Monthly Archives: May 2024

Chris Gracie of Gracie Bloodstock Breeds Success in Middleburg, VA

Chris Gracie, a Pennsylvanian who grew up riding in Kennett Square and is now owner of Gracie Bloodstock, came into the racing industry as an amateur steeplechase rider. He amassed many accolades in the sport such as being the youngest rider in history to win the Maryland Hunt Cup in 2003 on Swayo. He won that race again in 2006 aboard Bug River. But at 6’4 he always knew he was going to be too tall to continue riding competitively and committed himself to his studies at the University of Kentucky, earning a degree in Business Management. He used those skills as he transitioned to the breeding industry. Chris did everything, working with stallions, preparing yearlings, working on consignments, and at breeding farms. After spending time in Kentucky learning the trade, he set out to start his own business.

 About 3 years ago Chris took over Locust Hill Farm in Middleburg, VA. The historic property was previously owned by longtime Virginia horsewoman and member of the Virginia Steeplechase Association Hall of Fame Magalen (Maggie) Ohrstrom Bryant. She was known for breeding excellent steeplechase and flat horses, and she campaigned V.E. Day, winner of the 2014 Travers Stakes (Gr. I) at Saratoga. Her Virginia-bred Deputy Fling won at Colonial Downs in the 2011 Bert Allen Stakes. Two of her steeplechase horses, Plated and Gustavian, found success at Great Meadow. Her Personal Start captured the Grade 2 David Semmes Memorial Stakes at the 2018 Virginia Gold Cup meet.

Chris fell in love with the Middleburg area and is excited about his adopted home’s lucrative equine breeding programs, specifically the Virginia-certified and Virginia-bred programs. “We have been foaling a ton of mares now because the program has gotten so good.”  He has seen an increase in the number of people who want to bring down mares to the state. “I think myself and my clients are making a big investment in Virginia-Breds due to the trajectory of the program.” He continued “outside of Kentucky this is the best breeding program in the country, especially for people who breed commercially, it has a lot of upside.”

Solid evidence supports Chris’ enthusiasm about the Virginia-Certified Residency Program. More than 5,000 horses have been enrolled since the project’s inception in 2017. A recent study commissioned by the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) shows the Virginia-Certified Residency Program generated an estimated economic impact of $86.2 million between 2017 and 2023.

Chris is projecting to have 35 foals this season, a number he believes is just the right amount for his operation. “We have people ship horses in, I have a bunch of my mares, and I have some with partners. We are looking forward to having some Virginia-Breds.”

The horses that have been foaled or certified at Gracie Bloodstock have been tearing it up on the racetracks across North America.  Book’em Danno was the New Jersey horse of the year with 4 wins and 2 seconds in his 6 career starts, notably winning the Black-type Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and the Futurity Stakes at the Belmont at the Big A meet. He recently finished second in the Grade 3 Boutique group Saudi Derby Stakes, pushing his lifetime earnings to $560,625.

Carmelina, who was just named 2023 Virginia-Certified Filly Champion by the Virginia Thoroughbred Association (VTA,) was also certified by Chris. She has had 8 starts in her career, including four wins and a second. She won the Black-type Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel Park, the Black-Type Shamrock Rose Stakes at Penn National, and the Keswick Stakes at Colonial Downs. She has earned $263,300 in her time on the track.

Despite all these major successes outside of Virginia, Chris still has a sweet spot for Colonial Downs and looks forward to bringing his horses down to race at his adopted track. “The racing at Colonial is getting better all the time!”

2023 VTA Awards Friday, May 3, 2024

2023 was another successful year of Virginia racing and on May 3rd we celebrated our champion Virginia bred and certified horses! It was a beautiful evening under the tent at Great Meadow, which was filled with the owners, breeders, and fans of our Virginia horses. Gigante and his breeder, Ann Backer of Smitten Farm, took the evening’s top honors for 2023 Virginia bred Horse of the Year, champion Three-Year-Old colt and Co-breeder of the year.

