Monthly Archives: March 2023

Three Winners from Colonial Downs 2022 Meet Just Won Major Stakes Races

Congratulations to a trio of major stakes race winners from tracks around the country on March 25 — who all won races at Colonial Downs last summer!

Two Phil’s captured the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks Derby prep at Turfway Park and punched his ticket to the May 6th “Run for the Roses”. The Hard-Spun colt won a $62,000 maiden special weight race last July in New Kent. Two Phil’s odds in the Derby are currently set at 88-1.

Two Phil’s ridden by Jareth Loveberry in a Maiden Special Race win last Summer at Colonial Downs

Virginia-certified Wolfie’s Dynaghost, won the $150,000 Bert Allen Stakes last summer at Colonial Downs, over the weekend he won his second straight race, the $300,000 Kentucky Cup Classic Stakes, also at Turfway. This win pushes his career earnings to $586,805.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr in the 18th running of the Bert Allen Stakes, A race he won by 3 lengths

Didia, the winner of the $150,000 Old Nelson Stakes last summer, hit the wire first in the $100,000 Tom Benson Stakes at Fair Grounds. This race marks an impressive 6th straight victory for the 5-year-old Mare. Bringing her career earnings to $289,829.

Didia ridden by Vincent Cheminaud in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Aliance Old Nelson Stakes; one of the two races won by Didia in the 2022 meet in New Kent

Reserved seats for the 2023 Colonial Downs summer racing season go on sale April 3rd. Tickets can be purchased on Colonial Downs Website.

In Face Of Equine Vet Shortage, Virginia Tech To Launch Emergency Services Support Team

Originally Posted on 3/29/23 on, written by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

There is a crisis silently brewing in the equine veterinary world.

The combination of older veterinarians leaving the field, current equine veterinarians leaving for better pay and work/life balance, and fewer numbers of veterinary students choosing equine as their elective field of specialty have seriously affected the availability of primary and emergency care for horses throughout the United States and beyond. And, if nothing is done now this could be greatly problematic for horse owners who need to seek medical care for their horses in the coming years.

Michael Erskine (B.S. ’84, DVM ’88), Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) in Leesburg, Virginia, is part of a national commission looking into the problem. The EMC is one of three animal health care facilities of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Equine veterinarians typically provide emergency care for their client’s horses, but emergency coverage can be especially challenging, taking a huge toll on equine practitioners who are often expected to be available 24/7,” said Erskine. “Equine referral hospitals, unlike small animal emergency clinics, are few and far between with horse owners often having to travel substantial distances to seek comprehensive emergency care.”

Research by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) discovered that only a small percentage of veterinary students choose to pursue a career in equine veterinary medicine. Of those 1.3% go straight into private practice after graduation with 4.5% pursuing an equine internship to further their training.

What is most alarming is that within five years, due to the demands of the profession, 50% of these equine-focused veterinarians will move to small animal practice or decide to leave their aspirations for a career as a veterinarian behind altogether.

One major area of concern for new college graduates is compensation. Pursuing a veterinary degree is an expensive endeavor, with students typically graduating with double-digit six-figure debt.

Graduates who chose to focus on small animals can expect to step into a six-figure salary soon after graduation. In comparison, equine-focused graduates may choose to go into private practice or further their education by seeking an internship, possibly followed by a residency, but can expect to earn much less than their small animal counterparts during the first several years of their careers.

“I want to work with horses but I simply can’t afford it,” said fourth-year veterinary student Olivia Reiff (DVM Candidate ’23).

The diminishing availability of equine practitioners is not restricted just to the U.S. In the United Kingdom, 9% of veterinary students initially choose to focus on equine, and only 2% of them actually graduate and pursue their chosen careers. A shocking 80% of all veterinary graduates in the UK will quit the profession within five years.

“It is getting progressively more difficult to find and hire equine veterinary specialists,” said Rachel Atherton (M.S. ’07), partner at Lingfield Equine Veterinarians, in Lingfield, West Sussex, UK.

Work/life balance is another factor impacting the retention of equine veterinarians. The expectation of 24-hour access to emergency care on the farm, 365 days per year, is no longer sustainable for many practices.  Small animal practice on the other hand is a very different story with after-hours and emergency care typically provided by specialist emergency clinics.

