Horses arrive at Colonial Downs for 2020 race meet

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: July 18, 2020

Horses began arriving at Colonial Downs in mid-July in advance of an 18-day meet that begins July 27 and concludes Sept. 2.

Racing will be held three days a week under a new schedule: Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Last year, the Virginia track raced on a Thursday-through-Saturday schedule.

After announcing a limited number of patrons would be permitted (up to 1,000) per conditions established in Virginia’s Phase 3 reopening plan, Colonial Downs on July 21 said the meet would be run without spectators. Details on safety protocols for racing participants will be released in the near future.

The first horse on the track was Mo Margarita from the barn of James Tsirigotis Jr., who has eight horses from Tampa Bay Downs.

“The Tampa horsemen definitely played a big role in the success of our ‘racing revival’ last year and I’m certainly glad to see so many of them return,” said Colonial Downs Director of Racing and Racing Secretary Allison DeLuca, who serves in the same role at Tampa Bay.

“We enjoyed racing here last year,” said trainer Mike Stidham, who has strings at multiple facilities including Tampa Bay. “We had a lot of grass horses that we were able to run that we couldn’t get in at other tracks. We won a lot of races. Our horses liked the grass course and the dirt surface was good as well.

In addition to Stidham and Tsirigotis, others trainers at Colonial Downs who were based at Tampa Bay are Mike Campbell, Francisco Machado, Abdul Williams, James Dimmett, Jonathon Feron, Joseph Minieri, Mauricio Nunez, Derek Ryan, Dennis Ward, John Fennessey, Sarah Nagle, Moises Yanez, and Whitney Valls.

The track also reported that New York-based Christophe Clement will have eight horses at Colonial Downs this year. Longtime Colonial Downs trainer Ferris Allen, who is based at Laurel Park in Maryland year-round, again has stalls and will be shipping horses to Virginia as they are entered in races.

Purses are down somewhat from 2019 when the track reopened after a shutdown for several years. Authorization of historical horse race wagering at Colonial Downs and the company’s other wagering facilities in the state allowed it to pay some of the highest purses in the Mid-Atlantic region last year, but the betting devices were offline during the COVID-19 shutdown earlier this year.

Maiden special weight events will go for $40,000—down from $50,000 last year—which is on par with Delaware Park and Laurel Park. The minimum purse is $16,000 for an open $5,000 claiming race and a $10,000 claimer for non-winners of two races lifetime.

(Photo courtesy of Colonial Downs)