Hannah Jones Photography
Ann Backer with Wayne Chatfield-Taylor. Photo by Hannah Jones Photography

Breeder of three Virginia champions in 2023, Audley Farm, also accepted plenty of silver during the evening. Audley accepted honors as Co-breeder of the year along with trophies for Virginia bred two-year-old, older mare and turf sprinter champions.

Hannah Jones Photography

Audley Farm crew taking advantage of the nice view. Hannah Jones Photography

Please enjoy our gallery of photos celebrating all our 2023 champions!

LOW MILEAGE: 2023 Virginia-Bred Two-Year-Old Champion

Bred by Audley Farm Equine, LLC; Owned by Bird and Grady, LLC

Photo by Coady Photography
Photo by Coady Photography

TUFANI: 2023 Virginia-Bred Three-Year-Old Filly Champion

Bred by Chance Farm and Distorted Humor Syndicate; Owned by Susan Moulton

Photo by Jim McCue Photo
Photo by Jim McCue Photo

GIGANTE: 2023 Virginia-Bred Three-Year-Old Colt Champion & Virginia-Bred Horse of the Year

Bred by Ann Mudge Backer & Smitten Farm; Owned by Diamond T Racing and Iapetus Racing, LLC

Photo by Coady Photography
Photo by Coady Photography

GALILIEI: 2023 Virginia-Bred Older Mare Champion

Bred by Audley Farm Equine, LLC; Owned by Country Life Farm

Photo by Coady Photography
Photo by Coady Photography

REPO ROCKS: 2023 Virginia-Bred Older Horse Champion

Bred by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III; Owned by Double B Racing Stables

Photo by Susie Raisher Photo
Photo by Susie Raisher Photo

DETERMINED KINGDOM: 2023 Virginia-Bred Colt Turf Sprinter Champion

Bred by Audley Farm Equine, LLC; Owned by D Hatman Thoroughbreds and Kingdom Bloodstock

Photo by Coady Photography
Photo by Coady Photography

CHAMBEAU: 2023 Virginia-Bred Filly Turf Sprinter Champion

Bred and owned by Sam E. English III

Photo by Coady Photography
Photo by Coady Photography

CARMELINA: 2023 Virginia-Certified Filly Champion

Developed by Cash is King, LLC and LC Racing, LLC

Photo by Coady Photography
Photo by Coady Photography

WOLFIE’S DYNAGHOST: 2023 Virginia-Certified Colt Champion

Developed by Woodslane Farm

Photo by Coady Photography
Photo by Coady Photography

KANT HURRY LOVE: 2023 Virginia-Owned Champion

Owned by Ken Wheeler Jr

Photo by Susie Raisher Photo

Photo by Susie Raisher Photo

ANN BACKER & SMITTEN FARM: 2023 Co-Breeder of the Year

AUDLEY FARM EQUINE, LLC: 2023 Co-Breeder of the Year

NEIL MORRIS: 2023 Virginia-Based Trainer of the Year

All photos provided by Hannah Jones Photography

Hannah Jones Photography
Awards for 2023 Horse of the Year, Virginia based Trainer of the Year, and our Co-Breeders of the Year
Hannah Jones Photography
Awards for our 2023 Champions
Hannah Jones Photography
Virginia owners, breeders and fans watching the 150th running of the Kentucky Oaks
Hannah Jones Photography
Great Meadow

Virginia Gold Cup Highlights from May 4 Steeplechase Races at Great Meadow

Bad weather played a role in the weekend’s action, which was punctuated by rain, clouds and cool temperatures. Yet, the dreary conditions didn’t stop fans from turning out in large numbers at both the Virginia Gold Cup Races on Saturday in The Plains and Winterthur Point-to-Point outside of Wilmington, Del.