The Virginia Agricultural Commodity Board Annual Report 2021-22 reported that the equine industry in the Commonwealth is valued at $2 billion representing 183,643 horses. Also from the 2018 economic impact study conducted by the American Horse Council: the industry generates more than 38,874 jobs in Virginia. In total 30.5% of households – or 1 million – contain horse enthusiasts.

On July 7, 2022, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), headquartered in Lexington, Ky., announced the formation of the Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability – one of the association’s largest-ever initiatives, which has set out to address the equine veterinary crisis.

The commission, led by AAEP-member volunteers, is focusing on strategic areas of concern which need to be addressed to encourage and support equine-focused veterinarians to continue in or enter into the field of equine veterinary medicine.

Erskine has been directly involved by acting as co-chair on a subcommittee of AAEP’s Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability, alongside Leann Kuebelbeck, surgeon and practice owner of Brandon Equine Medical Center in Brandon, Fla.

The 13-member strong subcommittee’s mission is to explore the unique challenges of providing emergency services and to consider service models to address the work-life balance, professional fulfillment, and recruitment and retention of equine veterinarians, while also considering how best to educate clients about these challenges.

While Erskine and his fellow committee members explore the issue on a national, big-picture level, improving emergency and critical care is very much a practical daily concern for Erskine at EMC.

Ensuring the future of emergency and critical care services at the EMC  has required some out-of-the-box thinking and has been a top priority for Erskine. Careful consideration has been given to EMC clinicians and clinical support staff and their work-life balance, currently available and future outpatient and elective services, and the needs of the equine community with respect to emergency care.

Currently, EMC clinicians cover outpatient, elective, and emergency services. Erskine’s commitment to securing the future availability of top-notch emergency and critical care services at the EMC has prompted him to commit to a new, dynamic emergency service model:  A dedicated team of board-certified emergency and critical care specialists is being formed and will be fully supported by the clinicians already on staff at the EMC who are board-certified specialists in surgery and internal medicine.

“This emerging emergency and critical care team model will be staffed by clinicians who enjoy the challenges of emergency medicine and will dramatically reduce on-call hours currently required of our internal medicine and surgery clinicians. Moreover, this model will allow our highly trained professionals the opportunity to focus on their specialty areas,” said Erskine. “Our goal is to implement this model without increasing costs to our clients”.

A generous anonymous donor – who understands the challenges faced by an equine emergency referral hospital – has committed $1.5 million in funding to support the majority of costs associated with the start-up of the new service for the initial three years.  It is estimated that by year four, hospital operations will fully support the service.

If this dynamic emergency service model proves successful, it may be implemented by other equine referral hospitals, thereby encouraging equine veterinarians to continue the work they love in their chosen field of expertise.

Meanwhile, Erskine will continue to help lead the exploration of how to solve the problems at a national level.

“The sub-committee is already identifying various emergency coverage models that have emerged and will be providing information to AAEP members about these models and how they may be incorporated into their practices,” Erskine said. “Some models include practice co-ops, dedicated emergency service practices, relief veterinarians, referral hospitals and emergency clinics, telemedicine, etc.”

Erskine said his subcommittee will be examining  state licensing requirements and how they affect equine veterinarians in practice.

“We also intend to engage national horse associations to seek input, explore potential solutions and help with horse owner communications regarding emergency coverage and expectations,” Erskine said.

Summary reports and presentations from each sub-committee of the commission are expected to be delivered at the 2023 AAEP Convention in San Diego, Nov. 29-Dec. 3.

Tickets on Sale April 3rd for Colonial Downs Summer Meet

Racing is back this summer in New Kent, VA. The track will be open starting on July 13th and will run Thursdays through Saturdays until September 9th. The races will start every day at 1:30PM. Tickets are available starting at 12PM on April 3rd. The track is open to all ages and parking and general admission are free. Grandstand seats starting at only $5! Come out and support Viriginia’s only thoroughbred racetrack.

Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-To-Point Recap

The Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-to-Point took place on March 25th, at the historic Salem Racecourse in Upperville, VA. The card was made up of eight races, ranging from a mile and a quarter to three and a half miles around the track. This meet is important to local fans of the sport who get to come out in the Northern Virginia area and see one of the first racing events of the year.

The story of the day was Jockey Teddy Davies winning his second Rokeby Bowl in the last two years. He won the race last year at Piedmont on Mystic Strike. He returned and won it again this year on a horse named To Be or Not to Be.

