Monthly Archives: August 2021

Colonial Track Records Fall In MATCH Series Stakes

The following appeared in The Racing Biz on August 23 and was written by Frank Vespe.

How fast was the dirt track at Colonial Downs Monday afternoon?

The track played host to five dirt races and all five – a first-level allowance and four $100,000 stakes that are part of the MATCH Series – produced track records. One of those track records – Cordmaker’s 1:40.45 for 1 1/16 miles – lasted all of about 49 minutes, as two races later, Saracosa lowered that mark to 1:39.72.

Pretty fast.

Just Might (#8) edges Mucho in the $100,000 Chesapeake Stakes. Coady Photography.

Perhaps the day’s highlight was Just Might’s thrilling head victory over Mucho in the Chesapeake Stakes for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs. Those two hooked up early, dueled around the turn, and inched away from their rivals while never separated by much more than that final margin. In the end, they were three clear of the rest.

“It was a really nice race from both those horses, so I wasn’t going to be embarrassed by running second,” winning trainer Michelle Lovell said after sweating out the photo finish. “I was really proud of his effort, but I thought we got it.”

It’s been a productive Virginia sojourn for both the normally Kentucky-based Lovell and for Just Might. Lovell has won with seven of 17 starters at the meet and is among several trainers vying for the wins lead.

And Just Might now has two stakes wins at Colonial, having previously scored in the grassy Da Hoss. Both wins came with Colby Hernandez in the irons. Though grass has been his natural habitat for most of his career, Just Might’s ledger on dirt is nothing to sneeze at, either. He entered the day having finished in the money in five of six dirt starts with two wins.

“I’ve been questioned by many people. ‘Why won’t you start him on the turf?’” Lovell said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, when we get to the point where we have to, we’ll do it.’ [T]oday was the day and he answered the question, so that was pretty exciting.”

Just Might, co-owned and co-bred by Lovell and Griffon Farm, won for the seventh time in 28 starts while pushing his earnings past the half-million-dollar mark. He also – of course – set a track record, getting the six furlongs in 1:07.38.

And, for good measure, he earned 10 points in the MATCH Series, though whether he’ll return for additional MATCH races remains to be seen.

Cordmaker kicked off the first of four MATCH Series Stakes with a nice win. Coady Photography.

The Rodney Jenkins-trained Cordmaker kicked off the day’s stakes action, winning the Victory Gallop by more than two lengths under jockey Victor Carrasco in what was – briefly – track-record time. Three scratches knocked the field down to four and made Cordmaker the even-money favorite.

The win was Cordmaker’s 10th from 31 career starts and pushed his earnings to $673,640. It also gave him 18 points in the MATCH Series and the lead in the boys’ route division.

Two races later in the Love Sign Stakes, Saracosa, a six-year-old mare, got a perfect setup and rallied from last to win by more than a length in the Love Sign Stakes. She also erased Cordmaker’s briefly-held record.

Saracosa returns to the winners circle after capturing the Love Sign Stakes in record time. Coady Photography.

Trained by Cipriano Contreras for Chad Schumer, Saracosa earned the third win of her career and second in stakes company. It was her first MATCH Series start.

Finally, in the Seeking the Pearl Stakes, Cheetara was dead game in leading throughout and holding off the posse to win by a neck in a track-record 1:20.61 for seven furlongs. It was the Chilean-bred’s first North American win, coming in her second North American start.

Jockey Horacio Karamanos had the ride for trainer Ignacio Correas. Multiple graded winner Frank’s Rockette, off at 1-2 for trainer Bill Mott, was sluggish early and could not quite make up the early deficit, finishing third, a neck behind the winner.

Cheetara edges Never Enough Time and Frank’s Rockette in the Seeking The Pearl Stakes. Coady Photography.

The next stakes at Colonial Downs take place August 31, when the Grade 3 Virginia Derby and $150,000 Virginia Oaks take center stage. The following day, which is closing day, the track will host five stakes for Virginia-breds.