Rampoldi wins the Grade 1 Commonwealth Cup at Great Meadow on May 4th with Jamie Bargary up. This was the first Grade 1 stakes held during a Gold Cup program (Douglas Lees photo)

Nine races were on tap at Great Meadow Race Course in Virginia, highlighted by the inaugural Grade 1 $150,000 Commonwealth Cup, a handicap hurdle at 2 1/8 miles, along with the historic $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup at 4 miles, one of the most prestigious timber stakes in America. The results of the Commonwealth Cup shone a bright light on one of the sport’s rising stars and the Gold Cup celebrated yet another remarkable milestone in the incredible career of a remarkable warrior.

Terrier races kicked off festivities at Great Meadow (Douglas Lees).

There were standout performances on the human side, too. Leading NSA trainer Leslie Young had another big weekend with a combined five winners (four over jumps). Besides taking the Commonwealth Cup, Young scored with Silverton Hill’s Kelmscott in a maiden special weights hurdle and Runnymoore Racing’s Clifton Down in the Speedy Smithwick stakes at Gold Cup, and Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Fast Vision in the Winterthur Bowl allowance and Potter Group USA and Ashwell Stable’s Right Tempo in the Middletown Cup training flat contest (that doesn’t count in the standings). The wins gave the NSA’s leading trainer the past two seasons, 15 for the spring, nine more than Jack Fisher. She also has a commanding lead of more than $220,000 in earnings over the Hall of Fame conditioner.

Jockeys Bernie Dalton, Jamie Bargary, and Stephen Mulqueen also doubled at Gold Cup, while Freddie Procter doubled at Winterthur. Keri Brion had a training double at Gold Cup.

Rider Jamie Bargary & trainer Leslie Young celebrate after Rampoldi’s Grade 1 stakes win (Douglas Lees photo).

Rampoldi Plan romps in Commonwealth Cup

Coming into the race, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Rampoldi Plan had made five NSA starts after a career in England, breaking his maiden and finishing second in an allowance appearance. In the Commonwealth Cup, the five-year-old Florida-bred son of Hard Spun stalked pacesetter West Newton, took charge on the final turn, and had the lead with two fences to go. At the wire, he was two lengths clear of hard-charging Welshman, who closed stoutly from seventh. 2023 novice champion L’Imperator was third.  The winner was sent off at 13-1 at the meet, which once again offered pari-mutuel wagering. For jockey Jamie Bargary, it was his first Grade 1 score.

Schoodic scored his second Virginia Gold Cup win May 4th. The 14-year-old has also won two International Gold Cups at Great Meadow fall meets (Douglas Lees photo).

Schoodic is spectacular, again, in Gold Cup

Dolly Fisher’s 14-year-old, ridden by Graham Watters and trained by Jack Fisher, captured his fourth straight stake with a blockbuster victory over a tough Awesome Adrian in the Virginia Gold Cup stakes. The 2023 timber champion, who won his first start of the season at Middleburg two weeks ago, showed his competitive fire hasn’t diminished one bit. The ageless star and 2-1 betting choice closely stalked Bogey’s image (Teddy Davies) and overtook Nancy Reed’s Awesome Adrian, who rallied from last to take the top spot with two fences remaining, collaring the leader in deep stretch to score by 2 lengths. Bogey’s Image was far back in third.

Connections for Schoodic celebrate in the winners circle (Douglas Lees photo).

For the winner it continued a remarkable skein of 10 consecutive top-three finishes dating back three years. Overall, it was his 17th career win and elevated his bankroll to $634,606. It was also his second Virginia Gold Cup victory. In addition, Schoodic owns two wins in the race’s fall counterpart, the International Gold Cup.

