Monthly Archives: April 2021

Times Are Changing In Steeplechase Racing; New Easyfix Fences Made Their Debut In April

A steeplechase braintrust has been working for years to noodle out a new design that keeps everything we love about jump racing (fast horses jumping fast over hurdles designed to be negotiated at speed) and eliminates everything we don’t

All hurdle races at the April 18 Loudoun Hunt Point-to-Point – at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia – ran over the new Easyfix fences.

All spring meets, beginning this weekend at Queen’s Cup, will race over EasyFix hurdles except Iroquois. 

Colonial Downs in Virginia will run over EasyFix hurdles this summer. Saratoga will run over national fences because the two pari-mutuel meets overlap dates.

Reprinted with permission from the Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation

By Betsy Burke Parker

Short of staying in the barn, there’s no way to ensure complete safety for any sport horse.

But, say steeplechase industry leaders and horsemen, the game must strive to modernize and protect its precious human and equine athletes, especially in a day and age where digital evidence of a single stumble can be viewed in real-time.

And since nobody wants to abandon the historic sport, it is time to improve it. Developers of an innovative new steeplechase jump hope Saturday’s EasyFix hurdle debut at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase elevates the game.

To the naked eye, EasyFix is pretty similar to the national fence long used for National Steeplechase Association and point-to-point hurdle races. The colors are a little different – a muted brownish green take-off roll rather than the brighter green of the national fence roll cover – but, look deep inside the modern construction and tech materials to see, this is a 21st century take on what was an American innovation circa 1973.

EasyFix sections are manufactured – take-off roll, brush hedge and sturdy base – in single pieces, not three parts like the national fence. Further, EasyFix is all plastic and rubber, not foam (which compacts) and metal (which doesn’t yield.)

“The national fence, originally from Ireland as a schooling fence, has served the NSA quite well for over 50 years with little change to the fence since it’s been in use,” says Bill Price, Queen’s Cup race chair and longtime steeplechase horseman who took the lead on jump development. “EasyFix is all about the safety of the horse, developed by horsemen, for horsemen.

“We were long overdue for a change.”

The national fence was designed in the early 1970s by amateur horseman Randy Rouse. The late Rouse, Virginia Steeplechase Association Hall of Fame member and many time champion amateur owner-rider, had sought to create a portable, re-usable hurdle. It would save race committees, and racetracks, the laborious process of cutting and constructing stuffed brush jumps every year (cut brush would dry out a few weeks after cutting; therefore, jumps were not re-usable.) Rouse said his design provided uniformity, in an interview before his 2017 death explaining that different race committees had different views about “hurdles.” Some U.S. courses were famously stiff, he said, others notoriously small and easy. The national fence standardized the game, he said.

Randy Rouse and Jack Cooper inspect the new national fence at the Fairfax Races in September of 1973 – the first use of the newly created fence. ©NSA Archives

The national fence succeeded on both counts Rouse mentioned, but jumping mistakes were often punished by falls, or worse, injuries or fatalities. Horses jumped the national fences pretty well, but when they misjudged, or got too bold, they paid a price. Three-piece construction included foam – which compressed and degraded from use, and metal – which did not offer give, or safety, to horse or rider.

Price recognized the flaws in the national fence and set out to make something better.

“There’s no money in this, you know, no return on investment,” says Price. “I wanted to help this sport. There was a lot of pushback at first – not surprising. I think, now, everybody is starting to recognize the better … EasyFix design, and we’re moving forward as a sport.”

Price credits veterinarian Dr. Reynolds Cowles, NSA president Al Griffin and trainer Jack Fisher for “pushing it forward. Last January, the process (of instituting a new U.S. hurdle) had stalled, and I’d thrown up my hands. But Jack gave the push since he recognized we’re at the (pari-mutuel) tracks by invitation. No one wants to see a horse hurt, most of all us in the industry. But the public these days has become super-sensitized to (horse) injuries.”

The Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation launched an EasyFix donation campaign in 2020. Several major donors and a multitude of smaller donors came through to raise the $100,000 necessary to purchase six flights of EasyFix fences. TGSF spread the fences out to three different locations for trainers to school their horses, and has been working closely with the NSA to decide how they should be introduced this season.

“Bill Price had been trying to get this done for years,” said Fisher. “With safety as an issue, it seemed that the Foundation should do everything we could to be as safe as possible.”

TGSF had already, since 2004, assisted in funding a safety study through the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, as well as funding a video study for the NSA Safety Committee. Funding a new safer fence was a logical step.

The national fence being jumped in 2017
©Tod Marks

“Five years ago, we launched a video review of horses jumping the national fences,” Cowles explains. He’s head of the NSA safety committee and a lifelong horseman and equine vet based near Charlottesville, Virginia. “Slow motion review showed (a percentage of) horses banking off the roll, inserting limbs down into the gap between the roll and the metal frame and generally making a lot of mistakes.

“We studied stats of several fences being used in the UK and Ireland, France and Australia. Australia started racing over their (EasyFix) model two seasons ago and their stats (have been) very impressive as far as safety was concerned.

“There’s been little change to national fence design through the decades other than adding a white ground line and, more recently, a white knee line.”

Cowles says the safety committee has kept detailed statistics on falls, injuries and fatalities of horses as well as injury to horse and rider for years. They recommended change once a suitable product – rubber and plastic, and design – one piece-construction, was identified.

The EasyFix fence is pretty similar in appearance to the national fence. The short, squatty sections look quite different when not snapped together, notes trainer Kate Dalton, but once a flight is set in place and flanked by the traditional white PVC wings (existing NSA wings can be used with EasyFix), it looks like a jumpable, inviting, traditional American hurdle.

The EasyFix fence with wings set up for schooling at Willlowdale Steeplechase

“The new EasyFix flights are alongside the national fences at Springdale,” Dalton says. The Camden, South Carolina training center is one of three locations NSA sent EasyFix for beta testing. “I’m thinking the horses barely tell a difference.”

Forty-six inch wide, 51-inch tall sections interlock snugly, Price says, male to female. The patented design exerts significant downward pressure, he says, firmly weighing down each flight. He maintains that sections cannot and will not separate from each other. EasyFix looks like a traditional American steeplechase jump, but it acts different when impacted. Newton’s laws of motion (see sidebar, above) relate to the momentum and energy formed when a group of horses jumps as one. It is beautiful and powerful when a horse, or horses, meets a jump in stride, but it can be ugly if they reach it awkwardly. EasyFix takes advantage of technology and manufacturing processes unavailable five decades ago when the national fence was created, using modern products that eliminate sharp edges and metal framework to provide a relatively safer obstacle.

And therein lies the genius of the design.

“The super slow-motion video showed 70 percent of horses were actually hitting the foam roll of the national fence,” Dalton stresses. “Horses weren’t jumping carefully – though I guess that’s an oxymoron, to jump at speed and to jump carefully.

“I think (construction of the) EasyFix will encourage horses not to take so many liberties.”

EasyFix manufacturers say, once constructed and correctly anchored, a flight cannot flip over, no matter the force exerted upon it – even hundreds of thousands of pounds of energy.

EasyFix – what is it?

Price “sorta started down this path of making my own fence a few years ago,” calling his design the SafTFence. The metal frame was lower, and, Price says he thought at the time, better.

“It worked fine for schooling, and in a few point-to-points,” he notes. “But when the racing got faster (at the sanctioned level), and more horses got going to the jumps faster, we had the same problems with horses ‘getting down to’ the steel frames.

“So I started over with my design.”

Price soon found he was trying to reinvent a wheel already in use.

Ireland’s EasyFix had already produced hurdles nearly identical to what Price wanted. The rubber and plastics company in Galway had jumps on courses in Ireland, England, Europe and Australia. EasyFix LLC was founded by Michael Earls in 1996. Earls has a background in sales, farming, engineering and farm building construction.

