Colonial Downs kicks off 9-week racing season after historic 2023 year

Posted at 6:35 AM, Jul 11, 2024

NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. – Colonial Downs 9-week racing season kicks off Thursday after a record-setting 2023 season in terms of number of races, race days, visitors, horses in competition, live bets and off-track betting.

Darrell Wood with the Virginia Equine Alliance says there’s a lot of anticipation for this first race weekend, as there is $700,000 up for grabs in races Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

"That's a big number that attracts naturally the best trainers, the best jockeys and the best horses," explained Wood.

Colonial Downs has been here in New Kent County since 1997, and it’s home to the widest grass racing surface in North America.

Every Thursday, the track will feature steeplechase horse racing, which is a Virginia tradition and a fan favorite.

Colonial Downs is also hoping to attract families this season with free general admission and parking, as well as bounce houses and pony rides for children.

Karen Godsey with Eagle Point Farms in Ashland has around 20 horses stabled at Colonial Downs this season, and one of her thoroughbreds named Chickahominy will race for $150,000 next weekend.

Named appropriately after the Virginia river, Godsey says she’s a sentimental favorite because Chickahominy's mother was her first horse to win a big race as a trainer.

Godsey’s farm is essentially a school for race horses, but she actually gets to watch her horses compete at Colonial Downs.

"The rest of the racetracks are too far away," said Godsey. "And here, it's kind of in our backyard, and we get to do it ourselves and bring our own horses, and all your friends and family around here, too. So when you're here, they all come for to cheer you on and are involved in it as well."

On August 10th, Colonial Downs will hold its Festival of Racing, which will feature the Arlington Million. That means $1 million is up for grabs in a single race, which is the same level of race as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

"When you have 800 to 900 horses stabled here, and every stable has got a jockey, and an owner and a trainer, and an exercise rider and a blacksmith and a groom and it goes on and on," said Wood. "I mean you can imagine the impact that's got and then just with trying to find housing for everybody, and all the restaurants and gas stations and everything else affected for you know, almost two and a half months, it's a pretty big deal."

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