Monthly Archives: April 2022

Daniel M. “Speedy” Smithwick Passes Away

Daniel M. “Speedy” Smithwick Jr., 62, of Middleburg, passed away on April 23.

Speedy’s passion was the sport of horse racing. He was born on October 27, 1959 to two Hall of Fame horse trainers, Dorothy Fred Smithwick and D.M. ‘Mikey’ Smithwick. As a child, he juggled his time between Hydes, MD and Middleburg. He spent his summers on the Ogden Phipps’ estate in Old Westbury, Long Island watching his dad train steeplechase legends such as Neji and Top Bid. Later, Speedy would become one of the nation’s top amateur steeplechase jockeys with victories in the 1984 Virginia Gold Cup, the 1985 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, and the Iroquois Steeplechase (three different times).

On December 10, 1988, Speedy married the love of his life, Eva Dahlgren, who shared his passion and gift with horses. Together, they took a big leap of faith and started their flat track careers training for the late Jack Kent Cooke out of Elmendorf Farm in Lexington, KY. Cooke also had a farm in Middleburg and was the former owner of the NFL Washington Redskins, the NBA Los Angeles Lakers, the NHL Los Angeles Kings and the Los Angeles Wolves of the United Soccer Association.

On the flat track, Speedy found a path different from his parents and discovered his true passion. He raced all across the country at tracks that included Del Mar, Hollywood Park, Saratoga (where he worked out of the Clark barn), the Fairgrounds, Keeneland, Churchill, Gulfstream, Belmont and Arlington Park.

He made friends wherever he went. In fact, some would stay with him for the remainder of his life, like his beloved groom Clementino Salazar. Speedy trained multiple graded stakes winners for various owners, but some of his favorite horses from those days included Ziggy’s Act, Zignew, Glacial, and Sauve Voir Faire. He could recall with vivid detail any horse that he ever trained or rode, which made him an excellent storyteller.

After the death of his mother, Speedy returned to Sunny Bank Farm in Middleburg, where he and Eva dabbled in steeplechase, foxhunting, and herding cattle. Speedy was known for his sense of humor, his kindness, and his optimism.

He was a loving father and grandfather of Dorothy, named after his late mother. Speedy is survived by his wife, Eva Smithwick; his daughters, Kathy Smithwick Swain and Patricia Smithwick; his granddaughter, Dorothy Adelaide Swain; his brother, Roger Smithwick; and many dear friends.

A memorial service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, on Monday, May 16 at 11 a.m. with a reception to follow. The family suggests memorial donations to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs.

Rosie’s Breaks Ground in Emporia with New Gaming Emporium


  • By Mark Mathews Editor, Independent Messenger
  • Updated Apr 25, 2022
The first full shovel loads of dirt are ready for tossing during Thursday morning’s groundbreaking at the future site of Emporia’s Rosie’s Gaming Emporium. Pictured from left are Nancy Rose, Patricia Paige, Mathew Starr, Matthew Smolnik, Dr. Carolyn Carey, Aaron Gomes, William Johnson, Lisa Speller, Dale Temple, Carol Mercer, Jim Saunders, Woody Harris, Carol Mercer.Mark Mathews/Independent-Messenger

Local representatives picked up a shovel approximately 15 months after the announcement of Rosie’s Gaming Emporium coming to Emporia. They broke ground at 700 West Atlantic St. Thursday morning.

Rosie’s is expected to open its doors by the summer of 2023. The company is expected to generate $1 million annually in tax revenue. The 21,000 square-foot site will employ 100 people with an average salary and benefits package of $47,000.

“We look forward to Rosie’s boosting our economic development and being an integral part of the community,” Emporia Mayor Dr. Carolyn Carey said. Rosie’s will be providing jobs and an outlet for entertainment. This will be a game-changer, and the best is yet to come.”

