Morven Park was the home of former Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis. Photo by Nick Hahn.
From a Virginia Equine Alliance release
The Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) today announced immediate and longer term plans for thoroughbred and standardbred racing in the Commonwealth, and introduced a new website that will cater to all aspects of Virginia horse racing.
From an immediate thoroughbred standpoint, pari-mutuel flat races will be held in-state as part of both the annual May 7th Virginia Gold Cup and October 24th International Gold Cup race programs at Great Meadow in The Plains. At least three flat races will be carded in addition to five traditional steeplechase races. At the 91st spring running of the Gold Cup races, the Secretariat Stakes at 1 1/2 miles will carry a $50,000 purse while the maiden flat at one mile will feature a $30,000 purse. Both races carry a ” Virginia preferred” condition. A Virginia-bred or sired flat at 1 1/4 miles rounds out the action and has a $35,000 purse. The spring Gold Cup races attract 70,000 spectators and tailgaters, while the fall races draw around 35,000.
Virginia-bred horses will get two different opportunities to compete in neighboring Maryland this year as well. ”Mid Atlantic Day,” a new event slated for June 25th at Pimlico, will feature a trio of $60,000 Virginia-bred stakes, including the inaugural running of the Nellie Cox stakes, along with a Virginia-bred overnight race. Maryland-bred horses will compete in a similar slate that afternoon to round out the debut initiative. A “Virginia-Bred Day” at Laurel will be held for the third straight year on September 24th. Five $60,000 stakes will be contested — the Brookmeade, Bert Allen, Jamestown, Punch Line and Oakley.
In 2017, pari-mutuel thoroughbred racing in Virginia will move to a new home at Morven Park in Leesburg, where plans are currently moving forward to renovate an existing, undulating steeplechase track and transform it into a first class, one mile turf course for thoroughbreds. The racing project is part of a new Horse Park initiative at that facility, and VEA officials already have signed an initial five year lease with Morven management. Once completed, the course will have both an inner and outer rail, a starting gate, along with a chute, which will allow for seven furlong, one turn races. Vehicle tailgating will be offered along the stretch and in areas adjacent to the outside turn. A large parking lot is also being built to accommodate projected crowds of between 3,000-5,000 spectators. Excavation work on the course itself is expected to begin in late spring or early summer. A race meet of up to 14 days will debut in the latter half of 2017, in order to give ample time for the grass course to mature.
The future of Virginia’s standardbred racing circuit also has been firmed up, with the town of Woodstock, Virginia becoming home to pacers and trotters beginning this September. The VEA has signed a lease with the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds to run a ten day pari-mutuel meet over five consecutive weekends starting September 10th. An extensive track renovation project will soon begin there as well. The current half mile oval, which has played host to county fair, non-betting harness races for 98 years, will be widened and the turns banked in order to accommodate larger fields. World-renowned track consultant Greg Coon will oversee the upgrade process and once complete, the track should be one of the finest half-mile ovals in the Mid-Atlantic region.
In another initiative, the VEA today introduced a new industry website at virginiahorseracing.com. The all-encompassing site will serve as a marketplace where stakeholders, from both the thoroughbred, standardbred and steeplechase sides, can access details about upcoming VEA related events. Horsemen can find race and stakes conditions, entries, results, race office contact information and directions, while potential race attendees can access event details and hours, admission and tailgating prices, guest services contacts and more. Results and replays from past racing events are available along with detailed information on the VEA member organizations. A “Bet Now” page will encourage visitors to learn more about partner Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) companies like TVG, XPressBet and Twin Spires. Fans can get updates and learn of breaking developments through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which are all linked to the new site.
I hope the steady progress continues. While I like the Morven Park initiative, the lack of a dirt track poses a lot of problems and will probably keep my stable from taking a shot at any races there. We don’t set out to purchase or breed turf horses, the opportunities to race them are too few and far between (and the vulnerability to weather doesn’t help either).
what they should be preparing for is a 50% drop in adw revenue as soon as draft kings and fan duel come online.