Fionnbharr broke her maiden at Laurel Park. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.
Fionnbharr is nominated to the Edward Evans Stakes for Virginia-breds. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

Virginia-bred, -sired and/or -certified horses will be spotlighted in the first three evenings of racing at Colonial Downs – Monday, July 27 through Wednesday, July 29 – with six stakes races. Three of the events are for registered Virginia bred/sired runners and three for Virginia-restricted Thoroughbreds.

The opening night’s program will be highlighted by the $40,000 Van Clief Handicap for fillies and mares at one mile over Colonial’s renowned Secretariat turf course. Most prominent among the 30 nominees for the Van Clief is Dare To Dream Stable’s Embolden, winner of the Jamestown Stakes here last September. The Mike Stidham-trained son of The Factor has not raced since a third-place run in the $400,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park last December. The career earner of $181,000 is cross-nominated to the July 29 Edward P. Evans Stakes.

Other noms of note include the 1-2-3 finishers in the 2019 Bert Allen Stakes – Alex Kazdan’s K D’s Cat Bird, Sarah Nagle’s Black Prong and Lady Olivia at Northcliff’s Accountable; Eagle Point Farm’s Braxton, runner-up in last August’s Meadow Stable Stakes; and Morgan’s Ford Farm’s River Deep, the winner of last summer’s Evans.

Juvenile runners headline the Tuesday, July 28 card with a pair of $40,000 dashes – one open and one for the fillies. The 5 1/2-furlong White Oak Farm Stakes attracted 20 nominations most of whom are making their career debuts. One exception is Kingdom Bloodstock’s Merchant of Hope. The daughter of Bayern broke her maiden at Charles Town at first asking for trainer Phil Schoenthal and is cross-nominated to the open race.

The open division honors 1991 Preakness and Belmont Stakes champion Hansel and will also be contested at 5½ furlongs. In addition to aforementioned Merchant of Hope, other winners listed among the 30 nominees are O’Sullivan Farms and Huntertown Farm’s Natural Attraction and R. Larry Johnson’s and RDM Stable’s Sky’s Not Falling.

A trio of Virginia-bred/sired stakes – each with a $60,000 purse – will highlight the Wednesday, July 29 card. Fifteen horses have each been nominated to the Nellie Mae Cox and Camptown Stakes while 19 were nominated to the Edward P. Evans.

Tasting The Stars and Bella Aurora headline horses for the Nellie Mae Cox, a one-mile filly and mare turf stakes. The former is a Michael Stidham trainee who won the 2019 Just Jenda Stakes at Monmouth and was sixth in last year’s Virginia Oaks. A 4-year-old Bodemeister filly bred by Audley Farm, Tasting The Stars is three for four with $96,600 in earnings. The latter, trained by Michael Trombetta, won the 2019 Gin Talking Stakes and was runner-up in Colonial’s Jamestown Stakes. Bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm, the 3-year-old Carpe Diem filly has bankrolled $154,140 from eight starts. Also nominated is the Ian Wilkes-trained Urban Fairytale who is fresh off a maiden special weight victory at Gulfstream March 29. 

The top two finishers from last year’s M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes were nominated to the Camptown. What The Beep, trained and bred by Karen Godsey at her Ashland, Virginia, Eagle Point Farm, prevailed by one length in the Gilpin and was a runner-up in the 2018 Camptown. English Heiress, a Patrick Neusch trainee, finished second behind What the Beep. Also nominated is Tan and Tight, a 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly conditioned by Michael Stidham. She has earned $100,000 from seven starts including a dominating maiden special weight win at Aqueduct in January. Bella Aurora, nominated to the Nellie Mae Cox in addition to the Camptown.

Embolden and K D’s Cat Bird – both six figure earners – are among the Edward P. Evans nominees. Both are also nominated to the July 27 Van Clief.

The Colonial Downs season begins Monday, July 27, with racing conducted three days a week – Monday through Wednesday – with a first post of 5:30 p.m. EDT with provisions for a limited number of spectators in attendance for the 18-day schedule.