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Aaron Gomes said the local Rosie’s will provide 10,000 feet of gaming space. Customers will find 150 of the hottest new Historic Horse Racing (HHR) slot-like games inside. As with all Rosie’s Gaming Emporium sites, the Emporia Rosie’s will feature a dynamic kitchen restaurant and stage bar featuring live entertainment.

The HHR games are not the only opportunity to place a bet. If horse racing is going on in Saratoga, New York, Belmont Park, or other sites, Rosie’s will carry them on the television screens throughout the site. Customers have the opportunity to place wagers on the races. The betting angle led to strong opposition from many people in the city. Patricia Paige, a New Kent County Board of Supervisors member, said her community had similar resistance before Rosie’s was up and running. She’s a firm supporter of the company.

“They have done everything they said they would do, and beyond,” she said. “They are more than our community partner, they are our community family.”

The community support given by Rosie’s impressed Paige. The five Rosie’s locations have donated more than 3,000 hours and $2.5 million for worthy causes. It was an attractive piece of the operation for the Emporia City Council members when they unanimously voted to bring Rosie’s to the community.

Will the Emporia Rosie’s bring business from outside the community? Paige said she went through the New Kent Rosie’s parking lot to see if the customer base was local. She discovered most of the vehicles were from North Carolina, Maryland, and other parts of Virginia away from New Kent. Gomes said to expect a similar turnout at the Emporia location.

“We anticipate we will bring in thousands of visitors weekly from surrounding counties across the line in North Carolina to Emporia where they will stay, eat, and support other local businesses.”

Emporia City Manager William Johnson said people always tell him there is nothing to do in Emporia. He believes Rosie’s will help change that perception, at least for the adults in the immediate future. Johnson thinks the impact will reach deeper into the city.

“With the new money we’re going to create something for our youth, as well as our senior citizens,” Johnson said. “We must continue to support the new businesses and our existing businesses for this community to thrive.”

The new business creates immediate employment as construction gets underway, followed by jobs created when the gaming emporium opens its doors in the summer of 2023.

Middleburg Spring Races Preview; Glenwood Park Set To Host Sold Out Crowd April 23rd

Middleburg Preview:

Top hurdlers return to action in Virginia, while timber veterans square off in Maryland.


It has been 20 months since steeplechase fans watched Bruton Street-US’ mighty gray Moscato in action. Following 2020 victories in the G2 Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg and the G1 A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga, the 9-year-old British-bred son of Hernando was third in the G1 New York Turf Writers Cup at the Spa. But his two masterful performances were enough to earn Moscato the Eclipse Award in the pandemic-shortened season.

A tendon injury forced Moscato, now 11, to the sidelines for lengthy rest and rehab, and Middleburg will mark his official return, once again in the $75,000 Gwathmey, at 2 ½ miles. Jamie Bargary has the mount for trainer Jack Fisher. If there’s an optimal meet for Moscato to get back into the swing of things, Middleburg is it. Moscato has taken the Gwathmey twice, having defeated along the way Grade 1 winners Rashaan, Surprising Soul, Zanjabeel, Scorpiancer, and All the Way Jose in the historic contest. 

Moscato (right) en route to victory in the 2020 Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg (Douglas Lees).

But he’ll have to be at his best to do so, as he lines up against his brilliant stablemate, Snap Decision, also trained by Fisher. Snap Decision made history last season when he tied Thrice Worthy’s long-standing record of nine straight hurdle victories, in the Grade 1 Iroquois, a streak that came to an end in September against rival and 2021 Eclipse Award champion The Mean Queen in the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park.

Both Snap Decision, who will be ridden by regular rider Graham Watters in the Gwathmey, and Moscato stretched their legs on the flat in preparation for their 2022 debuts at the Green Spring Valley Point to Point in Cockeysville, Md., on April 3. Snap Decision won pretty much as he pleased.

Snap Decision captures the 2021 Temple Gwathmey (Douglas Lees).

Also in the field is Irv Naylor’s Amschel, who chased The Mean Queen and Snap Decision in major races last year, and completed the season with a close second to Hudson River Farm’s Iranistan in the Noel Laing Stakes at Montpelier. Barry Foley rides.