Clifton Down is “speedy” in Smithwick

Another relative NSA newcomer, Runnymoore Racing’s Clifton Down showed spark when he finished a distant second to runaway winner Lightning Ridge in his stakes debut at three in the Alston Cup at Charleston last fall. After a close second to Hold Hard to begin 2024 at the Old Dominion Hounds meet in April, the Irish-bred was untouchable in the $50,000 Speedy Smithwick Memorial four-year-old stakes, romping by 10 ¼ lengths for the rider-trainer tandem of Bargary and Young. The 2-1 favorite moved up to second after the opening mile, took command on the final turn, and extended his advantage after the final fence. Layton Register’s Haint Blue (Bernie Dalton), who broke her maiden at Aiken in her NSA debut in March, was second. The aforementioned Lightning Ridge was third after leading for a mile and a half.

Speedy Smithwick Memorial winner Clifton Down leads the field over a jump (Douglas Lees photo).

Southpaw Mike, Kitten Around, Juulstone rise to the top in maiden claimers

The Gold Cup card featured a trio of $20,000 optional claiming hurdles for maidens, with jockey Stephen Mulqueen and trainer Keri Brion combining for two of them. In the second race, Joseph Fowler’s Southpaw Mike came from off the pace at 14-1 under Bernie Dalton to defeat Hurricana Farm’s Fingal (Ryan Treacy) by 4 lengths for trainer Kate Dalton. In the eighth, Upland Flats Racing, Darkhorse Racing, and The International Venture’s Kitten Around outgutted Clarke Ohrstrom’s Giantsbane (Virginia Korrell), to prevail by a half length under Mulqueen, who struck again in the finale with Christopher LaBerge and USA Steeplechase’s Juulstone. The latter came on with a flourish at the final fence to defeat Turks Head Turf’s Exuma (Dan Nevin) by a length and three-quarters.

Maiden claiming race winner Juulstone drives to the finish on My 4 (Douglas Lees photo).

Kelmscott beats back big field in maiden special weights hurdle

Silverton Hill’s flashy gray son of European Group 1 classic winner Mastercraftsman was never worse than third in the field of 10, drew even with pro-tem leader Noble Speaker on the final turn, then took charge over the final fence. But the race tightened considerably when Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s 14-1 Blue Nile, under Virginia Korrell, closed powerfully to come within 1 ¼ lengths of the winner. Paddy O’Hanlon, riding for trainer Leslie Young, earned his fourth victory of the season.

Kelmscott (in blue & green silks) with Patrick O’Hanlon up, shows the way in a maiden special weight (Douglas Lees photo).

Hold Hard makes it two for two in 2024

Rolling Tide’s Hold Hard, 7-1, gave jockey Bernie Dalton his second winner on the card following a spirited duel with Gill Johnston’s Pure Courage (Elizabeth Scully) in a $45,000 hurdle event for non-winners of two races. The margin of victory was three-quarters of a length. Pure Courage, who set the pace for a mile and a half, battled gamely but was simply outfinished by the Doug Fout-trainee, who was exiting a maiden score at the Old Dominion Hounds meet in April where he defeated, among others, Speedy Smithwick Memorial Stakes winner Clifton Down.

Maiden special weight winner Hold Hard scored in one of two maiden special weights on the Gold Cup card (Douglas Lees photo)..

Crealion is last man standing in $20,000 Steeplethon

Plenty of odd things have happened during the running of the Steeplethon over mixed obstacles at Great Meadow over the years. And on Saturday it was no different when two of the four runners went off course and the winner, Sheila Fisher and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team, missed a beacon and was subsequently disqualified. When the dust cleared, it was Armata Stables’ runner up, Crealion, trained and ridden by Tom Garner, who was declared the winner in his first NSA start following 29 in Europe.

Crealion, a French-bred eight-year-old, led most of the 3-mile contest after betting favorite Court Ruler and recent My Lady’s Manor Stakes winner Our Friend went off course midway through. From there on, Storm Team and Graham Watters tracked Crealion closely over the timber and natural brush fences and through Swan Lake. Storm Team assumed the lead two fences from home, crossing the wire 2 ½ lengths in front. But after review, stewards disqualified the winner for missing a beacon.

