing growth opportunities. The degrees and experience came in handy, especially when her husband passed away somewhat unexpectedly in 2011 from cancer at the age of 69.

“He ran a general contracting business when I met him in the early ’80’s and he pretty much built buildings,” she said. “I love business though. I’d give him occasional advice on the business and he’d usually just give me a look or roll his eyes. Then one day, he said some of the things I suggested were actually right,” she chuckled. “The joke in our family was that he was the businessman, but I had the MBA.”

Hudgins said her husband did not make any plans for later in life and thought he would keep the business going until he died. When he was sick, he told her she would have to take over the company. “I said, ‘excuse me, say that again’. He said it was important for him, but especially for all the employees that had been with him for 15, even 20 years,” she said. “At that time, the local economy was still depressed and it was a struggle. He was concerned about the older employees that were in their 50’s. It was recession time still and companies weren’t hiring. He was fearful that if the company didn’t continue, they would struggle finding a job elsewhere due to their age and as he said, ‘be put out to pasture’.”

“It hit home hard and it happened so fast,” she continued. “I was responsible for the financial health of the business, the ups and downs, and for all the people.” Initially, she thought about selling. “The employee that was running the business on an interim basis was interested in buying it but he and I had a different viewpoint on what the company culture should be and how people should be treated. He ended up resigning and at that point, I made up my mind to take over.

Marsha Hudgins, at her Contracting Company in Hampton, VA.

Hudgins wasn’t an engineer and admitted she was never going to know what her work force knew, but made up her mind to learn about the construction field and all the projects her firm was involved in.

“I knew the key was to get the best employees I could find based on my vision of teamwork, and not the top down management structure.  I found people in the industry that I knew would be a good fit. I had to almost become a cheerleader to get good people to come on board and take chance with us. We slowly and steadily evolved with these new folks, and employees that had been there for a while, through a lot of hard work. It was a journey but it was very rewarding. I was able to treat my older employees as if nothing had even disturbed the flow of their work. I got to see them retire when they planned to retire and attend their going away parties. And I’ve seen young people in their 30’s come in and seen their enthusiasm take the company to where it is today.”

Last summer, Hudgins had her first experience as a thoroughbred race horse owner, in a sense. She was part of the Virginia Racing Club, a collaboration of 30-40 fans from all over the state, who each invested a modest fee to own a share of two horses that raced at Colonial Downs last summer. Ferris Allen trained them both — Speed App and Fly E Dubai.

On opening day’s card — the first one held at New Kent since 2013 — Speed App raced, and won. “There’s a saying in sport horses that if your foal is a winner and you strike gold with it, get out while you can,” joked Hudgins. “You can’t understand how rare that is and how hard it is to replicate. The experience wasn’t about the money so much as it was a chance to go to the races with like minded people and cheer for your horse. The cost was reasonable to get in and it was a wonderful opportunity. And shock of all shocks is that we made a little money in addition to the entertainment.”

Virginia Racing Club members gather in the winners circle to congratulate Speed App.

At her first Racing Commission meeting last month, Hudgins witnessed firsthand how industry stake holders can band together. She came away impressed. “In my business, problem solving is the biggest thing you can to do to have a view of the future. You need to work in a collaborative way with other groups to have a common goal in which we all share. That’s what I saw at the meeting. Groups with different goals coming together to figure out a way how Virginia is going to move forward. I was amazed. It bodes well for the future of our industry.”

“I see horse racing as a driving economic force in Virginia because it is our heritage,” she continued. “It goes back to the very beginning here. I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than a thoroughbred horse. Anybody that has an interest and love for the sport can get involved. Racing is like my business. We have people in the field that work with heavy machinery and lay piping, are very good at what they do and earn a good living. It didn’t take a college degree. It’s the same in racing. You need education of a different sort. You need to love working outside and with animals. We have an entire industry that doesn’t go into office buildings.”

Colonial Downs To Open 2020 Thoroughbred Meet On July 27 With Limited Spectator Attendance

New Monday thru Wednesday Evening Schedule 

 Stall demand exceeds supply 

NEW KENT, Va. (July 3, 2020) – Officials of Colonial Downs Group, a subsidiary of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, today announced that its 2020 Thoroughbred meeting would begin on Monday, July 27, with provisions for a limited number of spectators in attendance for the 18-day schedule. 

This year’s meeting will be conducted on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, with first post time at 5:30 p.m. ETThe meeting will conclude on Wednesday, Sept. 2. The former schedule has been changed from its original slate of July 23-Aug. 29, with racing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. All races during the meeting will be televised on the TVG Network, with wagering available through and other platforms.  

The Secretariat Turf Course, as seen several weeks after the 2020 controlled burn which took place in late March.