Iranistan returns in the Gwathmey as well, as does another horse he defeated in the Laing, Sharon Sheppard’s Redicean, trained by Leslie Young. Iranistan, trained by Keri Brion, turned heads with three straight wins in his first three tries over hurdles, including a blowout score in the Marcellus Frost novice stakes in Nashville. He finished second and third in his initial efforts against open stakes competition, in the Smithwick and Turf Writers Cup, both G1s at Saratoga. After taking two handicaps at Saratoga in 2020, he was off for more than a year, and his win at Montpelier came in his second race back. 

Redicean has been a tough competitor since coming to the U.S. from England in 2019. He won his American debut in the Jonathan Kiser novice stakes at the Spa, the scene of one of his best races, a second in the 2020 Turf Writers Cup. Last year, he was second in the G2 Zeke Ferguson at Great Meadow and third in the G1 Lonesome Glory. Tom Garner has the mount.

There are a total of eight races in the Middleburg Spring lineup, with $215,000 in purses. First race post time is 1 p.m.

2019 Virgnia Gold Cup winner Andi’Amu clears one of the timber hurdles at Great Meadow (Douglas Lees).

The co-feature is the $25,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup timber stakes, at 3 ¼ miles, with a field of five expected. The field includes 2019 timber champion, Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu, a previous winner of this race along with the National Sporting Library & Museum Cup stakes over the same Glenwood Park course. The Hunt Cup is Andi’amu’s first race back since June 2020. Tom Garner rides for trainer Leslie Young. Also in the field are Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team, one of the top timber horses of 2021 and a stakes winner of more than a quarter-million dollars; Four Virginia Gents’ First Friday, who broke his maiden over the course last year; Buttonwood Farm’s The Silent Trainer and Crooked Run Racings Love of the Bay, both maidens.

The day’s other races include a $30,000 allowance hurdle; a $20,000 filly & mare hurdle; $25,000 maiden hurdle; a $20,000 maiden claiming hurdle; the $20,000 Alfred Hunt steeplethon over mixed obstacles; and a training flat race.

Virginia 2021 Breeder’s Champions Announced; Awards Night Set at Great Meadow

Virginia 2021 Breeder’s Champions Announced; Awards Night Set at Great Meadow

The annual Virginia Breeder’s Awards program has been scheduled at Great Meadow Friday May 6th — the evening before the Virginia Gold Cup Races — in a return to more of a “normal times” format for the first time since 2019. The event will take place in a trackside tent on Member’s Hill overlooking the deep stretch and finish line areas where steeplechase horses are set to compete the next afternoon. A list of awards to be presented that night follows. 

Horse-of-the-Year honors go to Chess Chief, who was also recognized as Virginia-Bred Older Horse Champion based on two stakes wins and $446,290 in earnings. The Dallas Stewart trainee struck early and late in the year, connecting at Fair Grounds twice in the Grade 2 New Orleans Stakes March 20 and in the Tenacious Stakes December 26. Bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm, the 6-year-old Into Mischief horse heads into spring with $865,338 in winnings overall.

Chess Chief (left) wins the 2021 New Orleans Classic (Hodges Photography).

Honors for Virginia-Bred Turf Horse Champion go to Passion Play who was a perfect 2-for-2 in 2021. Both wins came in Virginia-Bred stakes at Colonial Downs — the Bert Allen in July and the Edward P. Evans in September. Jockey Horacio Karamanos delivered both wins for trainer Mary Eppler. The 5-year-old Hold Me Back gelding was bred by Mr. & Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III and bankrolled $120,000 from the pair.

Passion Play (inside) captures the Edward P. Evans Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

Boldor, with three wins in 2021, was named Virginia-Bred Sprint Champion. The 6-year-old Munnings gelding captured a trio of stakes — -the Punch Line at Colonial, King Cotton at Oaklawn and Sam’s Town at Delta. The Steve Asmussen trainee, who won $217,675 last year, was bred by Carlos S.E. Moore and Jill Gordon-Moore.