The spring PTP season continues at Ben Venue Farm in Washington, VA on April 8 (Old Dominion Hounds), the Woodley Farm in Berryville April 16 (Blue Ridge Hunt), Morven Park in Leesburg April 23 (Loudoun Hunt) and Glenwood Park in Middleburg April 30 (Middleburg Hunt).

Thanks to Douglas Lees for the Exceptional Photography!

Maiden Timber race winner The Butler Yates ridden by Freddie Procter
Piedmont Amateur and Novice Rider Timber Race winner Paddy’s Crown ridden by Teddy Davies leading second place Barrister ridden by Colin Smith
Foxhunter Timber race winner Island Nation ridden by Conor Tierney
The Lady Rider Timber race was won by Be Counted and rider Elizabeth Scully
Rokeby Challenge Bowl winner To Be or Not to Be ridden by Teddy Davies
Teddy Davies on To Be or Not to Be passing 2nd place finisher Shootist in the Rokeby Challenge Bowl
Teddy Davies won his second Rokeby Challenge Bowl in last two years on To Be or Not to Be
VHBPA flat race winner Vincent Van Gogo ridden by Freddie Procter

The Virginia Thoroughbred Association Championship Awards Presentations

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the VTA 2022 Championship Awards on Friday, May 5th! The Awards Presentations will be held at Great Meadow in The Plains, 5089 Old Tavern Road, The Plains, Virginia, in the Horsemen’s Tent on Member’s Hill, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Please RSVP no later than April 26th. To RSVP or for more information, please contact Sandy Harrington at

Spring 2023 Gold Cup May 6, 2023

Admission materials have been mailed to those who responded by the RSVP deadline. We are excited to see everyone at the 2023 Virginia Gold Cup Races on May 6, 2023. The Horsemen’s Tent is located on Member’s Hill and will be open beginning at 11:00 a.m.

For questions or more information, please contact Sandy Harrington at

Special ‘Secretariat Bourbon’ Includes Mash Made with Grain from Meadow Event Park

Originally Posted on on 3/21/23

RICHMOND, VA. — In honor of the 50th anniversary of Virginia-native Secretariat winning the Triple Crown, Virginia ABC stores will be releasing “Secretariat Reserve Straight Bourbon” from Ragged Branch Distillery in Charlottesville.

Virginia ABC will offer Secretariat Reserve Straight Bourbon from Virginia’s Ragged Branch Distillery in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Triple Crown. Photo courtesy of Virginia ABC.

The bourbon’s mash features grain grown at Meadow Event Park in Caroline County, where Secretariat was born and raised.

The bottle features custom artwork of the famed horse, who still holds the fastest time record in each of the three races — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes — that comprise the Triple Crown.

The bourbon will be released in Virginia ABC retail stores on April 22 in limited quantities. There will also be some bottles available at the Ragged Branch Distillery store in Charlottesville.

All bottles are 750ml, 100 proof and priced at $99.99.

Secretariat’s jockey during the Triple Crown races, Ron Turcotte, has autographed 187 bottles that will be offered by online lottery for retail customers. All entries received during the entry period, March 29 to 31, will have an equal opportunity to win. More details about the lottery can be found here.

Visiting the James River Horse Foundation in Goochland, VA

Newest Member of the Virginia Equine Alliance, and recent Lock Haven University graduate Aidan Turnage-Barney recently visited the James River Horse Foundation in Goochland, VA these were his thoughts.

Those of us who love horses know that there is a special magic between a girl and her horse. It’s a romantic ideal encouraged by movies like Horse Girl and National Velvet, but a recent visit to the James River Horse Foundation at the State Farm Work Center in Goochland County reminds us that the connection between a woman and a horse can be healing and redeeming.

Some of the Inmates standing with the horses they work so hard to give a happy home.

The program is dedicated to taking retired thoroughbreds and giving them a safe and happy home. This program is unique because they provide injured horses a safe refuge when they have no more opportunities on the racetrack.

The other purpose of the program is to teach the inmates at the facility the skills involved with taking care of a thoroughbred. 

Project Manager Cynthia Weldon helping an Inmate with a horse

Program Manager Cynthia (CJ) Weldon and Assistant-Warden Michael Lewis proudly offered a tour of the facility and the farm. “The participants are in the program handling, grooming, and then going on to learn how to tack and how to shoe, braid and do all kinds of things like that,” explained Walden. “The kind of skills that they can take out into the industry and potentially use.” She reports that several of the participants in the program have been released and continued on to have careers in the equine industry.