  • 6 furlongs: Just Might (1:07.38)
  • 6 1/2 furlongs: Larimar (1:16.06)
  • 7 furlongsCheetara (1:20.61)
  • 1 1/16 miles: Saracosa (1:39.72), supplanting record set earlier in the day by Cordmaker

First Lady of Virginia Praises ‘Vision’ of Horse Therapy Center

Blue Mountain Therapy co-founder Clint Waddell introduces members of his staff to Virginia first lady Pamela Northam before touring the new location. Northam was visiting students and child care providers in Southwest Virginia.
  • David Crigger | Bristol Herald Courier
Blue Mountain Therapy co-founder Clint Waddell gives Virginia first lady Pamela Northam a tour of their new location in the former Dixie Pottery retail location. Pictured, Northam looks over a fly fishing boat used by the therapy group. Northam was visiting students and child care providers in Southwest Virginia.

The following appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier.

Joe Tennis

ABINGDON, Va. — Virginia first lady Pamela Northam on Wednesday praised the innovation of the staff at Blue Mountain Therapy in Abingdon, especially their plans to use horses to communicate with children who have special needs.

The recently relocated therapy center now occupies the former Dixie Pottery building along Lee Highway, just off Interstate 81’s Exit 13.

Earlier this summer, it was granted a special-exception permit from the Washington County Board of Supervisors to host horses on the property for equine therapy — a concept Northam, a former therapist, says she relishes.

“I’m very excited about that. I grew up riding horses in central Texas. And I know what working with animals like that can mean to your average young person,” Northam said. “But also those with special needs, we’ve seen tremendous gains in therapy.”

She added that she considers horses “a wonderful tool” that can be used “to really engage students who have communication disorders.”

Northam is slated to continue touring schools and facilities Thursday with stops at Grundy and Richlands.

“It’s good to see all the efforts that the people are putting into early childhood education, especially,” Northam said. “If we can get service to children with special needs in early years, we know that they will prosper when they enter into school.

Blue Mountain Therapy helps children with emotional and physical needs, said owner Clint Waddell.

Following a tour of the facility, Northam said, “The vision of the folks here is astounding.”

The United Way of Southwest Virginia coordinated the tour “because we work with all of the publicly funded programs,” said Susan Patrick, the United Way’s director of childhood success.

“We know how valuable the children of Southwest Virginia are,” Patrick said. “We know they are the workforce of tomorrow, the citizens of tomorrow.”

The United Way is interested in supporting Blue Mountain’s efforts, she said.

“Putting our time and energy and resources into places like Blue Mountain as they’re trying to get this service of children off the ground and bring this service of child care to the community is something that we can get behind.”

MATCH Series Retuns to Colonial Downs With Four $100,000 Stakes On Monday, Aug. 23


AUGUST 18, 2021 – Strong fields have been assembled for the four Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships Series (MATCH) Monday, Aug. 23, at Colonial Downs, which returns to the series for the first time since 2001.The Virginia track will host four $100,000 stakes in each MATCH Series division for 2021: the Chesapeake (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint—Dirt), Seeking the Pearl (Filly and Mare Sprint—Dirt), Victory Gallop (3-Year-Olds and Up Long—Dirt) and Love Sign (Filly and Mare Long—Dirt). First post time for the pari-mutuel program is 1:45 p.m., with a pair of non-wagering steeplechase events beginning at 12:15 p.m.   

Chesapeake Stakes – The six-furlong Chesapeake attracted the top two horses in the division standings by points: WSS Racing and 4 G Racing’s Mucho (13 points) and Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki (12 points).Mucho (above), who has been stabled at Colonial Downs with trainer John Ortiz, won the Challedon Stakes at Pimlico Race Course July 31 to earn his first series victory. Reylu Gutierrez, who was aboard at Pimlico, is named again in the Chesapeake, which will be the 5-year-old Blame horse’s third series start. Laki, trained by Damon Dilodovico, will make his first Colonial Downs start in 36 career outings. Laki, an 8-year-old Maryland-bred gelding by Cuba, was second in the Lite the Fuse Stakes at Pimlico and has started in the first three stakes in his division. He will pick up 5 MATCH Series bonus points in the Chesapeake for his fourth start in the series. Regular rider Horacio Karamanos is named. Also entered is Whereshetoldmetogo, who finished third behind Mucho in the Challedon for owners Madaket Stables, Ten Strike Racing, Michael Kisber and BTR Racing (trainer Brittany Russell). The 6-year-old Maryland-bred by El Padrino has won 11 races and also makes his local debut. Sheldon Russell is named to ride.   

