When Colonial Downs ushers in its summer season opener July 19, it will do so boasting a new early week afternoon racing schedule, full barn area, robust stakes program, minimum purse distribution of $500,000 per day, and a high profile cast of trainers and jockeys—many of whom invaded from Kentucky and are based in Virginia for the first time.
Set to run its third meet under the ownership of the Colonial Downs Group, the New Kent track will operate on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday schedule from July 19—Sept. 1 with first post at 1:45 p.m..
Optimism is running high as all 850 stalls in the backstretch have been spoken for. Some key returnees include Kentucky Derby winning trainer Graham Motion, Colonial’s leading 2019-20 trainer Michael Stidham—whose Mystic Guide won the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1)—and Colonial’s all-time leading trainer Ferris Allen, a Varina (Virginia) native. Maryland regulars like Hamilton Smith, Phil Schoenthal, and Michael Trombetta return as do Commonwealth-based conditioners like Woodberry Payne, Karen Godsey, and Doug Fout.
Among the influx of new faces from Churchill Downs are Kentucky Oaks-winning trainer Dallas Stewart, and Bret Calhoun, Michael Tomlinson, and Michelle Lovell, each of whom has at least 20 stalls in the New Kent backstretch.
The opening day draw was met with an enthusiastic response from horsemen. A total of 111 horses entered the nine-race pari-mutuel card which includes a handful of 14-horse fields and one with 13. Jockeys set to ride Monday include Florent Geroux—one of the leading jockeys in the country— Paco Lopez, Jon Court, and Colonial’s all-time leading rider Horacio Karamanos. Trainers represented on the card include Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, Michael Matz, Steve Asmussen, Jerry Hollendorfer, and Ian Wilkes.
A four-pack of $100,000 stakes highlights the opener—the Meadow Stable Stakes, Bert Allen Stakes, and M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes are Virginia-restricted while the Nellie Mae Cox Stakes is for Virginia-bred and -sired fillies and mares. Eight of the nine races will be held over Colonial’s signature Secretariat Turf Course, widest grass racing surface in the country, and one will be conducted over the 1 1/4-mile dirt oval, second largest in the country. Two non-betting steeplechase races will kick festivities off at 12:15 p.m. and all totaled, $710,000 in purse monies will be on the line.
Looking ahead, the $250,000 New Kent County Virginia Derby (G3T) highlights the meet Aug. 31. The Derby’s 18th renewal features racing’s top trainers, jockeys, and 3-year-old turf horses who will compete 1 1/8 miles. Four other grass stakes will be presented that afternoon, including the $150,000 Virginia Oaks, $150,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Old Nelson Stakes, $100,000 Exacta Systems Rosie’s Stakes, and the $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes. Handicappers can look forward to a unique All-Stakes, All-Turf Pick-5 wager on Derby Day. The five scheduled grass stakes will be run consecutively, thus creating this special opportunity.
In all, 25 stakes worth $2.7 million will be showcased throughout Colonial’s meet. Closing day (Sept. 1) showcases Virginia-bred and -sired horses who will compete in a five-pack of $100,000 stakes—the Brookmeade, Camptown, Punch Line, Jamestown, and Edward P. Evans.
Wagering on Colonial Downs races is available at all Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in Richmond, Hampton, Vinton, Dumfries, and New Kent, at VA-Horseplay OTBs in Henrico at Breakers Sports Grille and in Chesapeake at Buckets Bar & Grill, and online via TVG.com, Twinspires.com, Xpressbet.com, and NYRABets.com. Can’t make it to the track or a satellite location? Watch all Colonial races live on the TVG network.
After 2020’s abbreviated season was contested with very limited attendance, fans will be welcomed back without spectator restrictions come Monday. The first 1,000 fans through the gates will receive a free commemorative Secretariat T-Shirt.
Colonial is happy to announce that general admission remains free and includes access to trackside amenities like the paddock and winner’s circle viewing areas and tent-covered bench seating. A giant temperature-controlled tent has also been positioned trackside and features additional general admission seating, manned and self-serve betting stations, food and beverage concessions, and nearby restroom trailers.
A number of upgraded seating options are available to fans as well. Reserved grandstand seats are as little as $5 while premier box seats overlooking the finish line are as little as $12.50. Table seats in the air-conditioned Jockey Club are $30 each and include race programs and classic snacks. Several party lounges on the same level can accommodate groups of up to 15. Colonial’s fourth floor level features the 1609 restaurant/bar and 10 corporate Sky Suites each of which has its own private balcony overlooking the track. Tickets can be purchased at colonialdowns.com/ticket or by calling 804-557-5684.
Racing fans have another reason to look ahead. Four additional giveaway days have been scheduled. The first 1,000 fans each day will receive a free premium gift—cooler bags July 27, baseball caps Aug. 3, tote bags Aug. 8, and kids t-shirts Aug. 24.
Colonial will host its first ever online handicapping contest July 26. Prizes in the Colonial Downs Handicapping Challenge include two seats to the NTRA 2022 National Horseplayer’s Championship in Las Vegas with $3 million in prizes on the line, and one entry into the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Handicapping Challenge with $1 million in cash prizes up for grabs. Details are at colonialdowns.com/racing.