Monthly Archives: July 2023

Prominent Virginia Horse Breeder & Owner Peggy Augustus Passes Away

Peggy Augustus, a successful owner and breeder who bred Eclipse Award winners Stellar Wind (Curlin) and Johnny D. (Stage Door Johnny), passed away Sunday at her home on her Old Keswick Farm in Charlottesville, VA. She was 90. Her death was confirmed by one of her former trainers, Bill Hirsch Jr.

“She was a great lady, just one of the best,” Hirsch said. “The thing I remember most about her was that, unlike most owners, she knew how to win and she knew how to lose. A lot of them don’t know how to lose. She never skimped on anything. Whatever her horses needed, no matter the cost or the effort it took to get something to me, she got it done. Her number one priority was always her horses. She was just a fabulous lady.”

Hirsch said that Augustus was suffering from breathing problems, which were worsening, and that she told friends and family that “it is time for me to go.”

Augustus, a member of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, was born in Cleveland Ohio before moving to Virginia in 1950. Before getting involved in racing, she was an active owner, trainer and rider who competed against men and professionals and won major championships throughout the United States
and Canada, including the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden, the Devon Horse Show, the Royal Winter Fair, the Pennsylvania National and Virginia’s top four horse shows Hot Springs, Keswick, Deep Run, and Warrenton.

She is also a member of the Virginia Horse Show Hall of Fame and the National Horse Show Hall of Fame, and was a named a Living Legend of the National Horse Show in 1996. In 1997, she was elected into the Hunter Hall of Fame. In 2008, she told the website, that she had been interested in racing since she was 10 years old and started compiling statistics on horses running at the Chicago tracks.
Before she was old enough to attend a day at the track, her mother, Elizabeth, would sneak her into the races.

“You had to be 21 to get into the racetracks back then,” she told the website. “If I picked less than four winners, it was a bad day.”

As a teenager she was heavily influenced by involved in showing and briefly lost interest in racing. In 1952, the Augustus family bought Old Keswick Farm in Virginia, where Elizabeth was involved in raising
Thoroughbreds. When her father died in 1963, Peggy moved to Old Keswick and carried on the breeding business with her mother under the name Keswick Stables. According to Virginia Living, Augustus bred 48 stakes winners.

One of her first stars as a breeder was Johnny D., who was owned by Dana Bray. A foal of 1974, his biggest wins came in the 1977 GI Washington D.C. International and the 1977 Turf Classic International S. He was named champion turf male of 1977. Her next big horse as a breeder was Husband (Diesis), who she also campaigned. After racing in France, his biggest win came in the 1993 GI Rothman=s International S. at Woodbine. After his racing career was over, Husband wound up in South America. Augustus would buy him back from his new owner and let him live out his final years at Keswick.

For Augustus, Stellar Wind, who she bred along with Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, was somewhat of a last hurrah. Sold for just $40,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, the mare went on to win six Grade I races and was named champion 3-year-old filly in 2015. Stellar Wind was the last offspring of the last mare bred by Keswick Stables. Stellar Wind finished fourth in the GI Kentucky Oaks as the 3-1 favorite.

Augustus also enjoyed great success at the sales. In 1984, she sold a yearling colt by Roberto at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga to Hugh de Burgh, who was representing Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum, for $4 million. It was the second highest price for a horse sold at that sale. According to her profile on the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame website, Augustus also sold a filly at Saratoga for $2.1 million and she is the only person in the history of the Saratoga sales to have bred and sold five yearlings that went on to win more than a million dollars.

“If she was not the best small breeder in the world during the lates ‘70’s early ‘80’s she certainly was right up there,” said Debbie Easter, Executive Director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association. “She sold million-dollar yearlings every year at Saratoga. The champions and G1 runners she bred or co-bred during that time was amazing; Stellar Wind, Husband, Johnny D., Alwuhush, Sabin and Simply Majestic.

Virginia racing fans may remember Bop, also bred by Keswick Stables, who won the Punch Line Stakes at Colonial Downs three consecutive years, from 2001-2003. The son of Rahy earned $365,766, won 12 of 23 starts, and set track records at the five-furlong distance in three of them (at Penn National, Gulfstream and Colonial).

VTA Member Jack Weaver Passes Away

JULY 10, 1951 – JULY 18, 2023

Obituary – Jack Mason Weaver


Clore-English Funeral Home

Jack Mason Weaver, age 72, of Culpeper, Virginia passed away on Tuesday, July 18, 2023 at VCU Hospital in Richmond, VA. He was born July 10, 1951 to the late Jack D. And Betty Priest Weaver. He graduated from Culpeper County High School and Smithdeal-Massey College.