 Seeking the Pearl Stakes  – With division leader Chub Wagon (20 points) having opted for a Pennsylvania-bred stakes at Parx Racing on the same day, and Hello Beautiful—second in the standings with 17 points—taking a pass, the seven-furlong Seeking the Pearl offers a chance for Larry Johnson’s Never Enough Time (above) to make up ground. Trained by Mike Trombetta, who also entered Three Diamonds Farm’s Kiss the Girl, Never Enough Time has 5 MATCH Series points after two starts in her division. The 5-year-old Maryland-bred by Munnings is the only entrant with a win at Colonial Downs—in her last start in her first outing locally. Julian Pimentel is named to ride again. Multiple graded stakes winner Frank’s Rockette, owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations and trained by Bill Mott, also is entered and appears the probable favorite as the 4-year-old Into Mischief mare approaches the $900,000 mark in earnings on a record of eight wins in 15 starts.   

Victory Gallop Stakes – Hillwood Stables’ Cordmaker, third in the division standings with 8 points after two MATCH Series starts, gets a chance to move up in the standings in the 1 1/16-mile Victory Gallop which, like the Love Sign, is raced around one turn. Regular rider Victor Carrasco is named on Cordmaker (above), a 6-year-old Maryland-bred gelding trained by Rodney Jenkins. He has been first, second or third in 20 of 30 starts and has performed well at the one-turn-mile distance at Laurel Park. Triple V Racing and trainer Ortiz claimed Singapore Flash for $40,000 from an allowance/optional claiming race on the turf at Colonial Downs last time out and entered him in the Victory Gallop. In his last race on the dirt, the 5-year-old Shanghai Bobby gelding cleared his first allowance condition at Fair Grounds Race Course in Louisiana. Gutierrez will ride.  

Love Sign Stakes – Mark Grier’s Sosua, undefeated in three starts for Fair Hill Training Center-based trainer Arnaud Delacour, will attempt to remain perfect in the 1 1/16-mile Love Sign. Hector Diaz Jr., aboard for all three of the 4-year-old Speightstown mare’s victories, will ride again. ABL Stables, Domenic Bossone, Patrick Donnelly, Jacob Schnoor and W. Oberdorf’s Sweet Sami D, with 5 MATCH Series points after two of six division legs, also is entered. Trained by Pat McBurney, the 5-year-old First Samurai mare finished third in Caesar’s Wish Stakes at Pimlico and then won an allowance event at Delaware Park. 

The MATCH Series, the only one of its kind in racing, began May 14 at Pimlico and will wrap up Dec. 26 at Laurel. The 2021 edition features 24 stakes valued at $2.75 million and $282,000 in bonus money. Owners and trainers will compete for $63,000 in divisional bonuses and the overall MATCH Series champion will net $30,000 in bonuses for its owner and trainer. In addition, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association will pay a $3,000 bonus to the breeder of the top points-earning Maryland-bred and $3,000 for the top points-earning Maryland-sired horse. If the top points-earner is both Maryland-bred and -sired, the breeder would get $6,000.

Colonial Downs, which was an original partner when the series debuted in 1997 and participated until it was discontinued in 2001 but returned in 2018, had signed onto the planned 2020 series, which was canceled because of COVID-19. When the regional MATCH partners determined that the full series would be delayed until 2022, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Jockey Club decided to run a Maryland-based series, and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Colonial Downs offered to participate.  For further information, contact Alan Foreman at 410-336-0525; David Richardson at 410-984-2770; or Tom LaMarra at 859-492-8365.

Colonial Downs, Home of the Secretariat Turf Course, Finds More Takers Of Late For Its 1 1/4 Miles Dirt Oval 

When Colonial Downs ushered in thoroughbred racing in 1997, every race during that first meet was held on dirt since the track’s signature Secretariat Turf Course was not yet ready for use.

A year later, Penny Chenery cut a ceremonial ribbon to inaugurate the 180-foot wide grass surface and since then, Colonial Downs has been synonymous with turf racing. The track generally hosts 80% of its races over the massive oval which is 1 1/8 miles around at its outermost rail setting. 