New Study: Virginia Equine Industry Program Has Generated $86.2 Million in Economic Impact

Benefits of Virginia-Certified Residency Program to be on Display at Upcoming Colonial Downs Summer Meet

A newly released study commissioned by the Virginia Equine Alliance demonstrates the significant impact of the Virginia-Certified Residency Program for thoroughbreds on Virginia’s economy.

According to the study, the program has generated an estimated economic impact of $86.2 million between 2017 – 2023. 

The program requires out-of-state thoroughbred horses to reside at least six consecutive months (prior to turning three years old) at a Virginia farm to receive a certification as a Virginia-certified thoroughbred horse. Upon completion of their residency, those horses then qualify to receive bonuses in eligible races.

“This is a significant total, especially taking into consideration that the program is still relatively new,” said Debbie Easter, President of the Virginia Equine Alliance. “The program didn’t begin until 2017, yet already is demonstrating its value.” 

Hundreds of Virginia horse farms participate in the program, receiving income from horse owners and breeders from outside of the state. 

More than 5,000 horses have participated in the Virginia-Certified Residency program since its inception. 

The large pool of Certified horses to draw from is now evident in the 2024 Colonial Downs Condition Book. Six Virginia-Restricted stakes with combined purse money of $750,000 will be offered during the summer meet in New Kent which begins July 11. The Hickory Tree and Keswick Stakes — two-year-old dirt sprints — will be held August 3 while a four-pack of Handicap events for older horses will be contested on Commonwealth Stakes Day, August 31. The Meadow Stable, Camptown, Bert Allen and Nellie Mae Cox each have a purse of $150,000. 

A total of 40 Virginia-restricted overnight races will also be offered in the first Condition Book which covers the first 16 days of a 27-day meet. Fourteen maiden special weight races, with a purse of $75,000 each, are listed along with a variety of others including six allowance races. 

Highlights of the new study include: From 2017-2023:

*The direct spending of the program was estimated at $54.5 million for the seven years from 2017 to 2023. These spending activities generated ripple (indirect plus induced) effects yielding a total economic impact of $86.2 million. 

*The program generated an estimated $1.8 million in tax revenue for the state government.

*The cumulative economic impact is 5.9 times larger than the total incentive payout, representing a strong return on investment in the program. 

The Virginia-Certified Residency Program for thoroughbreds is just one component of Virginia’s thriving horse breeding and racing industry. 

For more information on the Virginia Certified program and bonus incentives visit

The study was commissioned by the Virginia Equine Alliance, the industry’s organizational body that promotes the horse racing and breeding industry throughout the state. Chmura Economics and Analytics (Chmura), a research consulting firm in Richmond, Virginia, conducted the study. 


About Virginia Equine Alliance

The Virginia Equine Alliance is the state sanctioned organization representing horse racing throughout the state. The Alliance is a non-profit, 501(c)6 organization comprised of the Virginia Harness Horse Association, Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, Virginia Gold Cup Association and Virginia Thoroughbred Association. Virginia Equine Alliance’s primary mission is to sustain, promote an expand the horse breeding and horse racing industry in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

About Chmura Economics and Analytics

Chmura Economics and Analytics is a consultation business providing labor market software, consulting, and data, so you can make informed decisions that grow your community. Chmura’s staff consist of PhD economists, data scientists, and strategic planners who are able to guide client’s local labor market.

VTA/ VHBPA Owner Suites Open for the Colonial Downs 24 Season

The horsemen’s suites will be available daily to VTA/ VHBPA members during the Colonial Downs race meet, July 11th through September 7th. The first post will be at 1:30 on Thursdays and Saturdays and 4:30 PM on Friday evenings.

*The suites will be used for paid events on August 10th Colonial Downs Turf Festival and September 7th Virginia Derby Day*

VTA/ VHBPA Owner Suites Open for the Colonial Downs 24 Season
The horsemen’s suites will be available daily to VTA/ VHBPA members during the Colonial Downs race meet, July 11th through September 7th. The first post will be at 1:30 on Thursdays and Saturdays and 4:30 PM on Friday evenings.

