(NEW KENT, VA) — Colonial Downs will open its 17th season of pari-mutuel thoroughbred racing on Saturday June 8th, and the barn area will be nearly full according to Director of Racing Tyler Picklesimer. The barn area will open two weeks in advance, on Saturday May 25th, and the track will open for training that same day.
Top returning trainers include Ferris Allen with 30-plus head, Ham Smith with 20-plus, and Hugh McMahon, last year’s leading conditioner, with 30. New this year to the backstretch is trainer Wesley Ward, who will have a string of 15. Ward, a regular competitor at Gulfstream’s winter meet and at Keeneland’s spring session, has over 200 horses in training across the country.
Racing will take place every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6 PM (EDT) and Sunday afternoons at 12:55 pm. Friday racing however won’t begin until June 21st and several big race days will feature an early post at 5:00 PM.
Highlights of the meet include a pair of Grade II stakes. The $300,000 Colonial Turf Cup, which regained its graded status earlier this year, is slated for Saturday June 22nd while the 16th running of the $500,000 Virginia Derby will close out the meet on Saturday July 13th.
The $250,000 Commonwealth Turf Fest, a series of five Virginia-bred stakes worth $50,000 each, will be contested on Saturday July 6th.
Evening racing will again be a focal point of Colonial’s summer stand. In February 2012, the track repositioned nearly all of its light standards to illuminate the signature Secretariat Turf Course instead of its 1¼ miles dirt track. Since between 80-90% of the races are held on turf, the track is able to again have a later start time and not worry about running out of daylight, though first post will be an hour earlier (at 6 PM) than it was last summer (7 PM).
The 25-day meet is shorter than in past years, but Picklesimer is optimistic. “I’m looking forward to the revised schedule because it allows us to increase overnight purses, which should translate into higher quality racing.”
Stall applications, condition book #1, stakes schedules and Virginia Racing Commission license information are all available at colonialdowns.com. For more information, call the racing office at 804-966-7223, ext. 1056.