It’s time to start thinking spring — and summer — because Virginia’s 2022 horse racing season is just around the corner!
After a series of Point-to-Point and NSA sanctioned jump meets in March, April and May, an expanded 9-week thoroughbred season at Colonial Downs and Rosie’s Gaming will begin July 11 and run thru September 7. Racing will take place every Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday at 1:45 PM. Purses for the meet are projected to be $600,000 per day, so the racing product should be better than ever.
Early bird tickets for each race day are now on sale at colonialdowns.com/racing at a special price! Enter the promo code EARLYBIRD and get 20% off for a very limited time! General admission once again is free.
Virginia Derby Day is scheduled for Tuesday September 6 and the entire summer stakes schedule will be released soon.
Ticketing options in the grandstand include reserved box seats at $12.50 apiece and regular reserved seats at $5.
Options in the air conditioned third floor Jockey Club include table seats at $30 each (must buy entire 2 or 4 seat table) or box/lounge seats for $23.33 (up to 15-person section).
Fourth floor options include bar and table seats in the air conditioned 1609 restaurant which are $40 each.
For further details on the upcoming “More Races, More Fun” season, visit colonialdowns.com.
The following appeared at Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record and was written by Ian Munro.
MAUZY — Fifth-generation Rockingham County farmer Matt Lohr stopped for a moment and pointed at the two-story white home on the other side of the small valley between the inclines on his farm.
He was gesturing to the home he grew up in, and a moment later, turned to face the home his father was born in. It was clear the land he was standing on off Valley Pike north of Lacey Spring is chock-full of Lohr family roots.
Lohr’s newest job as Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry will have him trying to preserve and grow the same farming ties that unite and strengthen Virginians.
“It’s a dream come true,” Lohr said Sunday morning of the appointment by newly sworn in Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
As a kid, Lohr started out in FFA and became a national officer, and leadership roles haven’t been far off since.
Over the years, Lohr held numerous other high-profile positions, including as a House of Delegates representative between 2006 and 2010, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“I really developed a passion for wanting to serve and to help be a leader in the agriculture community,” Lohr said. “And so I’ve been so blessed through the legislature and through the ag commissioner and my time at NRCS to have all those life experiences that really have, I think, prepared me for this role right now.”
Many issues face the agriculture community in Virginia, and he is familiar with those as a farmer himself. Rockingham County is the state’s largest agriculture producer, and agriculture is the state’s largest industry, with a $70 billion impact.
In his role, Lohr will oversee three agencies: the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Racing Commission, which handles horse racing.
One agriculture issue Lohr is seeking to address is how to ensure the stability of Virginia’s dairies.
The root of the problem is the economies of scale of the industry in which cow herds of around 500 are needed for viability, while dairy farmers in the Shenandoah Valley have smaller herds and are essentially crowded out by larger farms, according to Lohr.
“The dairy industry is certainly on the front burner,” he said.
Between 2008 and 2019, Rockingham County lost just over 25% of its Grade A dairy farms, according to Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services data.
Though Lohr raises crops, livestock and poultry on his farm, he does not operate a dairy, so he understands the importance of experts for a variety of issues, including the ones he is familiar with, he said.
“I’m not an expert on every aspect of agriculture, so being able to bring the right people together and really dig in and listen” is critical, he said.
Lohr said he has spoken with Eric Paulson of the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association about potential dairy reforms based on successes in other states.
Preservation of farmland is another issue Lohr wants to focus on, and he has experience with such efforts both from his time as part of the USDA and at his farm.
Residential growth in cities and communities like Harrisonburg is causing spillover into previously rural and agricultural areas as developers seek to meet and profit from housing demand.
Lohr said finding a balance where farms can be profitable and maintained, while making sure housing is available, is key.
Shrinking revenue, mounting debt, increasing running costs and tax burdens are factors that can convince farmers to sell their land to developers. Additionally, according to Lohr, it is vital that a child or neighbor expresses interest in taking on the farm.
“So, to me, I think one of the key solutions to this development issue is making sure that there’s opportunities for profitability for that next generation to come back,” he said.
Part of that includes cutting unnecessary regulation, which Youngkin has tasked state secretaries like Lohr to find.
Lohr has spoken with his agency leaders to find red tape for cutting, while another component includes providing Virginians with more good-paying jobs, another priority of the Youngkin administration, according to Lohr.