Jack Mason was a third generation car dealer at Dick C. Weaver & Son. He loved horse racing, UVA athletics and his many, many friends. Jack spent countless days over the years playing horses with friends at Colonial Downs. There was a Celebration of Jack’s life Tuesday, July 25, 2023 from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. at Peppers Grill, 791 Madison Road, Culpeper, VA.

Friday July 28 & Saturday July 29 Race Cards Cancelled at Colonial Downs

New Kent, Va. (July 27, 2023) — Colonial Downs, working jointly with the Virginia HBPA and Virginia Racing Commission, today announced it is cancelling the Saturday, July 29 racing program out of an abundance of caution due to excessive heat forecast. The Saturday cancellation is in addition to the previously announced cancellation of Friday’s card.

Friday races will be brought back as drawn on Wednesday, August 2, with a 1:30 p.m. ET post time. There will be an additional race date to be announced to account for Saturday’s program.

The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures in the upper 90s and heat indices ranging from 105 – 110 degrees for Friday and Saturday.

Champing at the Bit – Colonial Downs is Setting the Pace to Land Premier Track Status

The following appeared in Richmond Magazine and was written by Claire Fortier who took photos as well.

July 23, 2023

From George Washington pitting his best breed of horses against Thomas Jefferson’s to the spectacular Triple Crown victory of Doswell-born Secretariat in 1973, horse racing has a legendary history in Virginia. Now that legend is about to get a leg up.

Colonial Downs, purchased in November by Churchill Downs Incorporated, the company that runs the Kentucky Derby, is the new home for three renowned races: the Arlington Million, Beverly D and Secretariat Stakes, which took place for many years at now-shuttered Arlington Racecourse in Illinois. Scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 12, and offering purses as high as $1 million, the three stakes races will attract “some of the fastest and best horses in the country and the world,” says Mark Hubbard of McGuireWoods Consulting, whose organization was critical in lobbying the Virginia General Assembly to bring back thoroughbred racing in the commonwealth.

A trainer takes her horse on a practice run on the dirt track at Colonial Downs.

The races will highlight the biggest year yet for Colonial Downs. Two changes — moving races from the middle of the week to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and extending the racing season to a nine-week schedule — are part of a push to make Colonial Downs one of the foremost summer racetracks in the country.

Landing a stakes race is a huge leap toward that goal. There is an elaborate rating system for horse races based on a statistical analysis of the quality of the horses running and the size of the purse for winners. At the pinnacle are Grade 1 races including the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and both the Arlington Million and Beverly D. The Secretariat Stakes is a Grade 2 race, and the New Kent County Virginia Derby on Sept. 9 is a Grade 3 race. The draw of Grade 2 and 3 races is that winning horses could become contenders on the sport’s biggest stages.

“It’s very exciting for any racetrack to have a graded race,” says Frank Hopf, senior director of racing operations for Colonial Downs. “It’s even more exciting to have the opportunity for two Grade 1 races and a Grade 2 race. The big key is to make sure we are getting top-quality horses here to run.”

Finding high-quality contenders is part of Hopf’s job. Hired in March after 13 years at Sam Houston Race Park in Texas, Hopf oversees all racing operations, as well as managing relationships with equestrian groups in Virginia.

Frank Hopf, senior director of racing operations for Colonial Downs, overlooks morning works.

“Part of the excitement,” Hopf says of his new role, “was to take what has already happened here and use that to become one of the premier summer tracks in the country, on the same level as Saratoga [in New York] and Delmar [in California].”

“Frank is here to help us build,” Hubbard says. “When we started this whole project to reopen Colonial Downs, it was all about revitalizing the horse industry in Virginia. We are actually watching that happen, and the continued growth is going to further accomplish that goal.”

Originally opened in 1997, Colonial Downs stopped thoroughbred racing in 2013 due to a dispute between track management and equestrian groups over the length of the racing season and proceeds from track betting. In 2018, the General Assembly enacted a law allowing historic racing machines (similar to slot machines) at the track and at off-track betting parlors. That fostered the economic viability to reopen the track. A Chicago-based partnership bought the track and on Aug. 8, 2019, held the first race in six years. Last fall, Churchill Downs purchased Colonial Downs and all of its gaming assets.