Boldor kicked off 2021 with a win in the Sam’s Town Stakes at Delta.

Urban Fairytale, courtesy of five “in the money” finishes from six starts and $102,418 in earnings, was named Virginia-Bred Older Filly Champion. The 5-year-old Distorted Humor mare made her presence felt in New Kent, winning the Brookmeade Stakes as betting favorite then finishing third in the Nellie Mae Cox Stakes. Trained by Ian Wilkes, Urban Fairytale was bred by Audley Farm Equine.

Urban Fairytale was best in the 2021 Brookmeade Stakes in New Kent (Coady Photography)

Repo Rocks, who made 12 of his 13 starts in New York last year, secured Virginia-Bred 3-Year-Old Colt Champion honors with 9 “top three” finishes from that group. The son of Tapiture won a $90,000 maiden special weight at Belmont June 21 then had back-to-back allowance wins at Aqueduct in fall. Bred by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III, Repo Rocks accumulated $198,246 from the “baker’s dozen” outings.

Virginia-bred Repo Rocks won an $82,000 allowance at Aqueduct Dec. 10 (Coglianese Photography).

Oviatt Class, a west coast competitor who was named Virginia-Bred 2-Year-Old Colt Champion, captured a maiden special weight August 27 at Del Mar, then went on to compete in a pair of Grade I’s — the American Pharoah at Santa Anita where he finished third and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he was fifth. The Keith Desormeaux trainee was ridden by brother Kent in all five starts. The Bernadini colt was bred by Godolphin and Morgan’s Ford Farm.

Sparkle Sprinkle, who kicked off her racing career with back-to-back wins, was named Virginia-Bred 2-Year-Old Filly Champion. The daughter of Holy Boss led nearly every step of the way in a Timonium maiden score August 28 and in a Laurel allowance three weeks later. She prevailed by 3 1/2 and 6 1/4 lengths respectively. The John Robb conditioned filly was bred by Nancy Rizer and Eric Rizer. 

Sparkle Sprinkle wins an allowance at Laurel September 18 (Jim McCue photo)

M. Buff, whose career bankroll is $1.4 million, continued to flourish as a 7-year-old and as a result, was named Virginia-Sired Champion. The 2019 Horse of the Year was bred to Friend or Foe — who stands at Robin Mellen’s Smallwood Farm in Crozet — by Chester and Mary Broman.  Mr. Buff had a pair of stakes scores last year in the Jazil and Stymie, both held at Aqueduct, and a third in the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes which was held at Belmont. For the year, Mr. Buff added $162,750 to his already stout resume.  

Mr. Buff was Virginia Horse of the Year in 2019 (Coglianese Photography)

Lobsta, with a trio of 2021 wins at Aqueduct, earned Virginia-Certified Colt Champion honors. The now 4-year-old son of Emcee captured a maiden special weight and an allowance optional claimer early then capped off his sophomore campaign with a victory in the $150,000 New York Stallion Series Stakes. Owned by Eddie F’s Racing and trained by Gary Sciacca, Lobsta had six top three finishes last year, good for $218,600 in earnings. 

Lobsta wins the New York Stallion Series Stakes at Aqueduct December 5 (Susie Raisher photo).

Virginia-Certified filly Street Lute came on the scene in September 2020 with a flourish, winning seven of her first eight races. The final two in that streak came at Laurel in 2021 and were stakes scores in the Xtra Heat and Wide Country. Later in the year, the Street Magician filly captured the Stormy Blues Stakes at Pimlico and the Tax Free Shopping Distaff Stakes at Delaware. That four-pack, along with a trio of thirds, enabled her to receive Virginia-Certified Filly Champion recognition. 

Street Lute won the Country Wide Stakes, her fifth straight, January, 2021 at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue.