*The suites will be used for paid events on August 10th Colonial Downs Turf Festival and September 7th Virginia Derby Day*

Arlington Million at Colonial Downs 23, Photo by Coady Photography
                               Arlington Million at Colonial Downs 23, Photo by Coady Photography
Arlington Million at Colonial Downs 23, Photo by Coady Photography

Colonial Downs Announces Stakes Schedule for 2024

Festival of Racing Slated for August 10; Virginia Derby Scheduled for September 7
Topped by a quartet of graded races, Colonial Downs unveiled its 2024 stakes program consisting of 27 races worth $5.7 million for the 27-day season which runs from Thursday,
July 11 through Saturday, September 7.

Colonial Downs will begin its summer thoroughbred season on July 11th.

The Colonial Downs Festival of Racing, slated for Saturday, August 10 is highlighted by the Grade 1 Arlington Million, the Grade 2 $500,000 Beverly D. and the Grade 2 $500,000 Secretariat Stakes, the traditional weekend for the renowned trio. The Million will be run at 1¼ miles, the Beverly D. will be contested at 1-3/16 miles and the Secretariat covers one mile. All three races are slated to be run over Colonial’s acclaimed Secretariat Turf Course.

Once again, the Beverly D. has been selected as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf to be held at Del Mar in California on Saturday, November 2.

The 2023 Beverly D stakes trophy.

Festival Day is being expanded for 2024 to include 4 additional stakes races: the $100,000 Petramalo Mile, a one-mile dirt race for 3-year-olds and its sister race, the $100,000 Penny Chenery at seven furlongs; the $150,000 Van Clief for 3-year-olds & up at 5½ furlongs on the turf and its distaff companion event, the $150,000 Andy Guest.

The Grade 3 $500,000 New Kent County Virginia Derby, Colonial’s longtime signature event, will be raced on closing day, Saturday, September 7. The 1-1/8 miles grass race headlines a card with $1.3 million in stakes purses including five other turf stakes: the $250,000 Virginia Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1-1/16 miles; the $150,000 Da Hoss Stakes for older horses at 5½ furlongs; the $150,000 Colonial Cup a 1½-mile marathon for 3-year-olds & up; the $125,000 Rosie’s Stakes for 2-year-olds sprinting 5 ½ furlongs; and the $125,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes for 2-year-olds over a two-turn 1-1/16 miles on turf.

Integration captured the 2023 Virginia Derby (Coady Photography)

Last year’s major stakes races at Colonial netted several notable winners: Da Hoss victor Nobals went on to capture the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita; Fev Rover, who took the Beverly D., added the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine to her already impressive resume; and Virginia Derby hero Integration later scored in the Grade 2 Hill Prince at Aqueduct. More recently, 2023 Virginia Derby runner up Program Trading captured the Grade 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

Opening weekend action includes three new turf stakes: the $125,000 Million Prep at 1-1/8 miles; $125,000 Beverly D. Prep over 1-1/16 miles; and the $125,000 Boston at one mile, which will serve as a prep for the Secretariat.

The following Saturday, July 20, a quartet of turf races for Virginia-bred or -sired older runners are on the docket: the $125,000 Brookmeade for filles and mares at 1-1/16 miles, the $125,000 Edward P. Evans at one mile, and the $125,000 Punch Line and $125,000 Tyson Gilpin/Glenn Petty both at 5½ furlongs with the latter of the pair restricted to fillies and mares.

Galilei prevails in the 2023 Brookmeade Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

A pair of 2-year-old races for Virginia-restricted runners – the $150,000 Hickory Tree and its sister race the $150,000 Keswick – headline the Saturday, August 3 program. Both races have been lengthened to 5½ furlongs on the dirt.