For Karen Dennehy Godsey, that’s great news. “This is our home track,” she says, sitting astride her pinto, Tonka, and watching an early morning exercise session on the track. “It’s the best turf track in the country and one of the best dirt courses as well. My horses do very well on it.”

Training young horses means getting them used to the starting gate.

Godsey, with her mother, Donna Gilman Dennehy, owns and operates Eagle Point Farm, a 200-acre thoroughbred training center in Ashland started in 1947 by her grandfather, T. Edward Gilman. Mother and daughter have extensive experience training racehorses, as well as advocating for Virginia-bred horses.

“I love it when a local homebred comes down here and does well,” Godsey says of Colonial Downs. “I have a couple of homebreds with generational history — horses that have run here, and now I have their foals running here. A lot of my clients love running their horses here as well. I had one client with a really nice filly who we wanted to take to a race on another track, but she declined. She said she loves this meet and wants to save her horses for it.”

Another goal at Colonial Downs is to broaden the appeal of horse racing to the public. “Horse racing is a niche sport,” Hubbard says. “What you have out here is a mixed audience of real horse-racing lovers who are here for the sport and those folks who pick their horses based on the color [the jockeys] are wearing or if the horse has an interesting name.”

With a new food concessionaire and more fun activities on Saturdays, Colonial Downs is trying to appeal to the whole family. “My goal is to have the guest experience be as good as it can be,” Hubbard says. “This is a great way to spend an afternoon and do something different. It’s a blast.”

Colonial Downs to Host Biggest Day in Virginia Horse Racing History on Sat. August 12

The biggest day in Virginia horse racing history is set for Saturday August 12 at Colonial Downs! The first ever “Festival of Racing” program will feature three prestigious turf stakes races that previously had been run at Arlington International Racecourse for decades — the Grade 1 Arlington Million ($1 million purse), Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes ($500,000 purse) and Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes ($500,000 purse). 

Colonial Downs will host its first ever “Festival of Racing” program that features three graded stakes,

The first Arlington Million took place in 1981 and was the first thoroughbred race to ever offer a purse of $1 million. The Million, which received Grade 1 status in 1983, was geared to attract European horses before their year-end championship events in fall. The race annually attracts the best grass runners in the world. The only two-time Million winner is the great John Henry who won it in 1981 and 1984. In its 40th running this year, it will be contested at 1-1/4 miles.

Colonial’s Secretariat Turf Course will be showcased on August 12.

The first Beverly D Stakes was run in 1987 and is for fillies and mares, three years of age and up. The stakes reached Grade 1 status in 1991. The 2023 Beverly D Stakes is a “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win & You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf — the winner automatically advances to the “Cup” Championships at Santa Anita this November. Seven Beverly D winners have gone on to be voted American Championship Female Turf Horse. The stakes will be contested at 1-3/16th miles.

The Secretariat Stakes is named for who many consider to be the greatest racehorse ever. Secretariat was born, raised and trained at The Meadow Farm in Caroline County — where the State Fair of Virginia is currently held. “Big Red” was the 9th Triple Crown winner in 1973, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in record setting times that still stand today. The stakes named in his honor started in 1974 and is for three-year-old turf horses at the one-mile distance. Interestingly, two former Virginia Derby winners have won the Secretariat Stakes — Kitten’s Joy in 2004 and Paddy O’Prado in 2010.

Kate Tweedy will present the Secretariat Stakes trophy.

The spectacular Secretariat “Racing Into History” bronze statue will be at Colonial Downs for fans to enjoy on “Festival of Racing” Day. The breathtaking piece was sculpted by acclaimed artist Jocelyn Russell, who has trailered it to stops around the country this year including extended visits at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, Pimlico Racecourse for the Preakness and Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes. The statue, which will be permanently based in Ashland if fundraising goals are met, is 1.5 times Secretariat’s actual size and showcases him racing full stride with jockey Ron Turcotte aboard.     

The Secretariat “Racing Into History” statue was on display at the Shenandoah Downs harness track in May.

Reserved seats are going fast for the “Festival of Racing” event. Fans should note that there is a $25 general admission fee that day — but a 60% discount is available by using the promo code MILLION at — so tickets will be $10! This offer expires at midnight on August 10. General admission tickets will be $25 after that time. Tickets must be purchased in advance and kids 12 & under receive general admission for free!  

Determined Kingdom Impresses Again in July 15 Punch Line Stakes at Colonial Downs

Four Virginia-Bred Stakes Highlight Opening Week Action on Saturday

D. Hatman Thoroughbreds and Kingdom Bloodstock ‘s Determined Kingdom authored a convincing gate-to-wire victory under Mychel Sanchez in the 5-1/2 furlong, $125,000 Punch Line Stakes Saturday at Colonial Downs — one of four turf stakes on the card for Commonwealth-bred and sired horses with purses that totaled $500,000.

