In the time that thoroughbred racing last took place at Colonial Downs in 2013 to the time a new era will be ushered in six years later on August 8th, one constant has remained through the regime change and down time.
Jeff Wingrove started working at Colonial in 2005 and after serving in various positions with added responsibilities over the years, he is still on board and has a key role in nearly every aspect of track operations as efforts gear up for the return of live thoroughbred racing.
With horses due to begin arriving July 25th and racing set to start two weeks later, it would be an understatement to say this is a hectic time for him. And this comes on the heels of having opened three satellite wagering facilities inside Rosie’s Gaming Emporium sites in New Kent, Vinton and Richmond within the last several months.
“You never know what one day is going to bring,” said Wingrove. “No two days are ever the same. There’s a vast amount of work that has already been done to meet the aggressive schedule of the Rosie’s openings but still lots to be done in time for racing’s return. The pressure is on now with horses due in next week.”
When the last horse crossed the finish line in 2013, Wingrove’s title was Director of Simulcasting & Mutuels, though he oversaw Guest Services, Group Sales and the TV/Audio departments as well. Shortly after, he inherited the job of Turf Course Superintendent despite the fact no racing was planned at the track. The goal was to keep the country’s widest grass course in top notch condition should a potential new track owner materialize. Wingrove eventually was laid off in late 2016 but brought back fourteen months later once a track sale had taken place. “I was the last person to be let go and the first person brought back,” he quipped.
Wingrove’s new title is Racing Operations Manager. At any given time, he can be seen working with track vendors and partners to install a new infield tote board with a LED video screen, or a new GPS based timing system that will gather more in race data for trainers and horseplayers. An hour later, he could be in the stable area helping with barn upgrades and renovations. Next, he could be scheduling simulcast tracks for the Rosie’s and VA-Horseplay betting centers. Then he could be checking for burned out bulbs in track’s the massive lighting system. And that is just a snapshot of his responsibilities.
“Jeff has been the most valuable resource for me since the day I arrived at Colonial Downs,” said Jill Byrne, Vice-President of Racing Operations. “His wealth of knowledge in every aspect of not only Colonial Downs, but the industry as a whole, from racing, track operations, the turf and dirt course to simulcast and wagering and everything in between has made the process of getting everything up and running go smoothly and efficiently. His dedication and work ethic are tops, plus he’s got a great sense of humor and always has a smile to offer up!”
Wingrove says getting to work with Byrne is a career highlight. “I was thrilled when I heard she was coming here,” he said. “I was actually worried that I wouldn’t be able to live up to the expectations she had. But it turns out we agree on all issues about 99% of the time. I cherish everything I can learn from her experiences in racing.”
Once August 8th arrives, the Colonial Downs racing season will continue every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 5 PM through September 7th. The Grade 3 Virginia Derby is scheduled for August 31st and will highlight a “Racing Revival Weekend”.
“Knowing that racing is coming back is the best part now of working here,” said Wingrove. “It’s been a long six years. I’m from Virginia and want to see Virginia racing on top of the world. I look forward to having a great relationship with the horsemen,” he added. “We have the potential to be one of the major tracks in the country.”