Four out of five Virginia farmers rely on income that comes from off the farm, according to Lohr.
“Farmland preservation and profitability is definitely going to be a major initiative that we’re going to continue,” he said.
Lohr’s 250-acre farm cannot be developed into any use other than agriculture in the future, he said.
“There’s programs out there that will provide money to the farmer through cash and tax credits to basically give up the the rights of that land to ever be developed,” Lohr said.
While working at the NRCS, Lohr said the department would allot roughly half a billion dollars annually to such grants to preserve vital farmland.
“The point is there’s money out there through the state and federal government to try to help compensate farmers who are willing to say, ‘I don’t want to develop this land,’” Lohr said.
Lohr also discussed budget requests for fully funding best management practices to meet state environmental goals without overburdening farmers who already face increased costs from running their operations.
Youngkin expressed his desire to provide the funding in his first speech to the General Assembly last week.
Though there’s much to do, the first weeks of Lohr’s new role will be spent keeping up with the General Assembly, which is in session.
“We’ve got the first two months done with legislative session and everything that’s coming before us, and then we can start working on … the governor’s priorities,” Lohr said.
There’s a large number of bills being discussed by state representatives about how to handle hemp products, he said.
“I know there’s a lot of interest here in the Valley from farmers who are wanting to dig into hemp production,” Lohr said, “which is certainly something we’re going to deal with.”
As a state secretary, Lohr is part of weekly meeting with the other secretaries of the commonwealth and Youngkin. Lohr said he plans to try and be home every weekend and at least one or two nights a week as his youngest son, who will live on the farm with Lohr’s parents, is still in high school. The Valley Pike Farm will be kept running by family and others who have helped Lohr keep the operation going in the past.
Though the staff in Lohr’s new office may be smaller by roughly 10,000 co-workers than his time at the NRCS, he understands the gravity of his role.
“So the scope of the job is very different because [I was] running an entire federal agency across the country, where now I get to focus on Virginia,” Lohr said. “For me, that’s much more rewarding to focus on what’s happening here in the commonwealth.”
The following appeared in Thoroughbred Daily News on Saturday, January 15, 2022. Both Chowda and Lobsta are Virginia-Certified horses that spent six-month residencies at a Virginia farm or training center before they started racing. For each win in the Mid-Atlantic region, their owner gets a 25% bonus on top of the purse earnings they receive.
By Bill Finley
When John Jayko, the owner of Fedwell Farms, first approached Eddie Fazzone about an unraced New York-bred 2-year-old he had for sale, Fazzone had modest expectations. Fazzone, the owner of Eddie F’s Eatery in Saratoga Springs, didn’t have a lot of money to spend and the horse was by a sire, Emcee, who had never so much as produced a stakes winner. But the price was right and Fazzone was looking to expand his small stable. A deal was struck.
“We’re not buying horses for $250,000, $500,000,” Fazzone said. “We’re buying horses for 25, 30 maybe $40,000. You’re not thinking that you’re going to go in and win stakes races. You’re thinking you’re going to win some claiming races and, maybe, if you get lucky, an allowance race.
The again, sometimes these things work out a lot better than anybody could have expected.
The horse Fazzone bought from Jayko is named Chowda (Emcee), who won the 2020 Gander S. for New York-breds and has earned $207,368. The story gets even better. Fazzone and his trainer, Gary Sciacca, detected early on that Chowda had ability, so, before that horse had made his first career start, they went back to Jayko and bought his full brother. His name is Lobsta (Emcee) and he won his second career stakes race Saturday at Aqueduct when he was placed first through disqualification in the Say Florida Sandy S. He has earned $276,400.
“It’s a dream,” Fazzone said. “It doesn’t always take a lot of money to get a good horse. You see guys spend a ton of money on a horse at the sales and it never makes it to the racetrack. This goes to show you, you just never know.”
Fazzone was introduced to Saratoga early on, first attending the races there with his parents when he was a toddler.
“I just loved going to the track,” he said. “I was totally into it, and I always wanted to start my own stable.”
But first, Fazzone had to tend to his restaurant, which he opened in 2016 with his wife Lisa. Eddie F’s Eatery, described as Saratoga’s only New England Seafood House, continued to grow and in 2018 Fazzone was ready to open up a stable, which he called Eddie F’s Racing. His first horse was Wicked Macho (Macho Uno), who he claimed for $40,000 in 2018.