Jockey Mychel Sanchez led Determined Kingdom to a second straight Punch Line victory (Coady Photography).

The 4-year-old Animal Kingdom gelding won his fifth career race and pushed his bankroll to $325,189 with the win. The Phil Schoenthal trainee won the 2022 Punch Line by 5-½ lengths in a rallying effort and captured Saturday’s edition by 5-1/4 lengths on the front end. 

“He’s always been the kind of horse that relaxed off the pace and came on with a rush,” said Schoenthal, “But in the last two starts, he was very keen and showed a lot of speed and didn’t have his relaxing kind of run. We cut blinkers way back today and felt like that might slow him and relax him but I told Mychel in the paddock that if he wants to go, don’t fight him. He came out of there running. Mychel had a ton of horse, put him in place and put the field away.” 

Determined Kingdom was bred by Audley Farm Equine, LLC (Coady Photography)

Schoenthal targeted this race early in the year. Coming off an eight-month layoff, Determined Kingdom had two late spring starts in Maryland that resulted in sixth and seventh place finishes. 

“He needed a couple starts off the layoff,” Schoenthal said. “I didn’t have him totally cranked up at Pimlico and thought he would run better at Laurel but didn’t feel too bad because the winner in that race set a new track record. It was improvement and I felt that in his third start off the bench, he would improve again. I’m real proud of him. We got him as a yearling and he’s been a lot of fun. It’s really rewarding when he shows up on a big day.”

Determined Kingdom’s winning connections receive a trophy from former VTA President Robin Richards (Coady Photography).

Larry Johnson’s Embolden was second and David Lengel’s Uncle Andrew finished third.

Sam English’s Chambeau defended her 2022 Tyson Gilpin/Glenn Petty Stakes title by defeating seven other fillies and mares Saturday in this year’s edition. The 6-year-old Karakontie mare was ridden by Colonial’s all-time leading jockey Horacio Karamanos — who had two stakes victories on the card — and left the winners circle with a career bankroll of $200,300. Chambeau was positioned second through the half, took the lead at the top of the stretch and crossed 3¾ lengths the best. The Anthony Aguirre trainee — who did not start competing until the age of five — is now 3-for-6.

Chambeau is owned and bred by Sam English II (Coady Photography)

Robert D. Bone and Edward Brown’s Carolina Sun finished second and Stonestreet Stables’ Aisha R N was third.

Country Life Farm’s Galilei angled three-wide from third at the top of the stretch, passed two front runners and hit the wire first, three-quarter lengths the best, in the $125,000 Brookmeade for fillies and mares at 1-1/16th miles. The 4-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid had her best outing since a maiden breaking turf win at Colonial last summer. Karamanos was in the irons for trainer Michael Trombetta.    

Horacio Karamanos leads Galilei to a close victory over Tufani in the Brookmeade Stakes. The winner was bred by Audley Farm Equine (Coady Photography).

Susan Moulton’s Tufani was runner-up and Larry Johnson’s Continentalcongress finished third.

Six-year-old Flatter gelding Alex Joon, who finished second in last year’s Edward P. Evans Stakes, took a step forward in Saturday’s Evans with a three-length victory over Reiley McDonald’s Passion Play. A field of nine battled one mile in the stake’s fifth running and after an inside move from deep in the field early on, trainer Lindsay Schultz’s Virginia-bred crossed first with Forest Boyce up top. The victor is owned by Ten Strike Racing. Iapetus Racing and Diamond T racing’s Gigante was third.

Alex Joon was bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm and ridden by Forest Boyce (Coady Photography).

Colonial Downs Opening Weekend Comes with Bigger Prizes, New Race Days

The following appeared at July 14 and was written by Savannah Reger. The Colonial Downs summer racing season continues through September 9 with cards scheduled every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 1:30 PM

There’s a taste of the Kentucky Derby in New Kent County this year.

Bought by Louisville, Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc. in 2022, Colonial Downs track opened for the season Thursday and is set for nine weeks of horse racing. It’s the biggest year yet for the track, with three major races to be held: the Arlington Million, the Beverly D. Stakes and the Secretariat Stakes.

Usually these were held at Arlington Park in suburban Chicago, but that track has been sold.

