Colonial Downs Promises More For Horse Racing Lovers In Virginia

Written By Darren Cooper on April 8, 2022 - Last Updated on August 9, 2022
Virginia Will Have More For Horse Racing Colonial Downs Promise

Promising more of everything, Colonial Downs in New Kent County, Virginia, unveiled its racing schedule for the summer, with a 27-day season starting July 11 through September 7.

The meet will climax with the running of the 19th Virginia Derby on September 6.

Post time for race days is 1:45 p.m.

John Marshall, executive vice president of operations at Colonial Downs Group, called the theme this year at the track more racing, more fun.

“With everything we have to offer, including free general admission, Colonial Downs makes for an entertaining afternoon and evening out for everyone. Colonial Downs and Rosie’s remain loyal to our promise of advancing the quality of Virginia horseracing and delivering positive impacts on our communities.”

Colonial Downs is the only thoroughbred horse racing track in Virginia.

It’s off I-64, 30 minutes east of Richmond. It has America’s widest turf course, named for Secretariat, the legendary Triple Crown winner born nearby, and a mile-and-a-quarter dirt track.

Virginia special days at the races

Racing will be contested on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays during the season. In addition, general admission and parking are free.

There will be 24 stakes races over the nine-week campaign. The track is also doing five different giveaways, including a Secretariat T-shirt on Opening Day and a plush horse giveaway on Family Day, Aug. 23.

In 2021, the meet awarded $10.4 million in purse money with an average field size of 8.36 starters.

For the first time in years, Colonial Downs will offer racing on Labor Day afternoon, the day before the Virginia Derby.

The Virginia Derby is contested on the grass at a mile-and-an-eighth with a purse projected at $300,000. Last year’s winner was the France-bred Wootton Asset ridden by Jose Ortiz.

Horse racing back in the gate for good

Opening in 1997, Colonial Downs has seen its fair share of turmoil in the last decade.

Racing at the track was halted after the 2013 season when the track owners became embroiled in a dispute with the Virginia Horsemen Benevolent and Protection Association over the length of the racing card.

The track wanted fewer days. The association wanted longer.

The dispute was resolved in time for the 2019 season, which had a 15-day meet and grabbed a total handle of $17.5 million. The 2020 season was limited to six days because of the pandemic.

But in 2021, Colonial Downs was able to run a 21-day season with 148 races and had a record opening day handle of $2.66 million and a total overall handle of nearly $47 million.

Virginia has new owners in the stable

In February, Churchill Downs agreed to purchase Colonial Downs as part of a bigger acquisition of assets owned by Peninsula Pacific Entertainment at the cost of nearly $2.5 billion.

The company, which owns the legendary Kentucky Derby track, still needs regulatory approval from the Virginia Racing Commission, the New York State Gaming Commission, and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. It is expected the sale will be approved by the end of 2022.

As part of the deal, Churchill Downs is also acquiring the six Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums scattered throughout Virginia that supply off-track betting options.

Photo by Steve Helber / Associated Press
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper is a staff writer for PlayUSA. He’s been a sports writer in the Northeast since 1998 and developed a keen interest in covering the gaming, casino and sports betting industry and has written for multiple additional Play state sites. He always bets responsibly although his grandfather did have a secret system for betting on the ponies at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

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