June 8, 2023

Virginia Derby highlights Colonial Downs season

Colonial Downs scenic (Photo by Coady Photography)

The upcoming Colonial Downs meet will feature record daily average purses in excess of $600,000, along with six more racing days and an enhanced stakes schedule, the New Kent, Virginia, track has announced.

Opening July 11 and running through Sept. 7, Colonial Downs will stage racing every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with a first post of 1:45 p.m. (ET).

The biggest day of the meet is Sept. 6, with five open-company stakes on tap anchored by the $300,000 Virginia Derby (G3). Past winners include champions Kitten’s Joy (2004), English Channel (2015), and Gio Ponti (2008). The companion $200,000 Virginia Oaks for fillies, the Da Hoss S. for turf sprinters, and a pair of stakes for juveniles – the 5 1/2-furlong Rosie’s S. and 1 1/16-mile Kitten’s Joy S. – round out the quintet.

The stakes schedule supports the Virginia breeding industry with state-restricted events. The opening-day card includes four stakes for Virginia-bred or -sired horses, and the Sept. 7 finale offers five stakes for those meeting the criteria. Also, Colonial Downs hosts four open stakes belonging to the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series, worth a total of $600,000, on Aug. 16.

With the shuttering of Arlington Park, longtime Chicagoland horsemen are expected to participate at Colonial. Nine-time Arlington titleholder Larry Rivelli will be joined by Chris Block, Tony Mitchell, Joel Campbell, and Mike Campbell.

Familiar faces back at Colonial are Graham Motion, who has won the past three editions of the Virginia Derby (2017, 2019, 2021); the track’s leading money-earner Michael Trombetta; Dallas Stewart; John Ortiz; Mike Tomlinson; Mike Stidham; and the top two in the 2021 trainers’ standings, Hamilton Smith and Michelle Lovell.

Last year, Colonial averaged 8.36 starters per race, and field sizes will continue to be buoyed by the purse structure and other bonuses and incentives. Maiden special weight events are worth $60,000, owners will be guaranteed $1,000 per start (or their share of the purse money), and all trainers will receive $300 per start.

A member of the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Alliance, and supporter of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), Colonial ranks among the nation’s safest tracks according to The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database (EID). There were no racing-related fatalities during the 2021 meet.

“In an ultra-competitive racing environment, we look forward to another season with bigger purses and greater incentives for our horsemen and industry stakeholders towards increased participation in the 2022 season,” said Jill Byrne, Colonial Downs Vice President of Racing Operations. “Our team is excited to present a wide-ranging program of racing opportunities on our outstanding racing surfaces.”