Extravagant Kid, who retired from racing earlier this year at the age of 9, bankrolled $751,923 in 2021 from five runner-up stakes finishes and a Group 1 win in the Al Quoz Sprint. The Kiss The Kid gelding will be recognized as Virginia-Owned Champion given those impressive credentials. The Brendan Walsh trainee is owned by Virginia businessman David Ross who races under the stable name DARRS, Inc. Upon retirement, Extravagant Kid’s winnings total stood at $1,704,683.

Extravagant Kid wins the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint Stakes in Dubai (photo provided by David Ross).

Virginia-Bred Over Fences Champion honors went to 6-year-old Paynter gelding, Vincent Van Gogo. The Neil Morris trainee had a three-race win streak last year that included a pair at Colonial — one on the flat and one over jumps. The first in that streak came in a Tryon hurdle which he won by a neck, followed by New Kent triumphs at tight margins of one-half length and a neck. Owned by the Flying Elvis Stable, Vincent Van Gogo was bred by Jim & Katie Fitzgerald. 

Vincent Van Gogo in the winners circle at Colonial this past summer.

Susan Cooney was named Top Virginia Trainer, while Morgan’s Ford Farm was named Top Virginia Breeder. Cooney’s horses earned $622,309, firing at a 9% win and 36% “in-the-money” percentage clip. Her four wins at Colonial last year were with Pauping, Shelly Island, Skylark and Elementary. Horses bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm earned $1,240,346 in purse monies and of course their Chess Chief led the way with $446,290.         

Churchill CEO: “Virginia Racing Has a Chance To Be Reborn”


The following appeared at on April 8 and was written by Nick Hahn.

The winds of change are blowing in horse racing, and in Virginia, at least, the prevailing winds are out of Kentucky.

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen blew into town to meet with the Virginia Racing Commission April 6 and, at an at-times spirited public question-and-answer session, outlined a vision for the future that’s sure to please many stakeholders but may cause angst in other quarters.

Churchill Downs, Inc.  earlier this year entered into an agreement to purchase Colonial Downs and all of its associated Rosie’s properties, as well as additional properties owned by Colonial parent company Peninsula Pacific in Iowa and New York. The deal is expected to close by year end.

Churchill CEO Bill Carstanjen answers questions at the April VRC meeting.

Carstanjen’s appearance provided some of the first public candid comments to Virginia stakeholders and the Commission on the pending sale – a sale that caught many Virginia horsemen by surprise. 

“Virginia has a chance to be reborn,” Carstanjen told the gathering. “In Virginia, this is a really good framework and structure and foundation from which to build on.”

Under Virginia’s law, purses are powered in large part by so-called historical horse racing machines, which are essentially slot machines but powered by the results of past horse races. The law permits up to 5,000 machines around the state, under various conditions, and for each 100 deployed, the licensee is required to run one race day.

Colonial Downs is slated to run 27 days in 2022, up from 21 a year ago. Carstanjen intimated that the number could grow, and quickly.

“This is an accelerated change, accelerated growth environment,” he said, later adding, “You’ll see us try different things. You’ll see us push the envelope because we’re very focused on staying relevant, not just in the wagering world but in the entertainment world.”

Carstanjen told the Commission that, in broad strokes, the company’s number one goal would be “to get all these [HHR] machines deployed,” which would increase the flow of purse revenue and allow for the growth in race days. With 5,000 machines deployed, the law will require 50 days of live racing.

For one thing, Carstanjen said, the company will be looking “where we need to bifurcate the meet.”

Why a bifurcated meet? One obvious reason would be to give the turf course a rest.

Another reason: “We want to look at [Kentucky] Derby prep races so that we can have a Virginia horse going to the Derby.”

VRC Commissioners, at the April meeting which was held at Colonial Downs.

Since Colonial’s rebirth in 2019, most of the purse money has gone to overnight races. While purses for those races are higher than they are in other regional tracks, stakes purses are substantially similar. Carstanjen sees bolstering the stakes program as an important goal.

“We want to look at stakes races that we can move here from our other facilities and our available stakes race program,” he said. “Let’s turbo-charge the racing here.”