Colonial’s dirt track will play host to four $100,000 MATCH Series stakes races on Monday August 23.

Last Wednesday, Colonial completed week five of a seven-week summer race season and at last, the number of dirt races carded has slowly begun to rise. Actually — due to heavy rains early in the week — all the races on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s program were taken off the grass and contested over the 1 1/4 miles dirt track. Eight of those twenty-seven were originally scheduled to be run on dirt.

Carding more races over the somewhat forgotten surface has been a project of Jill Byrne, Colonial’s Vice-President of Racing Operations, and Allison DeLuca, Colonial’s Racing Secretary.

“American racing is a lot of dirt racing and here it always seemed like people forgot that we had a dirt course,” said DeLuca. “We made some good dirt races this year and I’m really happy about it. We have a fabulous dirt course. It was almost criminal that people weren’t using it. This year I feel like we’ve made a dent in it. Trainers and riders have said the dirt track was fantastic and it is. This is my third year at Colonial and over that time, people have said horses come here and they get better going over it.” 

Co-leading trainer Michelle Lovell, based at Colonial for the first time ever, has been impressed with both the turf and dirt ovals. “The dirt track is a really nice surface and it’s been very fair,” she said. “You can win from anywhere — in front, in the middle and from behind. We’ve won a couple races on it and I’ve been pleased with it. It’s been very kind to the horses during training too.”

Trainer Hamilton Smith had two wins entering action last week. All four horses he entered on Tuesday and Wednesday’s card reached the winners circle and he is now tied with Lovell and Ferris Allen atop the trainer standings. The four — Big Rinne, Witty Banter, Peculiarity and McCain — were all slated to run on grass.

Dirt races are popular with Colonial track attendees since action appears directly in front of them.

“I didn’t think about scratching,” Smith said. ” I knew they could run well enough on dirt though I was a little concerned about Peculiarity. I wanted to try her on turf, but that can come later.  I think it’s a great surface. It’s one of the best dirt courses around. Horses get on it real well. I haven’t had horses running down, hitting or cutting themselves over it. It’s a well-maintained course. I’d like to see even more dirt races,” he added. “I have some fillies that like dirt and can’t find races for them anywhere. Everything has gone turf for some reason.” 

When Colonial Downs reopened in 2019 under the ownership of the Colonial Downs Group — after a six-year thoroughbred racing hiatus — jockey Mychel Sanchez brought home the first race winner in that “Racing Revival” season. His Charmn Charlie Ray prevailed by a head on the inner turf course. Last Wednesday, he piloted Black V. K. to victory at seven furlongs on dirt.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Sanchez of the dirt course. “We’ve had all the chances to prove it this week. We’ve had rain all week long, and hard rains too. You can race anywhere on this track right now. It’s in good shape.”

“The safety of both of our track surfaces is paramount and it is important to get such positive feedback from all horsemen about the two tracks, especially under some trying weather conditions,” said Byrne. “Credit the entire track crew, led by Ken Brown, who have done a fantastic job last week.”

Secretariat Colonial Downs Day At The Races Scheduled for Monday August 30

Ticketing is now open for the upcoming Secretariat Day at the Races , Monday August 30 at Colonial Downs racetrack!

Join Kate Tweedy, Leeanne Ladin, Jocelyn Russell and the team on for all the action taking place at the track in New Kent, Virginia. Big Red fans near and far are invited to join this festive gathering for an exploratory conversation to commemorate Secretariat with his own bronze statue in Virginia, his birth state.

Secretariat’s first statue was unveiled at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The event begins when gates open at 12:45 p.m at the track’s exclusive fourth floor clubhouse Sky Suites overlooking the historic Secretariat Turf Course. A luncheon buffet and cash bar will be available throughout the majority of the day, which also includes a book-signing, silent auction, and an afternoon of live racing with first post at 1:45 p.m.

Kate Tweedy will be a featured speaker at the New Kent event, which features a silent auction of Secretariat memorabilia on both the 30th and 31st.