Under conditions established in Virginia’s Phase 3 reopening plan, which allows for outdoor venues to cap attendance at 1000 spectators, Colonial Downs will plan the following protocols for the nightly meeting: 

  • Up to 1000 spectators will be admitted to the outdoor areas of the grandstand and the track apron.  
  • All guests will receive temperature checks upon arrival at the facility and a 6-foot social distancing policy will be enforced. 
  • Guests are required to wear masks indoors and encouraged outdoors. 

With the advancement into Phase 3 of Virginia’s reopening plan, and guidance from state and local health authorities, we are anxious to offer this year’s race meeting with limited spectators in a safe and healthful fashion, said John Marshall, Colonial Downs’ Executive Vice President of Operations. As we continue to monitor the effects of Covid-19, our top priority this meet is protecting the health and safety of our guests, team and racing participants. 

#6 Charmn Charlie Ray, who leads early, went on to win the first race back at Colonial Downs last August after a six year absence. Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

 Safety protocols may evolve leading up to and during the race meeting as directed by governmental officials. 

Enthusiastic Response from Horsemen 

Response from horsemen for the 2020 meeting has been especially strong nationwide, with 90 stall applications for more than 800 stalls received. Among those received are from horsemen based in Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York and Virginia. The Colonial Downs stable area will open on Monday, July 13. 

The meet Condition Book is now available online at  Colonial Downs. Please contact Racing Secretary, Allison DeLuca at for any follow-up questions.  

The daily purse distribution for this year’s meeting will be approximately $340,000 per program due to temporary closure of the four Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums and four VA-Horseplay OTBs since mid-March, which resulted in a reduction in historical horse racing and simulcast revenue.   Rosie’s and four VA-Horseplay locations are currently open for simulcasting. 

Under these difficult circumstances, we couldn’t be happier with the enthusiastic response from our horsemen in the number of stall applications received for this month’s opening,” said Jill Byrne, Colonial Downs’ Vice President of Racing Operations. Our stable area and dirt and turf courses received rave reviews from horsemen last season, and we look forward to hosting another successful race meet. We also feel our early week racing schedule will provide us with greater visibility to fans wagering around the country. 

We also thank the Virginia HPBA for their cooperation in working with us on adjustments to the purse program during this unprecedented period.”  

Last year, under new management, Colonial Downs, which was conducting a race meeting for the first time since 2013, made sweeping improvements to the facility. Those enhancements included upgrades to the irrigation system for its world-renowned Secretariat turf course, renovations to the 1 ¼-mile dirt track, stable area and paddock, receiving and test barns and dormitories and a new jockeys room kitchen. 

Colonial Downs’ 2020 summer season will begin July 27.

Last year, Colonial paid out $614,000 in owner incentive bonuses and $364,300 in trainer bonuses, and in 2020 these popular owner and trainer incentives are back. This year, each owner will receive an $800 per start for any of its horses which do not earn $800 in that race, and each trainer will receive $250 for each time they start a horse. In addition, Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA will each pledge a $15 donation for each starter to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA). 

On behalf of the Virginia horsemen, we are delighted to be back racing at Colonial Downs this summer,” said Frank Petramalo, Jr., Executive Director of the Virginia HBPA. “Last yearwe got off to a great start, and we’re looking forward to building on that success, particularly since we have not had much opportunity to race in the Middle Atlantic during the first part of the season. As important, our horsemen are particularly pleased with the number of races written at the meet for Virginiabred, Virginiasired, and Virginiacertified horses, which support our local farms.    

Plentiful Stakes Racing 

The 2020 meet will be highlighted by the 18th running of the $200,000 (G3) Virginia Derby on turf for 3-year-olds, and the $100,000 Virginia Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, both now held on Tuesday, Sept. 1. Purses for both races have been reduced by $50,000 each. The $60,000 Rosie’s Stakes (2 YO, 5.5F) and $60,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes (2 YO, 1 1/16th miles) will support the Virginia Derby night program. 2019 Rosie’s winner Four Wheel Drive went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. 

A total of eight stakes for Virginia-bred/sired horses will take place over two programs. The Camptown, Nellie Mae Cox and Edward P. Evans will all be contested Wednesday, July 29 while the M. Tyson Gilpin, Brookmeade, Bert Allen, Jamestown and Punch Line will be held on closing night, Sept. 2. Purses for each will be $60,000 except for the Punch Line’s, which is $75,000. 

What The Beep captured the $100,000 Tyson Gilpin Stakes August 10th at Colonial Downs. Photo by Coady Photography.

A total of 18 overnight races have been dedicated as Virginia restricted, which are open to horses that are either Virginia-bred, sired or certified. Another three restricted overnights are listed as substitute races throughout the meet. Additionally, a four pack of $40,000 restricted handicaps are scheduled — the Van Clief (July 27), Miss Oceana (August 5), William M. Backer (August 5), and Quarter Path Road (August 12). A pair of $40,000 restricted stakes — the White Oak Farms and Hansel — complete that program and will be held July 28.  