Commonwealth Champions Day is scheduled for Saturday, August 31 and is highlighted by a quintet of turf races saluting Virgina runners: the $125,000 Jamestown is for Virginia-bred or -sired 2-year-olds going 5½ furlongs while the remaining four events are for Virginia-restricted horses – the $150,000 Meadow Stable for older horses at 5½ furlongs and its female companion race the $150,000 Camptown; and the $150,000 Bert Allen and its filly and mare counterpart, the $150,000 Nellie Fox, both at 1-1/16 miles.

Additionally, there will be two $100,000 stakes races for fillies and mares presented by the National Steeplechase Association, the Randolph D. Rouse on Thursday, August 8 and the Life’s Illusion on Thursday, September 5.

Condition books and stall applications are available online at under the horsemen’s tab. Stall applications are due Tuesday, May 21.

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. 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, Emporia, 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 2024 live racing season, which consists of 27 days from July 11 through September 7, is highlighted by the Grade 1 Arlington Million, Grade 2 Beverly D. and Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes on August 10 and the Grade 3 New Kent County Virginia Derby on September 7. The Beverly D. is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” race.

Where to Bet the Kentucky Derby in Virginia on Saturday May 4

The biggest horse racing event of the year is this coming Saturday May 4 — and for the first time ever, there are 15 different places that Virginians can wager the $5 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve! 

The “Run for the Roses” will go to post at 6:57 PM on May 4.

Fans can bet the “Run for the Roses” at any of the seven Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in New Kent, Richmond, Hampton, Dumfries, Collinsville, Vinton and Emporia, at the VA-Horseplay OTBs inside Breakers Sports Grille in Henrico & Buckets Bar & Grill in Chesapeake, at the Virginia Gold Cup Steeplechase Races in The Plains, at the Shenandoah Downs Harness Races in Woodstock, and online via four partner sites: & 

The Buckets OTB in Chesapeake is conveniently located in the Great Bridge area, in the Battlefield Shopping Plaza.

There is much more to wager in addition to the Derby. Saturday features an additional seven graded stakes including the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (Gr. 1), the $1,000,000 Churchill Downs Stakes (Gr. 1), $1,000,000 Derby City Distaff (Gr. 1), $750,000 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Gr. 2), $600,000 Pat Day Mile (Gr. 2), $600,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (Gr. 2) and $600,000 American Turf Stakes (Gr. 2). The $200,000 Knicks Go Overnight Stakes will complement the eight graded events. First post is 10:30 AM and the Derby itself goes off at 6:57 PM.

2023 Virginia Derby winner Integration will leave from post 2 in the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) in Race 11 — the race just prior to the Kentucky Derby (Coady Photography).

The day prior — Friday May 3 — is the $1,500,000 Kentucky Oaks (Gr. 1) card. In addition to the feature for 3-year-old fillies, six other graded stakes are programmed including the $1,000,000 La Troienne Stakes (Gr. 1), $750,000 Alysheba Stakes (Gr. 2), $600,000 Eight Belles Stakes (Gr. 2), $600,000 Edgewood Stakes (Gr. 2, $400,000 Modesty Stakes (Gr. 3) and $400,000 Unbridled Sidney Stakes. First post is at 10:30 AM and the Oaks goes off at 5:51 PM.

The horse racing video wall at Breakers Sports Grille in Ollie’s Plaza on West Broad Street (Henrico) is perfect for catching all the Derby Day action.

Kentucky Derby post time is 6:57 PM. Advance Derby wagering is available all day and evening on Friday, then Saturday up until post time.          

Study: Virginia Thoroughbred Certified Residency Program Has Major Economic Impact

The following was written by Nick Hahn and appeared in The Racing Biz on May 1.

Virginia’s Certified Residency Program has generated nearly six dollars of economic impact for every dollar invested, according to a new study. The program, which provides incentives for horse owners to stable their young horses in Virginia, has paid out $14.6 million in bonuses over six years, returning $86.2 million in value.

That number includes over $54 million in direct economic impact and supports 825 jobs, the study says.