In addition, the Beverly D. Stakes is a part of the Breeder’s Cup Challenge Series, earning the winner an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in November.

Jevian Toledo rides Mint Game in the second race of opening day at Colonial Downs on Thursday.Mike Kropf, TIMES-DISPATCH

Then, there’s the larger purses.

Frank Petramalo, the executive director of the Warrenton-based Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said purses have grown exponentially over the past few years. The VHBPA represents owners and trainers who are licensed to race, and helps negotiate terms for them with the racetracks, Petramalo said.

So, with higher purses and more high-profile events taking place at the track, it has only increased Colonial Downs’ marquee value in the sport, he said.

“We hope to continue to grow,” he said.

So why did the purses go up?

“What really spurred expansion are those historical horse racing machines,” Petramalo said. “The purse money was generated by year-round wagering at off-track betting parlors. Online wagering has been growing over the years … so, our revenue came from that wagering as well as the off-track betting parlors.”

Horses compete in the second race of opening day at Colonial Downs on Thursday. Mike Kropf, TIMES-DISPATCH

Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums were legalized in Virginia and opened a few years ago. Since then, a percentage of money goes toward purses. Now, Petramalo estimates that there could be up to 2,700 machines. By 2025, there could be around 5,000 machines.

27 days of racing in 2023

The shift comes as the horse racing industry faces continued financial pressure. Numerous tracks — from Hazel Park Raceway in suburban Detroit to Suffolk Downs near Boston — have shuttered over the past decade. Additionally, the industry has been marred by multiple horse deaths at such places as the iconic Santa Anita Park outside Los Angeles and at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Colonial Downs opened in September 1997 on a parcel just off Interstate 64. Today, the once-rural area has seen an explosion of development, including new homes and businesses.

This year, there will be 27 days of horse racing. Petramalo said the goal is to ultimately reach 50 days because with every 100 machines, Colonial Downs has to have one day of racing.

With all the investment money that goes into owning a horse and training the horse, Petramalo said, venues with larger purses are attractive because it gives bettors a chance to make some money back, break even or even get ahead.

“The purses are your source of revenue if you win,” Petramalo said. “The high-publicity horses, you know, like the ones in the Kentucky Derby, they’re at the top. The rest of the horses kind of form the rest of the pyramid where they’re kind of the blue-collar workers.”

Mike Tomlinson, a horse trainer from Kentucky, is racing at Colonial Downs this year for the third time. Originally from Oklahoma, Tomlinson moved to Kentucky because it is where horse racing is solid and year-round.

Tomlinson has watched Colonial Downs grow more and more through his three years. He said he understands why the sport is dependent on money from bets, but it worries him to an extent.

Addison Wallace, 12, reaches out toward a horse on opening day at Colonial Downs on Thursday. Mike Kropf, TIMES-DISPATCH

“It’s a bit scary to me,” Tomlinson said. “It’s just going to keep growing. This is going to be the new home to the Arlington Million, which is a worldwide international race. So, you’re going to have people from all over the world run here. It’s going to be interesting to see how it progresses with the addition of more casinos.”

In addition to the bigger name races and purses this year, the race days are changing. Previously, race days were Monday-Wednesday, when it would have less competition against other tracks and be able to pull in more money, and then the weekends were reserved for more fan activities.

This year, races are Thursday-Saturday, all starting at 1:30 p.m. Tomlinson said Churchill Downs made the decision based on research. To him, it does not matter what three days his horses race.

Petramalo said he has mixed emotions about the change in race days, from a business and fan perspective. He is happy that the new race days are more convenient for fans even if Colonial Downs generated more money during the Monday-Wednesday stretch because they had the market to themselves.

“On Friday and Saturday, we’re competing with our friends in Maryland at Laurel but also competing with the big dogs in Monmouth, New Jersey, and Saratoga, New York,” Petramalo said. “Those are popular betting venues. When we were running on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, our daily average of wagering on our races was a little over a million dollars. Last year when we were running Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it was way over 2 million.”

‘We need to build the love of the horse’

Leanne Hester, a trainer at Colonial Downs who is from Virginia, is a fan of moving the race days. Hester, an advocate of taking children to the track, described racing as family-friendly.

“I’ve been here since the first year I had my kids and we were watching races,” Hester said. “It’s not just betting.”

Hester added that while betting is historic, it’s not what the races should be completely about. She said she understands its purpose and it’s not something to shy away from.

“[My family] and I were going to bet on some of the races,” Hester said. “We all picked our own horse, somebody behind me said, ‘You shouldn’t have kids at a racetrack like this.’ And I’ll never forget that because I’m like that should never be the perception. This is a family thing, you know, for all of us.”

