By T. D. Thornton
After six years of closure, Colonial Downs will race 15 dates in 2019, spanning Aug. 8-Sep. 7. The Virginia Racing Commission granted the dates approval Thursday.
In addition, Colonial received permission to open its 600-unit historic horse racing operation at the track, with the machines and simulcasting anticipated to go live in mid-April.
Purse levels and a stakes schedule are pending, but Colonial has already targeted Aug. 31 as the return date for its showcase race, the Virginia Derby, which was previously a Grade II stakes.
Colonial's 1,000-stall stable area opens July 25.
“This is an exciting step for everyone impassioned by the rebirth of live racing in Virginia and for our team delivering on our promise to revitalize horse racing in the commonwealth,” said Colonial Downs Group senior vice-president and general manager John Marshall. “We are already making significant progress preparing Colonial Downs to evolve into one of the country's premier race meets.”
“It has been a long four years waiting for this day,” added Debbie Easter, president of the Virginia Equine Alliance. “Our owners, breeders, trainers, veterinarians and everyone else associated with horse racing in Virginia have much anticipated the return of live racing at Colonial Downs and the resurgence in our industry that we know will come with it.”
Colonial's calling card has always been its nine-furlong, 180-foot-wide jewel of a turf course, which in previous years handled close to 90% of the races carded at the track.
In an October interview, Marshall told TDN that “for 2020, we're looking at 30 live race dates. We have not projected beyond that…We certainly need our horsemen and the racing commission to be on board, and we're looking to cooperate with as many racetracks as possible.”
This will be Colonial's first season under new management.