The study, blandly entitled “Economic Impact: Virginia-Certified Residency Program for Thoroughbred Horses,” was prepared by Chmura Economics & Analytics and reviewed the impacts of the program created after Colonial Downs became dormant a decade ago.  Racing returned to Colonial Downs in 2019 after the track was sold.

“What the study does is verify what our members have been telling us about the program,” said Debbie Easter, Executive Director of Virginia Thoroughbred Association, which is part of the Virginia Equine Alliance, which initialized the review.  “It has allowed them to grow their business, hire employees and make improvements to the farms.”

The incentive program benefits hundreds of Virginia horse farms that receive income from horse owners outside Virginia. It requires a horse to  maintain a minimum six-month continuous residency in Virginia prior to the beginning of its three-year-old year.  Many participants in the program stay longer.

“I think I would have been bankrupt or out of business if the program hadn’t been developed.  I have never struggled like that before,” said Diana McClure, who credits the program for more than doubling her horse population from 20 to 50 horses at her DMC Stable in Berryville, Virginia.  “I didn’t realize how big an effect the closing of Colonial Downs was.  Nobody had any reason to send us any horses.  I’m not exaggerating.” 

McClure recalls a large meeting in Middleburg among the leaders of horsemen’s groups and farm owners to discuss what to do when the concept came up. Delaware had already developed a similar program Maryland and West Virginia, neighboring states to Virginia with year-round racing, had incentivized state-programs.  When the idea surfaced, it quickly gained momentum.

“It has saved the infrastructure that we’ve also been hearing from [such as] blacksmiths, veterinarians, feed suppliers, that serves our members,” added Easter.  “You can’t grow business without that infrastructure.”

Through 2023 over 5,000 horses had participated in the program since its launch in 2017. That alone supports 825 jobs in Virginia, part of the over 5,000 jobs that Virginia horse racing employs.  

Average daily spending per horse rose from an average $35 a day in 2017 to $52.50 a day in 2023.  The program hasn’t just preserved Virginia’s thoroughbred industry, it has made it stronger and more resilient.

“We had a cycle during the year that had a gap between breaking horses and the meet at Colonial Downs where we were like squirrels gathering nuts,” explained McClure about earlier years.  “The certified program filled that gap.  We never kept such a consistent program until the certified program was developed.”

The bonus program allows horse “developers” – the owner at the time of the horse’s first race — to receive a 25% bonus which the horse wins open races throughout the Mid-Atlantic and a 10% bonus on wins in state-restricted races.   Though the program has been fine-tuned over the years, it has, pardon the pun, stabilized hundreds of thoroughbred farms in Virginia both large and small.

Madison Meyers and her husband Kieran Norris started breaking and training thoroughbreds at the Middleburg training center when the program was started. Grateful Bred was a horse that was sent to their stable, Ballyerin Racing, LLC, in the first year of the program by then-owner Gordon “Gordie” Keys. Grateful Bred lists the 2021 Meadow Stable Stakes at Colonial Downs and Marland Million Turf Sprint among his wins and is now owned by Ballyerin Racing after Keys passed away in 2023.

“It’s been huge for us,” said Madison Meyers of the program. “My phone started ringing off the hook.” 

She added, “It’s a great add-on for any horse from any state to race in the Mid-Atlantic. There are different ways to get certified, from weaning to yearling from breaking to training. It’s a big add-on for horses going to sale.”

When the couple kicked off their business in 2017 in Middleburg, they had 20 horses under their stable roof. Now they have 60 and could get more. 

The total economic impact includes both the $54 million in direct impact and indirect impacts — money used for such things as maintaining fences or purchasing office supplies – of $19.2 million. Induced impacts – economic activity generated when workers spend their money at retail stores, restaurants, etc. – was $12.5 million.

All of that supports rural economies and allows horse farms to thrive all year.

“For a state that doesn’t have year-round racing, we have businesses that have year-round programs,” added Easter.