Colonial Downs Set Fire To Its Secretariat Turf Course Wednesday Evening

April 11, 2013

On a day when several brush fires popped up unexpectedly in Central Virginia due to warm temperatures and breezy conditions, Colonial Downs intentionally set fire to its Secretariat Turf Course Wednesday evening.

The two-plus hour controlled burn will help the nation’s widest grass racing surface come back lusher and greener than ever in time for the track’s annual summer thoroughbred racing season.

Track superintendent J.D. Thomas organized and oversaw the controlled burn which began at 6 PM. “The ultimate goal of the fire was to cut the dead cover off the top since dead leafs will not re-green, and to also drive nutrients back into the ground so the grass can begin regrowing immediately.” said Thomas.

This is the second straight year Colonial Downs has burned its turf course, and according to Thomas, may be the only track in the country to utilize this strategy. The grass oval is 180 feet wide, and 1 1/8th (one and one-eighth) miles around.
This morning (Thursday), Thomas top dressed the now black surface with crumb rubber, the final aspect of his two day growth program. “The small rubber beads absorb sunlight, help with compaction and drainage, and ultimately create a bounce to the turf course,” added Thomas.

About 90% of Colonial’s thoroughbred races are held on the grass, while only 10% take place on the dirt surface.

The track hosts the Virginia Stampede Pro Rodeo April 27 & 28, and opens its 17th annual thoroughbred campaign June 8th.