The changes will be on display for the next nine weeks at Colonial Downs, including what is on track to be the biggest day in Virginia horse racing history Aug. 12, when the three big racing events mentioned earlier run.

“I’m a huge promoter to the public,” Hester said. “I want people to love racing, to love horses. It’s not all about sitting in front of a TV or a machine. We need to build the love of the horse.”

2023 Edward P. Evans Stakes at a Glance – To Be Contested Sat. July 15 at Colonial Downs

July 13th, 2023 BYMike Curry

Colonial Downs Edward P. Evans Stakes turf horse racing Virginia gambling handicapping Gigante Steve Asmussen Alex Joon E. P. Milton Reconvene Virginia-bred

Horses race on Colonial Downs’ lush turf course during the 2022 meet. (Coady Photography)

The 2023 meet at Colonial Downs began July 13 and the New Kent, Va. racetrack traditionally offers some of the best turf racing in the country. The action heats up quickly as Colonial’s Saturday (July 15) card features four turf stakes races, each with a purse of $125,000, for Virginia-bred or Virginia-sired runners.

The Tyson Gilpin/Petty Stakes and the Punch Line Stakes both are 5 ½-furlong turf sprints that drew eight and 10 runners, respectively. The former is for fillies and mares 3-years old and older while the latter is open to all Virginia-bred or sired 3-year-olds and older. The card also features the Brookmeade Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares and the one-mile Edward P. Evans Stakes, which drew a competitive field of 10 and is the focus here.


Racetrack: Colonial Downs, New Kent, Va.

Date: July 15

Purse: $125,000

Distance: 1 mile on turf

Race: 7

Post time: 4:40 p.m. ET

1. E. P. Milton (30-1 morning-line odds): Ran in the aforementioned Punch Line Stakes last July and finished seventh at 69.50-1 odds, but E. P. Milton enters off a sharp win going seven-eighths of a mile June 6 at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort that earned a career-top 88 Equibase Speed Figure. Adding 2022 leading Colonial Downs jockey Jevian Toledo gives him some appeal as a longshot.

Jockey: Jevian ToledoTrainer: Susan Cooney

2. Southpaw Mike (30-1): As a lifelong baseball fan named Mike, I wanted to like this 3-year-old gelding, but he’s 2-for-10 lifetime and has been beaten by 4 1/4 lengths or more in last three races. Looks outclassed against this bunch.

Jockey: Antonio GallardoTrainer: Susan Cooney

3. Spritzer (30-1): He’s been sprinting on the main track and enters off back-to-back third place finishes, but Spritzer has not finished in the top three in eight previous tries on the grass. With rain in the forecast, he would be helped if this race came off the turf.

Jockey: Jesus CastanonTrainer: Leanne Hester

4. Hay Chief (30-1): Rallied from well back to finish second and third, respectively, in his previous two starts at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Laurel Park. Tough to endorse as win candidate, however, with no wins in five career starts, all at the maiden claiming level. A fast pace would improve his chances to close for a minor award, and he ran well when second on a sloppy track in his second race if this stakes is washed off the turf.

Jockey: Yan Aviles; Trainer: Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon

5. Reconvene (30-1): Has found trouble in three of his last four races and is winless in last 16 starts dating back to an allowance win in August 2020 at Monmouth Park. Reconvene has closed for third in a pair of stakes races during the winless stretch and would really benefit from a fast early pace and some moisture in the turf (his best races have come on softer ground). Jockey-trainer tandem has clicked at 39% with a sparkling return on investment.

Jockey: Mychel SanchezTrainer: James L. Lawrence II

Gigante (Coady Photography)

6. Passion Play (4-1): He won this race in 2021 and faded to fifth last year in the Edward P. Evans (following a layoff of over a year) after setting the pace. The 7-year-old Hold Me Back gelding is a win candidate at his best, but there is reason for concern that he might need a race to reclaim his top form as this is his first start in eight months. Trainer Mary Eppler wins at a 20% rate off a layoff of 180 days or longer.

Jockey: Horacio KaramanosTrainer: Mary Eppler

7. Kendama (8-1): Finished third last year in this race and ran third in another turf stakes later in the 2022 Colonial meet at 1 1/16 miles. Took a nice step forward in his second start of 2023 when winning a 1 1/8-mile turf race June 11 at Laurel Park. Should be a nice price and could outrun his odds.