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. 


Samantha Randazzo Is Well Prepared For Safety Compliance Officer Role at Colonial Downs 

When the stable area at Colonial Downs Racetrack opens July 13, Samantha Randazzo will begin her first stint as a Safety Compliance Officer, a job that is part of the new Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to reduce equine fatalities. Her “Best Practices” position focuses on 23 different responsibilities to ensure all activities and practices that involve the training and racing of horses at the track meet required safety standards and regulatory guidelines.

Among her duties, she will monitor daily activities in the barn area, conduct random inspections of safety equipment like helmets and vests, serve as a member of the Mortality Review Board and conduct random checks of ship-in health papers at the stable gate, along with many others.

Randazzo brings a wealth of experience to the table. She has been a Thoroughbred trainer for 27 years and most recently, has spent six years in regulatory roles. After college, she went to work full time for trainer Linda Rice and ended up having her own division of Rice’s stable in Florida for 17 years, at Monmouth for 10 years and at Saratoga for seven.

Sam Randazzo worked at Colonial Downs in 2019 during the “Racing Revival” season.

“Linda and I have a symbiotic relationship with training,” she said. “I worked for her brother Brian one summer while in college because he had younger horses and got the chance to see how they were developed and trained. When I joined Linda right after graduating, she was just starting out on her own. I’d travel with her horses when they raced at Parx or River Downs just to get more experience. I love training. It’s a passion.”

Randazzo was born and raised outside of Reading, Pennsylvania, and grew up around horses at their family farm. Her father was a mushroom farmer and her mother was a bookkeeper and tax collector. “My mother was interested in breeding and racing so we did have a small breeding operation at the farm,” she recalled. “She did layups and rehabilitation along with breeding and foaling horses then in the late ’60’s, she got a racehorse that competed at Pocono.”

When Randazzo thought about pursuing a career as a Thoroughbred horse trainer, her parents insisted she have a backup plan in case that didn’t work. “They didn’t think it was a great career choice for women at the time,” she said.

At 16, she learned how to shoe horses at a blacksmith school in Martinsville, Virginia, so she could help at the family farm. After high school, she studied animal husbandry for two years at the Delaware Valley College of Science & Agriculture before switching majors and schools. At Albright College in Reading, Randazzo earned degrees in Political Science and History. And keeping her parents’ wishes in mind, she attended the University of Toledo College of Law afterwards and earned a law degree.

Six years ago at the age of 50, Randazzo decided to switch gears in her career — not to practice law, which she has never done — but to move into the regulatory aspect of racing.

Colonial Downs VP of Racing Operations, Jill Byrne, at a morning workout last summer. She hired Sam Randazzo as Safety Compliance Officer this summer.

“When I turned 50, I realized I wasn’t 30 anymore,” she said. “The industry had changed a lot — some good and some not so good. I found it more difficult to get things done. Help wasn’t the way it was 30 years ago either. So, I decided to make the move. I may be a little Pollyanna, but I believe one person can be a force for change and make a difference given the right circumstances,” she continued. “I feel like I can contribute more at the regulatory level at this stage of my career because I have seen so much. I know the difference between things that are illegal versus things that are morally wrong. Sometimes they are the same and sometimes they are not. I have passion for both the horses and people in the sport. We don’t want anyone — horse or human — getting hurt. The interest of gamblers needs to be protected as well.”

In 2014, Randazzo enrolled at the University of Louisville’s Racing Officials Accreditation Program and got her certification in Thoroughbreds. She became cross accredited by completing coursework in Standardbred racing three years later.

Since then, she has held positions as a sitting steward at Canterbury Park and Fairmount Park, as an alternate state steward and as a Florida-based vet technician at Tampa Bay Downs, and as a race office team member and placing judge at Colonial Downs, among others.

“Looking back at all these experiences I’ve had, the industry is changing, and I believe it’s for the better,” she said. “There is a litany of issues that are being addressed now between the HBPA, Jockeys Guild and various associations. They are seeing the importance of backstretch workers and helping them with health and family care needs. The progression of horse welfare and finding ways to repurpose them after their racing days are over has taken great importance now,” she added. “People didn’t retire or re-home horses before or seek alternative careers for them, but today owners, trainers, grooms, and anyone else associated with the horse is involved. There is more of an awareness that avenues like New Vocations (Racehorse Adoption Program), retirement programs and even individuals are available to accept those horses and often repurpose them.”

Colonial’s Director of Racing Allison DeLuca (left) is pictured with Stakes Coordinator Shane Burke and Sam Randazzo.