They design, manufacture and market a line of safety and solution-based rubber products for the dairy, beef, swine and equine industries worldwide. Products include stall mats, alley mats, horse walker tiles, even playground and gym matting.

Peering into the middle of a Grand National fence at Aintree

Equine customers include Ireland’s Naas racecourse, Coolmore Stud, the RSPCA, the Curragh, the Jockey Club, Aintree and many farms and sales facilities.

The company won Overall Business of the Year from the Galway Chamber of Commerce, Ireland’s Innovator of the Year in 2008 and the International Sales and Marketing Award in 2009.

Price met with Earls and sons Niall and Gary. They visited top National Hunt trainers’ gallops and watched horses schooling over EasyFix hurdles and bigger ‘chase fences.

Price was convinced.

“They use 100 percent virgin rubber, not re-ground, … so nothing (will) absorb moisture and curl, and I expect the fences will last a long time,” Price says.

Each American EasyFix section weighs 220 pounds, and can be moved by two people. Including driving several lag bolts into the ground to anchor a completely constructed flight, each jump can be set up in 12 minutes.

Price has timed it. It’s a big improvement from the national fence, each of which usually took a tractor, three or more people, and 20 minutes or more to put together.

And they’re just safer, Price maintains. Since Aintree added EasyFix cores to the Grand National fences (all except The Chair) in 2008, no jump-related fatality has been reported.

“If we can save one single horse from a fall, injury or fatality on our U.S. circuit, we’ve done our job,” Price says.

The horsemen talk – What they’re saying about EasyFix

Trainer — Ricky Hendriks:  “I’m very happy we are going to run over them at (the April 18 Loudoun Hunt) point-to-point. And cheers to SOTA (who) made this happen. Well done.”

Trainer, NSA board member, NSA safety committee member, former SOTA president — Kate Dalton:  “I’m not sure exactly how I feel about them yet. I like the idea, (but) I question the financial aspect, and you know horsemen are difficult to get in agreement on anything.

The EasyFix fences are set up side by side to the (set of schooling) national fences at Camden. When you see the EasyFix by itself, it does have a real different look to it, but when you see it set side by side to a national fence flight, they actually look very similar. I think they did a good job … adapting the EasyFix to what American jump racing was asking for.

We hope the horses will read the fences correctly.

But, with thoroughbred racehorses, you just never assume anything. I love the idea of it, and everybody wants the steeplechase game to work. On paper, everything seems like it’s fine, but (we’ve got to) put it in front a thoroughbred to make sure.”

Trainer, race director — Doug Fout:  “I’ve got two flights set up (at Goose Creek near The Plains for Virginia horsemen to school.) At first, I had qualms about it, but I’ve been more impressed each time I send horses down over them, or watch other trainers send horses down over them.

I had three horses upsides all meet it wrong one day, and they all hit it good and hard, and it didn’t move.

I think this is the best thing steeplechasing has done in a long, long time. I started back in the old days over natural hedges at the old Rolling Rock, and at Montpelier. Then I was an early supporter of the national fence in the early ’70s. It was time for a change, and I’m 110 percent liking this new design.”

Trainer, ordered two flights of EasyFix — Sanna Neilson:  “I’m happy with them so far. Glad to run over them at a point-to-point, first.”

Trainer, SOTA president — Todd Wyatt:  “I’d say that SOTA has not taken an official position on this exact subject, but, as a group, we definitely support anything to make this game safer for horses and riders. All horse sports are under the microscope these days, and we (must) make sure to let the public know we’re doing everything we can to stay safe.

On a personal level, I’ve watched many of my own horses (in training) school, and I believe this (new design) invites the horse to hesitate to throw caution to the wind like the national fence invited.

This new jump makes them look and understand it, and understand they can’t fiddle it. A horse could meet the national fence just “kinda right” and usually get away with it.

I think it’s a great move to offer these at a point-to-point – hats off to steeplechasing for making that happen. We can school over it all we want, but you have to race over it to know.”

