First time by in the 2019 opener at Colonial Downs. Eventual winner Charmn Charlie Ray is #6, inside. Photo by The Racing Biz.

In light of the unprecedented pandemic impacting all walks of life and industries, Colonial Downs Group, a subsidiary of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, announced today that it will alter course from hosting limited spectators to a “spectator-free” racing program for the 2020 race meet, which opens Monday, July 27. 

The decision to conduct the meeting without spectators is at the request of the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (V-HBPA). . The change to “spectator free” racing is out of an abundance of caution and enables Colonial Downs to focus extra care towards key operating areas, such as the jockeys’ quarters, paddock supervision, racing office and the stabling area.  

“We accept the position of our industry partners that adjusting to spectator-free racing is ultimately best for protecting the health and safety of our racing participants,” said John Marshall, Executive Vice President of Operations for Colonial Downs.  “Our team is prepared to deliver a quality racing product while ensuring a safely run meet, which is our chief objective.” 

Colonial Downs joins the group of major racetracks in the region racing without spectators including Saratoga, Laurel Park and Penn National.  Spectators will not be permitted on the outdoor apron or the grandstand seats, and the 4th floor restaurant (1609) and suites will remain closed.   

The 2020 Colonial Downs meeting will be conducted on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings, with first post time at 5:30 p.m. ET. The meeting will conclude on Wednesday, Sept. 2. 

“Our horsemen fully support the decision to conduct racing without fans at Colonial this summer, otherwise the public health risk is too great,” said Frank Petramalo, Jr., Executive Director of V-HBPA. “There is a bright spot — all our races will be televised live on the TVG network, and people can wager on TVG or on other on-line sites.”   

As part of the protocols for jockeys participating in the upcoming meeting, Colonial Downs has established the following procedures: 

  1. Jockeys must provide a negative Covid-19 test before arriving on Colonial Downs grounds for the first time, and the test must have been taken since last riding elsewhere. 
  2. Jockeys who leave Colonial Downs to ride elsewhere, or enter another racetracks jockey’s quarters, will not be permitted to return to Colonial Downs unless they self-quarantine for 14 days and obtain and provide a negative Covid-19 test.