Emcee (Unbridled’s Song) won the 2012 GI Forego S. Upon his retirement, owner Darley America sent him to New York to stand at Sequel Stallions. In 2018, he was sold and relocated to Brazil. Chowda and Lobsta are out of the dam Salty Little Sis (Chief Seattle). Her biggest win came in a 2010 allowance race at Aqueduct.
After Fazzone acquired Chowda he ran a contest on his restaurant’s Facebook page to name the horse. He let his customers choose from among a handful of names and said Chowda was the easy winner.
Chowda won his third career start and the Gander in his sixth start. Lobsta broke his maiden in his second start, but looked no better than an allowance horse when going off at 28-1 in the Dec. 5 New York Stallion Series S. He pulled off the upset that day and came back to win the Say Florida Sandy after My Boy Tate (Boys At Tosconova) was taken down. Lobsta and Chowda have run against each other once, in the New York Stallion, where Chowda finished fourth.
Fazzone has nine horses in training. The list includes still another horse out of Salty Little Sis, the 2-year-old Oysta (Micromanage). Like the others, Fazzone bought him privately from Fedwell Farms.
His restaurant customers have taken notice of his success and some have asked if they can go in on a horse. Fazzone is happy to take on partners and is looking to build his stable. His next goal is to win a race in Saratoga, something he has yet to do.
“Going into this horse racing game, I knew that it was a tough, expensive hobby,” he said “We didn’t go into this with a lot of money and we’ve won three stakes races. It’s been a great ride.”
Colonial Downs racing fans will see some familiar horses Saturday (January 22) at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans where their graded Derby prep — the Lecomte Stakes (Gr. 3) — headlines a 6-pack of stakes on a massive 14-race card. Wagering on Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will also be available from Friday – Sunday.
In the $100,000 Duncan F. Fenner Stakes, Just Might, winner of the Chesapeake and Da Hoss Stakes last summer in New Kent, will square off against another Colonial champ — grey gelding Strike Me Down — who won an allowance August 3 then was edged by Virginia Derby winner English Bee in an August 24 showdown. Both are trained by Michelle Lovell who brought a stable to Colonial for the first time last summer.
Just Might has 10 career wins and a bankroll of $830,414. The 6-year-old Justin Phillip gelding has won 6 of his last 7 starts, all of which have been stakes. Strike Me Down has earned $316,841 from 23 starts. The 7-year-old Tapit gelding has a combined 13 second and third place finishes to go with a trio of wins. The Fenner has been carded as Race 8 at 4:25 PM.
Virginia-bred Chess Chief competes in the ultra-competitive Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes, scheduled as Race 13 at 6:49 PM. The 6-year-old Into Mischief horse will face million-dollar earners Midnight Bourbon and Mandaloun. Chess Chief can be considered a “Horse for the Course” of sorts — he is 5-for-10 at Fair Grounds including wins in the Tenacious Stakes December 26 and in the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic Stakes last March. The Dallas Stewart trainee has amassed $810,338 in earnings and was bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm.
2021 Van Clief stakes winner Princess Theorem faces 11 other fillies and mares in the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes, carded as Race 10 at 5:23 PM. The 4-year-old Nyquist filly collected her second career triumph in the Van Clief, which she won by 1 3/4 lengths with Joe Rocco Jr. in the irons. The Brendan Walsh trainee has bankrolled $171,482 from ten outings.
Also in the field are the 6th and 7th place finishers from last summer’s Virginia Oaks — Adelaide Miss and Out of Sorts.
The headlining Lecomte Stakes, Race 14 (7:20 PM), closes out the day’s festivities and features a colt who finished second in his career debut August 3 at Colonial Downs. Surfer Dude is a 3-year-old son of Curlin, is a Dallas Stewart trainee, and has made five starts since his initial runner-up. To date, he has earnings of $113,460.
By Aileen M. Streng Contributing Writer. This piece appeared at the princewilliamtimes.com
Jan 11, 2022
Prosperity is coming to Dumfries and Prince William County, according to those who spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday morning for “The Rose Gaming Resort,” a nearly $400 million gaming facility, hotel and public park set to open in 2023.
“We couldn’t be more excited to take this next step towards bringing more well-paying jobs, increased tax revenues to this region and the commonwealth,” said Aaron Gomes, chief operating office of Colonial Downs Group, which is building The Rose. “We will do it by building a top-notch tourist destination right here.”