Trainer — Richard Valentine:  “I am in favor of a change to the EasyFix hurdle. (Both) construction and materials are more user friendly and safer for our horses and riders.”

Trainer, NSA safety committee member — Don Yovanovich:  “The safety committee has been discussing the EasyFix fence for at least three years. The decision to change was going to depend on financing in place to purchase them.

As a trainer, I was the first to have my horses school over the national fence with a white ground line. I was also the first to school with the knee line because I volunteered to have my horses try them first before covers were purchased.

There was absolutely no problem … with the additional white lines. I do not believe there will be any problem with the transition (to EasyFix.) Horses are very adaptable – a couple of looks and they should have no trouble jumping the new EasyFix.”

Trainer, NSA board, TGSF president — Jack Fisher:  “This is my thinking with EasyFix : the number one issue is safety.

I, personally never had a problem with the metal frame (of the national fence) in 50 years, but I know some people have, and we need to do everything we can do for safety.

Bill Price has spent 20 years and a quarter million dollars, I bet, researching fences. I figured we (as a sport) should just get off the pot and buy them and use them.

I schooled six horses over them at Shawan. Every horse jumped them great. (At my home farm,) I’ve got five national fences – two with knee-line and ground-line, one with a ground line only and one with nothing. Honestly, I’ve never thought any horse jumped any of them any different, and I think these new fences ride and jump about the same.”

The veterinarian speaks

NSA safety committee, owner — Dr. Reynolds Cowles:  “The NSA safety committee conducted a video tape study of horses jumping the national fence five years ago at Camden and Aiken with funding from the National Steeplechase Foundation (now TGSF).

This slow motion review showed (a percentage of) horses banking off the roll, inserting limbs down into the gap between the roll and the metal frame, and horses generally making a lot of mistakes at the fence.

We studied evidence and stats of several fences being used in the UK and Ireland, France and Australia.

The design of the Easy Fix eliminates the gap as it is one piece. it is still portable which is necessary for our meets, and it is easily set up.

Australia started racing over their model two seasons ago and their stats (have been) very impressive as far as safety was concerned.

Watching a lot of video of horses jumping the (new EasyFix) hurdle, it appears that horses do respect them and thus jump up a little more over them.

The fence designed for the (NSA circuit was) developed by input from horsemen, riders, stewards and vets. It is a compromise between the Easy Fix hurdle and chase fence used in Ireland and is nearly identical to the national fence in size.

It’s fair to say that we do not know how horses will jump these once they “get used to them.” Until we race over these for a season we will not know how horses will react to them, but they should be safer.

Time will tell.”

The President speaks

NSA president — Al Griffin:  “These new hurdle fences have been years in development and are the result of many American steeplechasing leaders and experts coming together to get it right.

Now it is time to race over them.

We have extended opportunities to school over the EasyFix hurdles since last August, and will be racing over them at the Loudoun point-to-point at Morven Park (April 18.) I’ve received many very positive reports back from trainers and riders about the way they ride.

These hurdles are (nearly the) same dimensions as our national fences, and the new safety features incorporated into this design will serve us well this season and into the future.”

The Kentucky Derby Is Saturday May 1; Post Position Breakdown Of The Field

The following is a newsletter that is written by John Cherwa of the Los Angeles Times.  There are plenty of places in Virginia to wager the annual “Run for the Roses. Betting is available at any VA-Horseplay Off Track Betting Center in Henrico (Breakers), Chesapeake (Buckets) and Collinsville (The Windmill), at any Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Richmond, New Kent, Vinton, Hampton and Dumfries) and online via,, and Post time for the big race is 6:57 PM.

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we do a little reminiscing with Bob Baffert.

We hope you don’t mind, but we thought we’d hit you with an extra newsletter or two this week coming from the lovely media bunker at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (Note: You can’t see the track from here, but we have lots of big televisions and a window that looks onto people who are walking into the stands and can see the races live.)