Please note: Spacing for this event is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. No physical tickets are necessary for this event. Upon your arrival at the track, please proceed to the fourth Floor for check-in and wrist-banding. We look forward to seeing you soon!

For those of you who wish to extend your racing fun and enjoy the festivities of the prestigious Virginia Derby on Tuesday the following day, please visit for more information. Note: Out-of-towners can enjoy special Colonial Downs guest rates at the Hampton Inn and DoubleTree hotels near the Richmond airport.

Cavalier Cupid Captures the $100,000 Keswick Stakes; Wins Second Time at Colonial Summer Meet

The race was one of three turf sprint stakes on the card that included the Hickory Tree for 2-year-olds — also Virginia restricted — and the Da Hoss, which was postponed from last Monday due to a thunderstorm.

Cavalier Cupid won a maiden special weight opening day at the meet July 19 and wheeled back Monday, just two weeks later, and ran a similar race with higher stakes on the line. The daughter of Quality Road trailed DARRS Inc.’s Rambert until the top of the stretch when she eased past, then ended up beating the former frontrunner by one length in the 5 1/2-furlong test. It was a nearly identical scenario to her maiden breaking win when she also faced Rambert, who led until the stretch run in that event and finished second.

Cavalier Cupid was best in the Keswick Stakes for Big Lick Farm, based in Charlottesville and Crozet. Coady Photography.

“It was similar race,” said jockey Horacio Karamanos who rode in both victories. “We saw some different fillies in from out of town for the stakes. The filly that was second, she really tried today but my filly was better. When I asked her to give me a kick, they otherwise go with me a little bit, but my filly, she was rolling at the end. I think she can longer too, maybe not now though. She’s fast out of the gate but when you pull her back, she relaxes nice.”

“She just doesn’t do a single thing wrong,” said trainer Sarah Nagle. “She’s just a pleasure to train. If they were all like this, it would be a whole lot easier.  Atter the maiden win, she had five days off in the paddock just rolling around. We didn’t work her during the time between races, just galloped her lightly.”

The winner paid $3.40 and increased her bankroll to $93,080 from three starts.

Bird Mobberley’s Local Motive broke his maiden July 24 on the dirt at Pimlico, then switched surfaces Monday at Colonial and captured the Hickory Tree Stakes by one-half length over Ray M. Pennington III’s Roll Dem Bones at the same 5 1/2-furlong distance.

Local Motive won the Hickory Tree Stakes at Colonial August 2. It was one of two Virginia-restricted stakes on the card. Coady Photography.

The Divining Rod colt raced two-wide in the turn in a field of nine, came on strong and took the lead in the final furlong, then crossed one-half length the best in :57.52. J.D. Acosta was up in both starts.

“I’m not so sure he took to the turf as well as it looked,” said trainer John Salzman Jr.. “It was a little bit of an easier race today. I hate having to change courses. I don’t think it’s fair to the horses but we had to try. I almost didn’t run this horse back because it was a quick eight-day turnaround. It’s not my style. But If you skip it, what are you going to do. It worked out for us.”
The winner, now 2-for-2, paid $8.20 and pushed his bankroll to $86,920.

Michelle Lovell and Griffon Farms’ Just Might won his second straight race and sixth overall in the Da Hoss Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 5 1/2-furlongs. The 5-year-old Justin Phillip gelding sat behind Maribeth Sanford and Lynch Racing LLC’s Francatelli from the start in a five-horse field through the turn when the pair engaged in a stretch duel. Lovell’s colt was best by one-half length in 1:01.77.

“He’s such an energetic horse and was hoping the stake’s cancellation last week didn’t affect him or take anything out of him,” said Lovell.

Just Might (#5 outside) captured the Da Hoss Stakes for trainer Michelle Lovell. Coady Photography.

“He stayed straight and ran a great race,” said winning jockey Colby Hernandez. “The horse in front had a little more speed, so I tracked him. At the eighth pole, I called on him and he ran on home. At the sixteenth pole, he kicked on even harder and stronger. He’s just an honest horse and he tries his heart out every single time.”

With the win, Just Might’s lifetime earnings increased to $460,309. The winner paid $3.40.

Colonial Downs continues its summer season Tuesday August 3 with a 9-race card beginning at 1:45 PM.