Randazzo has first-hand experience with a retired racehorse — she owns one that is based at a farm in upstate New York. “I have to walk the walk too,” she said. “That horse competed in my division from the age of two until he was claimed from me at the age of eight. When he was racing in the bottom level at Penn National afterwards, I contacted the owner and had planned to fill out paperwork to claim him back. But the owner instead graciously just gave him to me. He’s a special child,” she added. “I thought I could repurpose him for myself to be a racetrack pony horse, but he is a little too high strung. Horses are like people. Not all are actually fit for another career. Now, I just ride him when I get up that way after the Colonial meet. I spend a month or two up there visiting friends and family.”

Recently, Randazzo was working the final days of June at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale for 2-year-olds in training. She clocks and grades the horses as they are breezing. She also helps with stable release paperwork. She doublechecks the bill of sale and bill of lading then releases each horse so the sales company knows the destination of where each horse is going and how he is getting there.

“I like to stay busy and always enjoy doing different things,” she said. “There’s not a lot that I couldn’t do.”

Her next stop is Colonial Downs and she is looking forward to the new challenge. “I’ve performed most of the Safety Compliance tasks before,” she said. “At Fairmount and Canterbury, I’d walk the backside every morning. I checked every single stall to make sure the horses were properly bedded, had water and had hay. I watched breezes regularly. If a horse or rider went down, I’d speak to the outrider. They control the track in the morning but wanted them to know I was another set of eyes. I was there to back them up. I helped make sure everyone had their helmets snapped up. The outriders get tired of telling people to wear helmets securely but it is for everyone’s safety. I wanted to make sure horses and people were taken care of.”

When speaking of Colonial specifically, Randazzo hopes her summer is unexciting. “Reflecting on the constitution of the backside last year, I expect to be bored this summer,” she said half joking. “I walked the barn every morning last year. People came there to race. They wanted to win, they wanted to make money, then they wanted to leave. Colonial wants a set of boots on the ground — someone who knows what should happen on the backstretch. That’s what I’ll be there to do this year. I’ll be walking around and observing to make sure horses are being taken care of. Hopefully, I’ll be pretty good at it. I believe I’m doing this job for the right reason and that I have the right attitude going into it.”

“We are very fortunate to have ‘Sam’ for this important role,” said Jill Byrne, Colonial’s Vice President of Racing Operations. “Her extensive background and knowledge from a horse person’s perspective has earned her immense respect from horsemen. Combine that with her experience as a racing official and her passion for the industry, and she is the perfect representative to ensure the safety and welfare of horses, riders, and all stable help, as well as the integrity of racing.”

Colonial Downs’ summer season begins July 27 and continues thru September 2. Racing will take place every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 5:30 PM (EDT). Virginia Derby Night is slated for Tuesday September 1. For more information and to see a copy of the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan, visit

Virginia Yearling Futurity Set For September 9; Rick Abbott Named Judge

The annual 2020 Virginia Breeders Yearling Futurity will be held Wednesday September 9 at the Warrenton Horse Show Grounds from 9 AM – 1 PM. A total of $22,500 in awards will be on the line. Even though Labor Day weekend’s Warrenton Horse Show has been cancelled, the Futurity is still a go. The event is sponsored by the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and Virginia Breeders Fund.

The judge for this year’s competition is Rick Abbott, a former long time Pennsylvania bloodstock agent who along with his wife Dixie, had their own sales consignment business, Charlton Bloodstock. Among the horses bred, raised and/or sold by Charlton over the years have been graded stakes winners Miss Union Avenue, Palmeiro and Afleet Again. The Abbott’s retired in 2016 and sold their 160 acre farm near Coatesville, Pennsylvania. They were both active in horse shows and hunting when they met and married in the early 1970’s.

The nice weather in 2019 made for a relaxing morning to view 31 yearlings compete in three divisions and championship round.

In a Bloodhorse article published four years ago, Abbott said any emotion attached to retirement is associated with the farm and not the business. “The emotion is not about giving up the business as much as it is about giving up the farm,” he said. “We have been there 36 years. We raised our children there. It’s a beautiful place and we love it, but it really needs to be a business. We’re sentimental about the farm, but I’m ready to give up the business. We’ve been doing it for 40 years.”

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

Their most prominent broodmare was Christmas Strike, a $10,000 private purchase after failing to meet her reserve as part of the Lane’s End consignment to the 2001 Keeneland November sale. Her twelve offspring combined to earn over $1.3 million and eight of them sold for just under $1 million combined. One was Double Down Vinman, a 20-race winner who earned $540,204. Another was Agonistic who bankrolled $386,604. One of her yearlings topped the 2019 Midlantic October yearling sale when she sold for $250,000.

For more event details, visit