The ceremony was held at the Potomac Landfill, a longtime construction debris landfill located at the southwest edge of Dumfries bordered by Va. 234 and Interstate 95, agains the backdrop of dump trucks still hauling trash to the site. About 50 people braved the frigid, 25-degree weather to attend the event.
The landfill is closing at the end of January, about 10 years ahead of schedule. It has been in operation since 1984. Work on the new gaming facility will begin with capping the landfill, which Colonial Downs Group must do before construction can begin. That process is expected to start within the next few months.
The gaming resort will feature a hotel with up to 305 rooms, eight restaurants, a 1,500-foot conference and meeting space, a cultural events center and 50,00 square feet of gaming space. Colonial Downs, which will own the gaming facility, has promised the project will be accompanied by a new public park. The park will be built atop the closed landfill, which encompasses 80 acres of the 93-acre site. Colonial Downs will maintain the park for 10 years before turning it over to the town.
Colonial Downs opened Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, a smaller gaming outlet, a year ago in the Triangle Shopping Center in Dumfries. It will close when The Rose opens.
Gomes described Rosie’s as “a terrific success.”
“That’s why we know we can do more and create something that is even bigger and better” in Dumfries, he added.
“It’s time to create something new and exciting that will benefit our community,” said Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood. In addition to the tax revenue The Rose will generate, Wood said he’s “most excited about the green space that will come.”
“I believe it will be a centerpiece of our community. I’m extremely hopeful for what Dumfries will become in the years ahead,” Wood said.
The park will include more than two miles of hiking and fitness trails, historical preservation sites, sport areas, playgrounds and a dog park.
“I see this in Dumfries as a transformation that will spread across Prince William County,” said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler, D-At large. “This will bring people to Dumfries and Prince William County.”
State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th, said The Rose will allow Dumfries and Prince William County to get a share of the tax revenue generated by Virginia residents who travel to Maryland to gamble.
“What has always bothered me is the $350 million going across the bridge every year” to the MGM National Harbor Casino in Maryland, Surovell said. “What this does is create an opportunity for Virginia money to stay in Virginia and go to Dumfries.”
“Twenty years from now, Prince William County is going to look like a very different place,” Surovell said. “This creates a real opportunity to maximize that.”
“We are committed to Virginia, Dumfries and Prince William County and we are in it for the long hall,” said Brent Stevens, founder and chairman of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the parent company of Colonial Downs Group.
The Rose is Virginia’s first casino-sized gaming facility that’s technically not a casino. By state code, gambling at “The Rose” will be limited to off-track betting and historic horse race betting machines, which are similar to slot machines.
The Rose is projected to employ about 600 people and generate an estimated $11 million in annual tax revenues for the town of Dumfries and an additional $8 million for Prince William County when fully operational, according to an economic development study prepared for Colonial Downs.
The following appeared at Bloodhorse.com January 7.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ grade 2 winner Largent, unraced since being beaten a neck in last year’s Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (G1T), returns to Gulfstream Park to launch his long-awaited comeback in the Jan. 8 $100,000 Tropical Turf (G3T).
The 44th running of the one-mile Tropical Turf for 4-year-olds and up serves as the headliner on an 11-race program that begins at noon.
“We’ve given him a lot of time since last year’s Pegasus. Twin Creeks had him out at their farm and treated him like a king, then he went over to WinStar to get legged up. They always do a phenomenal job,” Wellman said. “Todd’s (trainer Pletcher) been very pleased with him since he came back to Palm Beach Downs.”
Wellman said the connections are approaching the Tropical Turf with both optimistic and realistic expectations ahead of the $1 million Pegasus Turf on Jan. 29.
“We felt like we’re cutting it a little close in terms of how cranked up he is, but with this race being three weeks before the Pegasus Turf it could put us in a position to have some options, so we decided to give it a go. He’s been training well like he always does, and he’s always shown an affinity for the Gulfstream course. He’s always seemed to do well over it,” Pletcher said. “I think it’s a good starting point. He’s shown he’s pretty versatile and can handle multiple distances.”