Jockey: Jeiron BarbosaTrainer: Madison Meyers

8. Buddy Buddy (15-1): His stock is on the rise after back-to-back wins at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. In fact, he’s finished in the top three in all four starts in 2023, but all of those starts came in dirt sprints and he’s unplaced in three tries on grass. He is another who could benefit greatly if rain washed this stakes off the turf onto the main track.

Jockey: Fredy Peltroche; Trainer: Tim Collins

9. Gigante (9-5): The probable favorite. He’s a winner on turf and dirt for a Hall of Fame trainer and scored two starts back in May in the Caesars Handicap at this one-mile distance on the turf at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Gigante also has a victory on this turf course last year as a 2-year-old when he romped by 6 ¾ lengths in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Kitten’s Joy Stakes.

Jockey: Adam BeschizzaTrainer: Steve Asmussen

10. Alex Joon (3-2): Enters off a third-place finish in an allowance race going 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland on turf rated as good, so the 6-year-old Flatter gelding might appreciate if rain softens the ground a bit. Finished second in this race last year and has a chance to improve upon that in this edition. A win candidate.

Jockey: Forest BoyceTrainer: Lindsay Schultz

THE PICK: Gigante

LIVE LONGSHOTS: E. P. Milton/Reconvene

SUPERFECTA: 9-6-10-1

Four-Pack of Virginia-Bred Stakes Highlights Colonial Downs Racing Action Saturday July 15 

The top three finishers in the 2022 Punch Line Stakes will renew their rivalry Saturday (July 15) in the 2023 edition as Colonial Downs culminates its opening week action with four Virginia-Bred Stakes. The turf quartet, which also includes the Edward P. Evans, Tyson Gilpin/Glenn Petty and Brookmeade Stakes, will each feature a $125,000 purse.  

D Hatman Thoroughbreds and Kingdom Bloodstock’s Determined Kingdom prevailed by a convincing 5 ½ lengths in last year’s Punch Line. The 4-year-old Animal Kingdom gelding, who was best in the 2021 Jamestown Stakes, has earned $250,189 from 15 outings and will be ridden by Mychel Sanchez. Larry Johnson’s Embolden, Punch Line runner-up, is a Michael Trombetta trainee with a robust $342,641 bankroll. Colonial’s all-time leading rider Horacio Karamanos has the mount. K Ed & Susie Orr’s Boldor finished third in the Punch Line but did win the Meadow Stable Stakes last summer. The Steve Asmussen trainee, best in the 2021 Punch Line, boasts a bankroll of $562,183. 

Determined Kingdom won the 2022 Punch Line Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

Lapetus Racing & Diamond T Racing’s Gigante heads a field of ten 3-year-old and up horses in the one-mile Evans. The 3-year-old Not This Time colt captured the $125,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes along with a maiden special weight last year in New Kent. The Steve Asmussen trainee, 3-for-7 with $262,900 in earnings, will be ridden by Adam Beschizza. Last year’s second and third place finishers are both in to go. Ten Strike Racing’s Alex Joon — who finished one-half length behind the victorious Largent last year — has bankrolled $232,399. The 6-year-old Flatter gelding won a turf allowance at Colonial one month after the Evans. Kendama took third in both the Evans and Bert Allen Stakes and sandwiched a second between the pair in a New Kent turf allowance. The two will be ridden by Forest Boyce and ​Jeiron Barbosa respectively. Reiley McDonald’s 7-year-old Hold Me Back gelding Passion Play, who won the 2021 Evans, is in the field as well. 

Gigante captured the 2022 Kitten’s Joy Stakes — featured race on the Virginia Derby undercard (Coady Photography).

2022 M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes winner Chambeau heads a field of seven in the 2023 edition slated for fillies and mares three and up at 5 ½ furlongs. Owned and bred by Sam English II, the lightly raced 6-year-old Karakontie mare has made just five life starts — all last year — and will get the services of Karamanos up top Saturday.  Robert D. Bone and Edward J. Brown Jr.’s Carolina Sun was second in last year’s Gilpin and also had a pair of other top three finishes at Colonial last summer. Stonestreet Stables’ Aisha R N, an Asmussen trainee, is fresh off a turf allowance triumph at Lone Star May 11. This year’s stakes has been renamed to include former VTA Executive Director Glenn Petty in the title. 

