Horses on the track at Colonial Downs. Photo by Nick Hahn.

Colonial Downs will usher in its second season of Thoroughbred racing under the ownership of the Colonial Downs Group on Monday July 27 with nine pari-mutuel races getting underway at 5:30 PM (EDT). There will be two non-wagering steeplechase events prior at 4:00 and 4:40 PM. 

One hundred and eight horses were entered for opening night’s card and $316,000 in purse money will be distributed. Seven of the nine flat races will be contested over Colonial’s massive Secretariat Turf Course — the widest grass racing surface in the country at 180 feet across — and the other two will held over the 1 1/4-miles dirt track.  

The featured race is a $42,000 turf allowance for 2-year-olds at 5½ furlongs. A field of nine will battle in the eighth race including seven last-time-out winners. The only two that did not prevail most recently were Sunshine City and Crown and Coke, who raced in stakes at Royal Ascot and Churchill Downs, respectively.   

A jockey colony of some 30 riders will be based in New Kent for the six-week meet including Trevor McCarthy, last year’s top jock with 15 wins. Through July 22 this year, McCarthy is ranked 30th in the country by purse earnings with $2,576,300. Daniel Centeno, who tied for second with 13 victories, is back as is Forest Boyce, who finished fourth in the standings. The trio will be busy on opening night. McCarthy and Boyce have nine mounts each while Centeno has eight. 

Veteran jockeys Chuck Lopez and Alberto Delgado are part of the group. Lopez competed at Colonial in 2019 and collected seven wins. The 59-year-old has 4,301 wins from over 30,000 starts. Delgado will be riding for the first time since 2017. The 56-year-old, who has 2,932 victories from over 25,000 starts, rode California Chrome to his first two wins in 2013. Lopez has six mounts Monday while Delgado has two. 

Mike Stidham and Jamie Ness, co-leading trainers at the 2019 meet with 10 wins each, have horses entered Monday. The former, who won the 2019 Virginia Oaks with Carnival Colors and Kitten’s Joy with Doc Boy last summer, has Princess Grace in the seventh and Palio in the fifth. The latter sends Hazels Little Man out in the featured eighth.  

Also supporting the opener are Graham Motion, whose English Bee captured the 2019 New Kent County Virginia Derby (G3), and Wesley Ward, whose Four Wheel Drive won the Exacta Systems Rosie’s Stakes then went on the win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1). Motion’s’ Dance Recital appears in the seventh and Ward’s Sunshine City competes in the feature. Both Ferris Allen, Colonial’s all-time leading conditioner, and King Leatherbury, fifth leading all-time trainer nationally with 6,503 victories, have a pair entered.   

The track will feature a nightly All-Turf Pick-5 wager that covers the program’s final five races. Colonial is in a unique position because its track lights illuminate the grass course instead of the dirt oval. Three of the five legs in Monday’s wager have either a 13- or 14-horse field.  

The early steeplechase races will be a staple of every Monday card this summer. Opening day’s pair feature 10-horse fields and seven in each raced most recently in Virginia — either at the Middleburg Spring Races or the Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow which both took place in June.  

The 2020 race meet will be presented “spectator-free” out of an abundance of caution so Colonial Downs’ personnel can focus extra care towards key operating areas, such as the jockeys’ quarters, paddock supervision, racing office and the stabling area.  

The season continues through September 2 with cards every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 5:30 PM. The Grade 3 Virginia Derby highlights the meet and will be contested on Tuesday September 1 along with other five stakes.