Carstanjen said Churchill looks at racing not just as a wagering product but also as entertainment. The buzz around the Kentucky Derby, he said, is driven not so much by passionate racing fans and bettors as by casual fans who pay attention to the Triple Crown but perhaps not day to day racing. And while casual fans aren’t worth as much, financially speaking, as are hardcore players, “There’s a lot more casual fans out there than there are hardcore horseplayers.”

“We have to give the community in this region an opportunity to experience horse racing as entertainment,” he explained. “So you will see us reach into our bag of tricks from Derby to build interest here.”

One of the state’s big successes in recent years has been the Virginia Certified Residency Program. Under that program, horses that spend at least six months in the Commonwealth before the end of their two-year-old year earn their “developers” – the person who owned them during their period of residency – bonuses when they win anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic.

Virginia horsemen credit the program with filling up their barns once again. Some 3,500 horses have gone through the program to date.

But Carstanjen said it’s time to start thinking about changing the program.

“I don’t like your purse construct where you’re paying purse money to horses that are winning out-of-state,” he said. “Now that you’re running race days here, it’s puzzling why you’re paying horses to win races in a different jurisdiction. That’s your purse money that should be invested in your racing program.”

Carstanjen wants to direct those funds to horses that win in Virginia, and to promoting the Virginia breeding industry and the growth of a critical mass of Virginia-breds that would book fields with increasing racedays at Colonial Downs.  That would promote the development of the “equi-structure” of stallions, layup facilities, local feeds and other supportive services.

“All programs started as the right thing for the moment, but we’re going to be on an accelerated development schedule, so we have to be looking at these programs to make sure that we’ve got what’s best as we grow,” continued Carstanjen.  “If you just stand around with a Virginia-certified program, that’s all you’ll ever have….it will require change.  The incentive programs that are in place right now are increasingly designed for the past.  They are not designed for the future.”

In the minds of many since the announcement of the purchase of Colonial Downs has been the demise of the Churchill-owned Arlington Park last year. Carstanjen addressed that question without prodding. 

“Racing doesn’t work everywhere,” he said. “Racing is something that can get screwed up and it’s been screwed up in a whole bunch of jurisdictions, and it got screwed up in Virginia for a while. Illinois is an example of where racing is really screwed up, and it doesn’t work well.”

Carrying the weight of a year-round racing season has never been a burden in Virginia racing. While in years past that might have seemed a liability, Carstenjen perhaps sees it as an asset. 

For the longest time Virginia was referred to as a breeding state and not a racing state. Since Colonial opened in 1997, that view has largely reversed. Either way, the state doesn’t carry the burden of memories of long-gone “glory days,” or expectations that a very different future will somehow become like the past.

By design or accident, Carstanjen likes the opportunity he sees in Virginia.

“In Virginia there been some up and downs, and Virginia struggled for a while,” he said. “But then it put together a framework that’s going to stand the test of time off into the horizon, as far as the eye can see.”

Triple Treat – Celebrate Secretariat, Riva Ridge & Penny Chenery April 23 in Ashland

Join the authors of Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend — Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Penny Chenery, and Leeanne Meadows Ladin along with special guests for a reception, video presentation, and book signing. Special memorabilia will be on display. Light hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar with wine, beer, and a special Meadow Farm Mint Julep will be available.

Secretariat shown in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. Photo courtesy of AP.

An exclusive screening of the film “Remembering Riva Ridge” by John Tweedy will be shown and a model of the magnificent Secretariat statue proposed for Virginia will be on display.

Tickets are $20 in advance. Tickets at the door will be $25. Registration and payment details are below, and interested parties can email for details. Proceeds will benefit the Ashland Museum.

Kate Chenery Tweedy, agt the Colonial Downs- Rosie’s Gaming Emporium ribbon cutting ceremony July 1st, 2019

Questions? Call 804-368-7314, or email or through the Contact page. Information also available at Secretariat’s Meadow Facebook page or