Chambeau prevailed in the ’22 M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes. The event has been renamed the Tyson Gilpin/Glenn Petty Stakes for 2023 (Coady Photography)

The Brookmeade Stakes, for fillies and mares three and up at 1 1/16th miles, attracted a field of seven led by Morgan’s Ford Farm’s Surya, who collected maiden special weight and allowance turf wins in New Kent last summer. The 4-year-old daughter of Street Sense is trained by Brittany Russell and will be ridden by Forest Boyce. 

Post time Saturday is 1:30 PM. Colonial Downs continues its 9-week summer racing season through September 9 racing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 1:30 PM.

New Owner, New Amenities & High Stakes Races This Year at Colonial Downs

Colonial Downs® 2023 Racing Season Starts Thursday, July 13

NEW KENT, Va. (July 10, 2023) – The iconic Churchill Downs is bringing live racing back to Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent County. Weekend racing returns with top Thoroughbred horses from around the country every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with post time at 1:30 p.m. Also new this year are three high level stakes races at Colonial Downs showcased as part of the new Colonial Downs Festival of Racing card on Saturday August 12 featuring the prestigious Arlington Million, Beverly D. and Secretariat Stakes. It is expected to be the biggest day in Virginia horse racing history. Premium tickets, full racing schedule and information are available at

Colonial’s turf course and dirt track are ready to host horse races beginning July 13.

Family activities and entertainment will be offered trackside every Saturday with a new family friendly zone. Each Saturday will feature a rotation of activities including a petting zoo, face painters, a bounce house and more. Additionally, there will be five premium giveaway days. Baseball Caps will be distributed Opening Day, Thursday, July 13 followed by Plush Horses Friday, July 28, T-Shirts on Friday, August 11, Clear Stadium Bags on Friday, August 28 and Water Bottles on Friday, September 1.

The box seating area at Colonial Downs is a perfect way to enjoy the races.

Additionally, Colonial Downs is partnering with a new food and experience provider, Oak View Group (OVG), this season. Highlights include an outdoor Grab & Go marketplace concept with vendors including: The Sausage Guy (sausage, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders and fries), CM Concessions (freshly squeezed lemonade, cotton candy, fresh popcorn), Shake It Up (Milkshakes, etc.) and Bavarian Pretzels. The Jockey Club restaurant has a new Chef’s Table buffet menu and the 1609 Club will feature a bistro-style menu.

New Racing Secretary Stan Shina prepared for his first draw on Monday July 10.

“It’s an exciting time for Colonial Downs and New Kent County in 2023,” said Frank Hopf, Senior Director of Racing Operations. “The goal is to provide our guests a terrific experience and with the return of weekend racing, world class stakes races and new amenities, we are on the right path this season.”

Ken Gaber, President, OVG Hospitality commented, “We are thrilled to join forces with Churchill Downs Inc. to increase our presence in horse racing and take the fan experience at Colonial Downs to new heights. We believe fans deserve the very best, from food service offerings to efficient and quality service, and are pleased to welcome Colonial Downs into the OVG Hospitality family. We can’t wait to get started.”

A full barn area is expected for the 2023 summer race season.

About Colonial Downs

Colonial Downs Racetrack, in New Kent, Virginia, hosts live thoroughbred racing on two nationally renowned surfaces – the Secretariat Turf Course, the widest turf course in North America at 180 feet wide and on a 1 1/4-mile dirt track, second in length to only the world-famous Belmont Park.

The Colonial Downs Group, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums® in Richmond, Hampton, New Kent, Vinton, and Dumfries which offer innovative historic horseracing (HHR) gaming technology and full card simulcasting as well as Rosie’s Game Room in Collinsville, which features a limited selection of some of their best HHR titles plus full card simulcasting. The 2023 live racing season, which consists of 27 days from July 13 through September 9, is highlighted by the Grade 1 Arlington Million, Grade 1 Beverly D. and Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes on August 12 and the Grade 3 New Kent County Virginia Derby on September 9. The Beverly D. is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” race.

Fans can purchase beverages at the new trackside tent without missing any action.

About OVG360 

OVG360, a division of Oak View Group, is a full-service venue management and hospitality company that helps client-partners reimagine the sports, live entertainment, and convention industries for the betterment of the venue, employees, artists, athletes, and surrounding communities. With a portfolio of more than 240 client-partners spanning arenas, stadiums, convention centers, performing arts centers, cultural institutions, and state fairs around the globe, OVG360 provides a set of services, resources and expertise designed to elevate every aspect of business that matters to venue operators. Service-oriented and driven by social responsibility, OVG360 helps facilities drive value through excellence and innovation in food services, booking and content development, sustainable operations, public health, public safety and more.