Colonial Downs sets handle mark

Virginia Derby
First time by in the 2021 Virginia Derby. Photo by The Racing Biz.

Highlighted by more than $10 million in purse distribution, a new all-time daily average handle, and wide participation from some of America’s leading racing stables, jockeys and trainers, Colonial Downs concluded its 2021 record-setting meeting this week in a spectacularly successful fashion.

The 2021 Colonial Downs race meeting presented by Woodford Reserve was the third season under the banner of the Colonial Downs Group, and fans were welcomed back to the track for a 21-day Virginia-festive racing program, following a shortened meeting last year due to COVID19. This year, the New Kent track expanded its meet to seven weeks and, in a scheduling departure from earlier years, conducted racing Monday through Wednesday afternoons instead of evening programs later in the week.

Incentivized by a minimum daily purse structure of $521,676, powerhouse stables like Godolphin and Juddmonte, and renowned trainers like Shug McGaughey, Graham Motion, Brad Cox and Steve Asmussen, and jockeys Jose Ortiz and Manny Franco, competed for $10,441,300 in total purses. 

As further proof of Colonial’s progress in the Middle Atlantic region, a total of 725 horses were stabled on the grounds. In addition to those based in Virginia, horsemen participating in the meeting came from Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

In all, total handle for the 21-days was $46,867,078, good for a record average daily handle of $2,231,765. The 2019 meet ─ which was 15 days over five weeks ─ produced an average handle of $1,166,666, for a more that 91% increase.

“It is so gratifying to see the continued revival of Virginia racing as we mark new all-time handle heights,” said John Marshall, Colonial Downs Group Executive Vice President, Operations. “We have held true to our promise of building Colonial Downs into one of the country’s elite boutique meets. We thank our horsemen, fans and team for doing their part in making it so.” 

The Colonial racing program generated a total of 1,713 starters for the 205 races conducted this year, for an average of 8.36 runners per race. A total of 148 races were contested over Colonial’s signature Secretariat Turf Course ─ the widest grass racing surface in the country. A total of 1,325 horses competed over turf, an average of 8.85 starters per race; and 388 horses participated in 57 dirt races for an average of 6.81 per race. 

The 2021 meeting was also conducted under the strictest safety and security protocols. These practices played a major role resulting in zero racing or equine fatalities and placed Colonial Downs among the country’s best on The Jockey Club’s Equine Industry Database (EID).