Colonial Downs Reopening in August
By Mary Dixon
On July 21, 2012, I drove 26 miles past Richmond, Va. to New Kent. It was Virginia Derby Day at Colonial Downs Racetrack and the parking lot was almost full. I had been interested in thoroughbred horse racing for some time and was exhilarated to attend my first experience of live racing.
Upon entering the large grandstand I could smell hot dogs, then it was on to study the past performances, lineage, and workouts of the horses running. I had read a handicapping book and knew just enough to get myself into trouble.
There was a jockey and horse I was delighted to see. Curlin’s jockey, Robby Albarado was on Dale Romans’ trainee, Silver Max, in the Virginia Derby. I had long been a Curlin fan, and throughout the legend’s career, Albarado was always on board. Like all the races, the Virginia Derby was on the turf and Silver Max won.
Lentenor, Barbaro’s full brother was entered in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes which was his final win and next to last race. Besides riding a horse, it was the most thrilling experience I had ever had. He had won by a nose. I was so overwhelmed by my encounter at Colonial Downs, I could not sleep. I kept playing the events I had experienced in my mind.
On August 8, live horse racing will return to Colonial Downs since it closed in 2014. The Colonial Downs Group have committed to hire 800 employees by the end of the year. They are spending over $300 million dollars to make improvements to the tracks and grandstand.
Today, in a phone conversation with Charlottesville native, Jill Byrne (V.P. of Operations for Colonial Downs), her enthusiasm for the project was contagious. Ms. Bryne most recently worked for Breeders’ Cup Limited.
She served over the past two years as senior director of industry relations focusing on the coordination and promotion of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. Prior to her work with the Breeders’ Cup, Ms. Byrne was the director of broadcasting and programing at Churchill Downs for over a decade. She’s ready to bring her own kind of magic to Colonial Downs,
“Steeplechasing is so popular in Virginia and we have added two steeplechasing events every Saturday for the 15 days we have scheduled. Next year, we shall have 30 days of racing,”, Ms.Byrne commented.
She also said, “The Secretariat turf course is 1 1/8 mile, at 180 feet, it is the widest in North America.”
I asked if Colonel Downs was going to maintain their dedication to all turf or had they thought of adding a dirt track,
Ms. Byrne replied that they were adding a dirt track and that racing at Colonial Downs would be “80% turf and 20% dirt.”
For those who want inside entertainment there’s a new facility named “Rosie’s Racing Emporium.” Anyone can go online and join for free. One can win their share of $300,000 in cash, a Carnival Cruise Vacation, a $5000 shopping spree, a $10,000 home makeover, and a $500 spa package are all prizes offered…
It’s time to get your past performances together because OTB’s in Vinton and New Kent are opening up next month. The OTB in Richmond opens in June 2019, Hampton August 2019 and Chesapeake will open in late 2019
With the change in Virginia laws, gaming and betting facilities are viable now.
The Virginia Oaks will be on Friday, August 30 and the Virginia Derby will be held on Saturday, August 31
Horse racing has returned to Virginia and the Colonial Downs Group plan on keeping it there…