Klaravich Stables’ Value Proposition is a British-bred ridgling that won three of his first four career starts and has matched that total over his last nine, including victories in the one-mile Red Bank Stakes and seven-furlong Oyster Bay Stakes last fall. The now 6-year-old was second in the 2021 Forbidden Apple Stakes (G3T) and third in the 2020 Poker Stakes (G3T), and enters the Tropical Turf having finished fifth in the six-furlong Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship Stakes Nov. 27.
Another graded winner in the field is Marianne Stribling, Force Five Racing, and Two Rivers Racing Stable’s Phat Man, who captured the 2020 Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream. The 8-year-old gelding has two seconds in five lifetime tries on grass but was last on the surface in the October 2017 Hawthorne Derby for previous connections.
Calumet Farm homebred Flying Scotsman will be making his second start off a layoff in the Tropical Turf. He ran fifth in a one-mile, 70-yard allowance optional claiming Dec. 19 that was moved off the Gulfstream turf to its Tapeta surface.
“He’s doing well. His last run was off the turf and on the Tapeta. It was his first run in probably six or seven months so he needed that run,” trainer Jack Sisterson said. “He’s run well off a layoff at Gulfstream. He won a nice allowance race last year in a quick time, so we expect sort of a performance like that this weekend.”
Congratulations to seven Virginia-Certified horses that welcomed 2022 in with big wins at Laurel and Aqueduct over the 4-day holiday weekend period that ran from December 30 – January 2.
Serenade Soldier and Bustin Bay both scored at Aqueduct. The former, a 3-year-old War Dancer filly bred in New York, was best in a $43,000 maiden claiming race at 6 1/2 furlongs. She won by 3 3/4 lengths after going off at odds of 11-1 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. It was just her second career start.
Bustin Bay prevailed for the second straight time and pushed her bankroll over the $160,000 mark with a victory in a $50,000 claiming race. The 4-year-old Bustin Bones filly dominated by 6 1/2 lengths in winning for the 4th time in her last 7 outings. The New York-bred finished six furlongs in 1:11.42.
Gifted Heart is one of five Certified horses that prevailed at Laurel. The 5-year-old Super Ninety Nine mare beat five others in a $36,053 starter optional claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs that pushed her career earnings to an impressive $246,395. The Phil Schoenthal trainee was ridden to victory by Victor Rosales.
Uncaptured Spirit had a dominant $51,000 maiden special weight win in which jockey Carol Cedeno led the 3-year-old Uncaptured colt to a 7 3/4 margin over the runner-up. The Florida-bred, owned by Tag Stables LLC, paid $18.20.
Lady Zeta also reached the winners circle for the first time in a $47,385 waiver maiden claiming event. The 3-year-old Midshipman filly, in her third career out, was a neck better at the wire after a tight duel in the last half of a 7-furlong race. The Maryland-bred is owned by Nick & Rosemary Trakadas and was ridden by Kevin Gomez.
John The Bear collected his second career win in a $33,900 starter optional claimer at 6-furlongs. The 4-year-old son of The Factor was the betting choice of six and crossed 1 1/4 lengths the best in 1:11.61. The Kentucky-bred gelding was ridden by Jevian Toledo and is owned by the Euro Stable.
Rounding out the five is Alottahope, who previously finished second in the Maryland Juvenile Stakes and most recently captured a $57,600 allowance on New Years Day. The 3-year-old Editorial gelding won by 3 3/4 lengths and paid a handsome $24.60. Jose Lezcano led the effort up top and crossed the wire after 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.36.
Owners of these winning horses each receive a 25% bonus on top of purse winnings courtesy of the VTA’s Certified Residency initiative, which rewards horses who are conceived and foaled outside Virginia, then are then raised a minimum of six months at a registered Virginia farm or training center before they begin competing. Program details are at vabred.org.
Mark your 2022 calendars for these great thoroughbred, steeplechase and harness racing events in the Commonwealth.
Action kicks off in late winter/early spring with a series of Point-to-Point steeplechase events followed by a trio of NSA sanctioned jump meets, an expanded 9-week pari-mutuel thoroughbred season at Colonial Downs in New Kent, a 4-day harness race meet during the Shenandoah County Fair, an extended pari-mutuel harness campaign at Shenandoah Downs and a four-pack of NSA sanctioned fall jump meets.