A symbol outside of the barn that represents past members of the program

Mr. Lewis spoke of how much he believes the opportunity to work with horses has been the best thing for the incarcerated women in the prison. “The quiet of the farm and the attention to detail required to take care of a horse, helps create a sense of balance for the prisoners that is not easily achieved by incarcerated individuals.”

The program was started 15 years ago for male inmates at a neighboring prison; in 2019 they moved the project to the female prison. Weldon says that, since the program was made available at the women’s prison, she is aware of only one inmate who had been in the horse program being returned to the penal system. The project is an important measure in preparing these individuals to return to normal life and to be productive and contributing members of society. 

Project Manager Cynthia (CJ) Weldon

”They walk out of here with a really rounded understanding of care that is very marketable in the industry,” said Wledon.  “They get other skills as well, responsibility, setting boundaries, taking charge, and just doing what they need to do. I think it’s a good program, the horses provide them with this opportunity to grow as individuals and to secure job skills.” 

List on the walls of all the horses that are in and have been through the program

The farm currently houses 24 thoroughbreds, almost all of which have a racing background, with a few coming from the world of show horses. The barn has three relatives of Secretariat:  Covert Action, a grandson; Multiple Choice, a Great-Grandson with $800,000 in career winnings; and Scared Guy, a Great-Great-Great Grandson who was purchased as a Yearling for $250,000 but never ran a race because of his fear of the starting gate. The 24 horses rotate and every day a different group is brought in to be groomed extensively in their stalls. The rest are fed and checked in the fields. All the horse care is provided by the inmates in the facility apart from occasional visits from the veterinarian.

One of the farms on the property

When asked if there was a favorite horse among the inmates,  Weldon responded that everyone had their own favorite, typically the one that the individuals had spent the most time working with one on one. We asked some of the inmates who their favorite was and almost all chose the horse they were currently grooming. They spoke with pride about the horses and were very excited to have the horses they had taken such good care of photographed.

A plaque dedicated to one of Secretariats relatives enrolled in the program

 In my time in the facility, I was stunned by how serene the farm felt; you can truly feel the dedication from these women towards their horses and it is clear that they have learned enough to be knowledgeable of these animals and how to take care of them at the highest level. These skills will immediately give the women an opportunity after release to go to a racetrack and get a job that often includes housing, which is a huge problem for individuals when they are first released. The James River Horse Foundation is working every day to give these horses the best life they can possibly live, and in the process are helping these women build futures brighter than those they might have faced without this program.

Virginia Thoroughbred Association Welcomes New Officers, Board Members 

Virginia Thoroughbred Association (VTA) Executive Director Debbie Easter welcomed 2023 Officers and Board members — both new ones and those whose terms had expired — at the most recent VTA Board meeting held at the Warrenton office. 

Three-year-old Forte, early favorite in the 2023 Kentucky Derby, was bred by VTA President Amy Moore (Lauren King photo).

The ’23 slate of Officers includes President Amy Moore of South Gate Farm in Millwood (breeder of early Kentucky Derby favorite Forte), Vice-President Wayne VanSant of Atoka Forge in Middleburg, Treasurer Turner Kobayashi of Audley Farm Equine in Berryville and Past-President Susan Cooney — who recently collected her 300th training win — of Cooney Racing Stables in Delaplane.

VTA Past-President Susan Cooney (left) recently chocked up her 300th training win. She is shown with jockey Victor Carrasco after winning a race at Colonial Downs last summer.

Directors represent three different regions in the Commonwealth. New Board members in the Capitol region include Donna Dennehy (Ashland) and Alan Hutchinson (Glen Allen) who join returning members Christine Applegate (Onancock) and Chris Kuhn (Providence Forge). New Board members in the Potomac Region include Wayne Chatfield-Taylor (Front Royal), Diana McClure (Berryville) and Laura Smith (Purcellville), who join returning members Janet de Teran (Boyce), Pat Ramey (Upperville) and Larry Johnson (Bluemont). The Blue Ridge district is represented by newcomers Sara Miller (Charlottesville) and Diane Manning (Keswick) who join returnees Brooke Royster (Gordonsville) and Pat Sheperd (Culpepper). 

Ms. Easter thanked outgoing Directors A. Ferris Allen III, James Arrison, Dr. Al Griffin Jr., Ellen Kill Kelly and Robin Mellen along with Past-President Gillian Gordon-Moore for their service and dedication to the VTA.