Post time for the 2021 Kentucky Derby is 6:57 PM.

OK, we know you hate the media whining about the hardships of being at the Kentucky Derby.

The drama from Tuesday’s draw was all about who was going to get the one post. As most of you know, it’s the worst post to have because you have an immovable rail to your inside and 19 horses to your outside. Now, last year they did build and use a new starting gate that eliminates the auxiliary gate and allowed them to move the one a bit farther from the rail.

They were down to their last three picks and the one was open and Essential Quality hadn’t been chosen.

The pill and paper were drawn. And in the one … Known Agenda.

Was trainer Brad Cox nervous?

“Yeah, a lot, a whole lot,” he said.

He even had his spin ready.

“Churchill does have a new gate,” Cox said. “That’s going to give the one a little bit more opportunity at a clear run. That was the positive spin I was going to put on it if I got the one, but fortunately I don’t have to use that excuse.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher, meanwhile, did use that excuse (see later in the newsletter), but in a moment of candor, put it this way:

“I started weeping, open weeping,” he said. “Look, there were three numbers left and at that point, it was a one in three chance. I was hoping for 14 or 16 but it was one those situations that you have no control over so you go with it.”

You can’t be everywhere, but the Churchill Downs notes crew can. These are the edited quotes they gathered on Tuesday at the draw where the media was not supposed to be. (But, some of us snuck in.)

The VA-Horseplay OTB at Breakers Sports Grille in Richmond will have an outdoor walk-up betting tent outside its front door.

This is by post position. And, spoiler alert, some of these quotes add absolutely no insight.

1. Known Agenda (trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., 6-1) Pletcher: “Obviously it’s not what we were hoping for. But, of course, this is one of the things you can’t control. With the new (20-stall) gate, we’re hopeful that things will be better than they were in the past and the post won’t be that bad. He had an inside trip in the Florida Derby and he handled it very professionally.”

2. Like the King (Wesley WardDrayden Van Dyke, 50-1) Ward: “He’s a come-from-behind horse so it really doesn’t matter where he draws. If he had gotten the one post that might have been a problem if they started playing bumper cars out there.”

3. Brooklyn Strong (Danny VelazquezUmberto Rispoli, 50-1) Velazquez: “It’s deep inside but it’s OK. (Owner) Mark (Schwartz) says three is his lucky number and he’s won from there before. Hopefully, he gets a good break and can settle into third or fourth early.”

4. Keepmeinmind (Robertino DiodoroDavid Cohen, 50-1) Diodoro: “I’m very happy with it.”

5. Sainthood (Pletcher, Corey Lanerie, 50-1) Pletcher: “We’re happy with the draw.”

6. O Besos (Greg FoleyMarcelino Pedroza, 20-1) Foley: “I don’t think my heart was racing that hard in a long time with one of five horses left and the rail still yet to be drawn. We drew a great spot in the gate.”

7. Mandaloun (Brad CoxFlorent Geroux, 15-1) Cox: “It ended up working out very well drawing post seven. He’s a horse that, like Essential Quality, has a tactical advantage and can put himself where he needs to be.”

8. Medina Spirit (Bob BaffertJohn Velazquez, 15-1) Racing manager Gary Young: “It worked out great for us.”

9. Hot Rod Charlie (Doug O’NeillFlavien Prat, 8-1) O’Neill: “We (the trainer and his sizable contingent of owners, including Boat Racing, five former Brown football players in their late 20s) decided we were going to give it a pump no matter what post we drew. But we’re delighted with the nine. It’s a real good post. And the way they load this field, it means we won’t be standing in the gate very long. They’ll put us in, then one other and we’re gone. We’re really happy with it.”

Hot Rod Charlie, 4th early favorite at 8-1, gets a bath after galloping on April 27. Photo by Coady Photography.