The Point-to-Point (PTP) season kicks off March 5th with the Rappahannock PTP at The Hill in Boston, VA followed by the Warrenton Hunt PTP on March 19 at the Airlee Race Course, the Piedmont Fox Hounds PTP on March 26 at the Salem Course in Upperville, the Orange County PTP on April 3 at the Locust Hill Farm in Middleburg, the Old Dominion Hounds PTP on April 9 at the Ben Venue Farm in Ben Venue, the Blue Ridge PTP on April 17 at the Woodley Farm in Berryville, the Loudoun Hunt PTP on April 24 at Morven Park in Leesburg and the Middleburg Hunt PTP on May 1 at Glenwood Park.
Fans are welcome to enjoy the jump action at all these events and venues. More details on the Point-to-Point races can be found at centralentryoffice.com.
The National Steeplechase Association sanctioned meet schedule includes the Middleburg Spring Races on April 23 at Glenwood Park , the Foxfield Spring Races in Charlottesville on April 30 and the Virginia Gold Cup pari-mutuel slate of action on May 7 at Great Meadow in The Plains. More information on this impressive annual slate is available at nationalsteeplechase.com.
Rolling into summer, Colonial Downs will host an expanded 9-week season of flat racing action every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon in New Kent from July 11 – September 7th. Purses are expected to average $600,000 per day over the 27-day campaign. Stakes race dates will be announced soon including the 19th running of the Grade 3 Virginia Derby. Get the latest details at colonialdowns.com.
Harness racing takes place in Woodstock, VA every year in late summer and early fall. The 4-day County Fair meet (non-betting) will be held this year from August 31 – September 3, then an expected 8-week pari-mutuel Shenandoah Downs meet will be held over the same oval beginning September 16 with racing every Friday at 3:30 PM and Saturday at 1 PM. Check for the latest updates at shenandoahdowns.com.
The 2022 calendar wraps up with four fall steeplechase meets — Foxfield, Middleburg, the International Gold Cup and the Montpelier Hunt Races. Dates for those are not confirmed yet.
Details on all the listed above events can be found at virginiahorseracing.com.
The following was written by Nick Hahn and appeared at theracingbiz.com website.
The year just completed, 2021, really felt like a breakthrough for Virginia racing in many ways. Colonial Downs completed a banner meet, local horsemen were able to thrive, and racing stakeholders planted some seeds that should bear fruit in the years to come.
Here are 10 stories that mattered in 2021:
10) HOME IN THE COMMONWEALTH
The Virginia Certified Residency Program has become a huge boon to horsemen located on numerous small farms throughout Virginia. One example: Braeburn Farm located in Crozet, was toiling during Colonial’s six-year absence from racing but has been resurrected through the benefits of the VEA’s program.
To start the 2021 meet, Braeburn training center alumni collected three wins and three seconds in eight starts. Trainer Sarah Nagle and her Big Lick Farm operation, who train at Braeburn, scored twice on Colonial’s opening day, with a maiden breaker for Cavalier Cupid, who would also win the $100,000 Keswick Stakes later during the meet, and a score by Puppymonkeybaby, who won the $100,000 M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes. Trainer Patrick Nuesch, the proprietor of Braeburn, also won twice himself during the Colonial meet. The best news: Braeburn is just one of many farms to benefit from the rebirth of Colonial and the arrival of the residency program.
9) THE RETURN OF THE “MAD GENIUS”
After 14 years without a start at Colonial Downs, trainer Michael Dickinson roused the echoes of Colonial’s past when he won with Search for Truth and Belle Belisa on the same day, August 10. Those were the first horses he’d saddled in New Kent since July 30, 2007.
Dickinson, best known for employing innovative techniques in his horsemanship, famously saddled Da Hoss in an allowance race during Colonial’s second season, his only start between Breeder’s Cup wins in 1996 and 1998. Da Hoss won the allowance over a horse who himself would go on to be a multiple Grade 1 winner, John’s Call. Both Search for Truth and Belle Belisa broke their maidens on the Colonial turf, and it was good to see the “Mad Genius” back in New Kent.
8) CASINO DOINGS
The Urban One Richmond casino venture, which included Colonial, failed. Voters in Richmond rejected, by a 51-49 margin, a referendum that would have brought a casino to the southside of Richmond. Voters living close to the proposed casino location backed the proposal but not in the numbers needed to overcome opposition from other parts of the city. Meanwhile, the Colonial Rosie’s facilities continued their growth; there are now six, including the newest one in Dumfries. In 2022 the company plans to turn its Dumfries location into a gaming and entertainment resort while also opening a new location in Emporia following a successful referendum there. Colonial Downs also teamed up with PointsBet, an Australian company, and will enter Virginia’s sports betting marketplace.