10. Midnight Bourbon (Steve AsmussenMike Smith, 20-1) Asmussen: “We did well. It’s the perfect spot.”

11. Dynamic One (Pletcher, Jose Ortiz, 20-1) Pletcher: “We’re happy with the draw.”

12. Helium (Mark CasseJulien Leparoux, 50-1) Assistant trainer David Carroll: “We’re happy that we didn’t get the rail. The draw should suit him perfectly. We didn’t want him getting stuck down inside in general but we really didn’t want the one.”

13. Hidden Stash (Vicki OliverRafael Bejarano, 50-1) Oliver: “We’re happy with it. We wanted to be somewhere in the middle and that’s exactly where we got.”

14. Essential Quality (Cox, Luis Saez) Cox: “It got a little nerve wracking with both horses still to go and the rail still being out there. I think it’ll be a good spot. He’s got good tactical speed that he’ll be able to get into a good position from there.”

15. Rock Your World (John SadlerJoel Rosario, 5-1) Sadler: “It’s a good post and we’re happy with it.”

16. King Fury (Kenny McPeekBrian Hernandez, Jr., 20-1) McPeek: “I like it. Actually, the 14 and the 15 are horses inside of us that have a little speed. So, we’ll probably follow them right into the first turn. They’re going to go on and we’ll follow them right out. If he breaks well, you just have to get him in rhythm and let him do his thing.”

17. Highly Motivated (Chad BrownJavier Castellano, 10-1) Brown: “I’m OK with it. Certainly, when it was late in the process and the one was still out there, I would’ve paused and put 17 back on my wish list. Like the Oaks, it’s a little farther outside than we would have liked but there’s a long run into the turn and this horse clearly has a lot of natural speed. Hopefully we’ll be forward enough to come over and get some position into the first turn.”

Highly Motivated, the 5th early Derby favorite at 10-1, gallops April 27 at Churchill. Photo by Coady Photography.

18. Super Stock (Asmussen, Ricardo Santana, Jr. 30-1) Asmussen: “We did well. It’s the perfect spot.”

19. Soup and Sandwich (Casse, Tyler Gaffalione, 30-1) Assistant trainer Carroll: “He has speed and has the entire stretch to get into position. I’d rather be outside than inside.”

20. Bourbonic (Pletcher, Kendrick Carmouche, 30-1) Pletcher: “We wouldn’t have chosen this post but he will be OK. He’s going to drop back and make one run so it’ll work out.”

Baffert remembers wins and losses

There wasn’t the usual crush of media around Bob Baffert this time at Churchill Downs as he only has Medina Spirit, a 15-1 shot, in this year’s Derby. Plus, it was a Tuesday, and most of the media hadn’t arrived yet. Still, despite being the most recognizable name and face in the sport, he always makes himself available to pretty much anyone who comes by his barn for a selfie, an autograph, or just to chat.

So, it was no surprise he had an extended session with the couple of reporters who dropped by Tuesday morning. Some of it was interview style, but most of it was just folks talking. At one point, he was asked about how much pressure he felt having won six Kentucky Derbies.

“I could have won eight,” Baffert said with a laugh and then went on to explore the question of if the best horse usually wins.

This is a slightly edited version of his explanation.

“I have had some bad luck and there are some that got away from me. And there are other guys that I beat when they should have won. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.

“I won it with some good horses. I won it with the best horses.

“Authentic (2020) came into a screwed-up year and won it. But Tiz the Law was the favorite.

“Silver Charm (1997), I don’t know if he was the best horse. We were in there with Pulpit and he was the hot horse.

“Real Quiet (1998) had Indian Charlie in there and I thought he was the best horse.

“War Emblem (2002), I just bought him and I thought he was the best horse but I also thought he needed the lead.

“Justify (2018), I knew he was the best horse.

“American Pharoah (2015) and Justify, I knew if I got beat with those it would be horrible.

“Point Given (2001) should have won and he got beat. That was a tough one.

“Cavonnier (1996) got beat a nose. He wasn’t the best horse. Grindstone was a good horse, better than Cavonnier.

“Unbridled Song (1996) was the best horse, but he had [hoof] issues and he didn’t win [also losing to Grindstone].

“I don’t look back on anything, I just focus on what’s ahead of me.

“It sounds good that you won six but, every year you start all over. Like when Authentic won it, it felt like my first winner after what we went through last year.”

The Derby is still not back to normal, but it’s a lot closer than it was last year.

Condition Book For 2021 Colonial Downs Summer Racing Season Now Available Online

Attention Horsemen — the Condition Book for the 2021 summer meet in New Kent is now available online at Colonial-Downs-2021-Condition-Book.pdf (

Hardcopy editions will be printed the week of April 26. The season will run from July 19 – September 1 with racing every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 1:45 PM.. Two steeplechase races will be contested every Monday before the pari-mutuel card begins. Details and conditions for those will be posted at

Charmn Charlie Ray holds on to win the first race in 2019 with Mychel Sanchez up. Photo by Coady Photography.

Meet highlights include:

*Approximately $500,000 in daily purses and over $2.75 million in total stakes, including a robust Virginia-bred and Virginia-certified schedule during the meet that will attract top horses, trainers and jockeys from around the country to compete on the renowned Secretariat turf course, and 1 1/4 miles dirt track.

*July 19 – 21 – opening week kicks off with over $400,000 in VA bred and restricted stakes races.

*August 30 – September 1– closing week offering over $1.2 million in stakes races.

*Virginia Derby Day is scheduled for Tuesday August 31, and in addition to the 18th annual renewal that features some of the country’s top 3-year-old turf horses, four other grass stakes will be on the card — the $150,000 Virginia Oaks, $150,000 Old Nelson, $100,000 Rosie’s Stakes and $100,000 Kitten’s Joy. Five $100,000 black-type stakes for Virginia-bred/sired horses will take place the next day. The Jamestown, Camptown, Brookmeade, Edward P. Evans and Punch Line will highlight the September 1 finale.


Virginia’s Horse Breeding and Racing Industry Produces Over $542 Million Economic Impact

RICHMOND, VA – APRIL 12, 2021 – “And they’re off…” When it comes to the horse racing industry in Virginia and the economic impact it is generating, that’s an appropriate metaphor. According to a newly released study, the industry generated an estimated economic impact of $542.1 million in the Commonwealth in 2019.

“What we’re finding is that jobs are coming back, horse racing related expenditures are up, and tax revenue to the state is increasing,” said John Hannum, Executive Director of the Virginia Equine Alliance. “These are all very positive signs that the racing industry is moving in the right direction and benefiting the Commonwealth’s agribusiness and related businesses. Racing was at a low point in 2014 after the closure of Colonial Downs’ racetrack. The General Assembly took a number of steps, most notably the passage of Historical Horse Racing machines in 2018, that provided the revenue to re-open the track and fund the revitalization of the industry. The study points to the enormous strides the industry has made since 2014.”

The study was commissioned by the Virginia Equine Alliance, the industry’s organizational body that promotes the racing and breeding industry throughout the state.  Chmura Economics and Analytics (Chmura), a research consulting firm in Richmond, VA, conducted the study.

Highlights of the new study include:

  • Overall economic impact for 2019 of $542.1 million.
  • Annual horse-related expenditures by Virginia horsemen estimated at $239.44 million in 2019.
  • Overall total in state tax revenue for 2019 estimated at $26.5 million.
  • Estimated total economic impact of horse racing events and visitor spending in Virginia was $68.7 million in 2019.
  • Jobs supported in 2019 by the horse racing and breeding industry estimated at more than 5,000.
  • The average amount spent by horsemen in Virginia to care for, train, and board a race horse is estimated at $14,663.

“The Commonwealth has a rich history of breeding and racing Thoroughbreds, from even before the days of Triple Crown-winning Secretariat from Caroline County and continuing to today. The industry is an important part of our agriculture economy, especially in rural parts of Virginia,” said Bettina Ring, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.  “A successful horse industry means that more farms remain economically viable, which in turn makes it easier to maintain and conserve productive farmland throughout the Commonwealth. I am pleased that the results of this study support that Virginia continues to be a place where the horse industry can thrive.”