The voyage of David Ross’s (DARRS, Inc) Extravagant Kid continued in 2021 highlighted by a March 27 win in the $1 million, Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai. The 2019 Da Hoss stakes winner at Colonial Downs then turned his quest to stakes races in England, where he finished third in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The journeyhorse has recorded stakes wins at Saratoga, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park, and Colonial Downs, and has finished in the money in 40 of his 55 career starts, most recently finishing second in the Janus Stakes at Gulfstream Park on New Year’s Eve.
6) A THROWBACK IN THE SHENANDOAH
Shenandoah Downs casts a little “Shenatoga” harness meet to Woodstock’s leg of the Shenandoah Valley, welcoming back fans and participants to fill its hotels, restaurants, and shops. People like this meet. The nearby town center offers live music, microbrews, farmers’ markets, and shops over a five-weekend meet that follows its four-day opening festival of racing with its longstanding Shenandoah County Fair.
The venue, set between two mountain ranges in the comfortable autumn air, is a complete throwback to harness racing of yore, yet provides plenty of potential upward appeal to the future of Virginia racing.
5) IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!
The Virginia Equine Alliance Economic Impact Study released earlier this year sized up the widespread contributions of Virginia’s racing and breeding program to the state’s economy. The report provides a better identity of the industry that was previously difficult to measure. The study estimates the racehorse population to be about 5,500, generating 5,300 jobs with a total economic impact of nearly $550 million. This was a tool the industry has needed for some time.
4) AN UNCONVENTIONAL TRIPLE IN THE VIRGINIA DERBY
Wootton Asset gave trainer Graham Motion an unconventional triple in the Virginia Derby. Motion has won the last three runnings of Colonial’s signature event, though they have occurred over the last five years. The Derby was run at Laurel Park in 2017, when Motion won it with Just Howard, took 2018 off, and returned to Virginia with live racing in 2019, when Motion scored again with English Bee.
The cancellation of the ’20 meet also meant the cancellation of that year’s Virginia Derby before Wootton Asset kept the streak going this year. Delivering the win on the French-bred colt for Madaket Stables was jockey Jose Ortiz. who came out of the gate last but relished the firm going that Motion had been seeking. Handle for the Virginia Derby set an all-time Colonial mark of $4,875,792.
3) SAFETY FIRST
Colonial’s 2021 meeting once again attained a perfect safety record. On a subject where only bad news is usually reported after an incident, the good news on the 2021 meet at Colonial Downs is that there were no equine fatalities during racing or training.
2) DOWNS AND DIRTY
Colonial had run more races on the dirt than the turf before, but on the August 23 page of the condition book, it was by design. All of Colonial’s races the first year of its existence in 1997 were on the dirt, but since the turf course was added in 1998, the grass always was greener. The August 23 card, featuring four MATCH Series contests, included five races on the dirt and four on the turf.
Larimar opened up the dirt blitz breaking a 12-year record at 6 & ½ furlongs (1:16.43) in an optional allowance/claiming race. In the $100,000 Victory Gallop that followed, Cordmaker (1:40.45) at 1 & 1/16 reset a 23-year-old record, that would last for only two races before Saracosa zipped the distance in 1:39.72 in the $100,000 Love Sign Stakes. Cheetara and Just Might just missed the marks at seven and six furlongs, respectively, on a day when the public was re-introduced to “the other Colonial.”
1) A BANNER MEET
Colonial’s 2021 summer meet rebounded strongly after a plagued 2020 session that faced natural disasters, utility disruptions and of course, Covid. Everything that went wrong for Colonial Downs in 2020 went right in 2021. With no turf racing in Kentucky, horsemen and fans looked for a new venue, and both liked what they saw at Colonial Downs. The usual Colonial loyalists didn’t have the backstretch to themselves as much this year, welcoming trainers such Bret Calhoun, Dallas Stewart and John Ortiz to hang a shingle for the first time in New Kent. It wasn’t unusual to see former Triple Crown race competitors like By My Standards, Long Range Toddy or Mr. Big News step out on the track in the mornings or the afternoons. The 21-day meet saw several wagering records fall as horsemen competed for purse money that exceeded $500,000 a day.