Karen Godsey, owner of Eagle Point Farm, a 200-acre Thoroughbred training center in Ashland, VA has seen first-hand the benefit of the Thoroughbred industry coming back stronger in the last few years.

“Our industry has really seen a tremendous turnaround,” Godsey said. “I’ve been able to recruit and retain more workers, because I am able to pay them a higher per-hour rate than before. I’ve also had to rent out two additional farms for more horses.”

D.G. Van Clief, Chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission stated “that much of the industry’s success over the last few years has been the result of the entire industry coming together and working for the shared goal of revitalizing racing.  We are now in a position to grow the sport and add racing days.  I am excited about the prospects for racing in the state.”

According to this study, the economic impact is likely an underestimation of the full potential impact in 2019. For example, Colonial Downs race track in New Kent, VA, was only open for nine months in 2019, versus a full 12 months. On the racing side, there were 18 race days, attracting 42,000 spectators. In future years, those racing days are expected to likely double, generating even more of an economic impact.

“We’re eager to see how these numbers increase when life gets back to normal and we have a full year of activity at the venue,” Hannum said.


About Virginia Equine Alliance

The Virginia Equine Alliance is the state sanctioned organization representing horse racing throughout the state. The Alliance is a non-profit, 501(c)6 organization comprised of the Virginia Harness Horse Association, Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, Virginia Gold Cup Association and Virginia Thoroughbred Association. Virginia Equine Alliance’s primary mission is to sustain, promote an expand the horse breeding and horse racing industry in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

About Chmura Economics and Analytics

Chmura Economics and Analytics is a consultation business providing labor market software, consulting, and data, so you can make informed decisions that grow your community. Chmura’s staff consist of PhD economists, data scientists, and strategic planners who are able to guide client’s local labor market.

2021 Triple Crown Series Kicks Off With The Kentucky Derby On Saturday May 1

The Kentucky Derby kicks off the Series May 1, followed by the Preakness on May 15 and the Belmont on June 5.

Leading Derby candidate Essential Quality shipped into Churchill Downs on April 5. The Kentucky-bred leads all three-year-old horses in points accumulated from early season preps. Photo by Coady Photography.

Derby Day of course is highlighted by the Grade 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve. Post time for the “Run for the Roses” is 6:57 PM.

Churchill Downs will card a trio of additional Grade I stakes on the under card — the $1 million Old Forester Turf Classic, $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes and $500,000 Derby City Distaff. Three Grade 2 stakes are also on tap including the $500,000 Pat Day Mile, $500,000 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile and the $500,000 American Turf.

Bob Baffert’s Authentic won the Kentucky Derby September 5, 2020. The 2021 edition will be May 1. Photo by Coady Photography.

Derby Day’s first post is at 10:30 AM. NBC Sports Network has coverage from 12:00-2:30 PM followed by NBC’s extensive coverage from 2:30-7:30 PM. Advance betting is available the day prior (April 30), which is Kentucky Oaks Day.

The Oaks card also begins at 10:30 AM and is highlighted by the $1,250,000 Longines Kentucky Oaks (Gr. 1) which goes to post at 5:51 PM. The $500,000 La Troienne Stakes, also a Grade 1, headlines the under card along with a four-pack of Grade 2 stakes — the $400,000 Alysheba, $300,000 Edgewood, $300,000 Eight Belles and $250,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint.

Each Rosie’s has an OTB area which features live simulcasting from up to 20 tracks on a daily basis.

Watch and wager all the Derby weekend action in Virginia at any VA-Horseplay Off Track Betting Center in Henrico (Breakers Sports Grille), Chesapeake (Buckets Bar & Grill) and Collinsville (The Windmill Sports Grill OTB), at any Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Richmond, New Kent, Vinton, Hampton and the newest location in Dumfries, and online via,, and