Colonial Downs’ 40-day summer race meet came to a close the night of July 28, as the leading trainer, owner, jockey, and apprentice rider were all awarded for their successes.
After a tight battle between trainers Hamilton Smith and Ferris Allen for leading trainer, Smith walked away with his sixth title at Colonial Downs. With 26 winners from 118 starts, Smith’s horses earned $500,725 during the meet. The two trainers traditionally battle here annually. In the 13 seasons of racing in Virginia, either Smith or Allen has won the title 12 times.
Owner David Ross once again dominated at Colonial Downs, earning his fifth straight leading owner title with 11 wins from 42 starts. His checkered maroon and white silks became a familiar site in the winner’s circle. Mrs. Arturo Peralta-Ramos finished second in the standings, with seven wins from 22 starts.
Leading jockey for the season, Rosemary Homeister Jr., booted home 51 winners and became the second leading female rider in history during the summer meet, her first ever at Colonial. Her 2009 Colonial mounts earned more than $713,000. She put an exclamation point on the meet by collecting four wins on closing night.
Second in the standings behind Homeister was young rider Sheldon Russell, who earned the title of top apprentice rider. Crossing the line first on 36 of his 221 mounts (25 of those wins with his bug status), Russell had a solid comeback meet after breaking his hand early in Colonial’s 2008 season.
From a business standpoint, average on track attendance and handle actually rose over the prior year in a tough economic climate. The 2009 average attendance of 1,722 and on track handle of $128,141 were 3% and 1% better than last season’s 1,668 and $126,194 figures respectively.
Import and total handle numbers fell, though, when compared to 2008. This year’s average daily import handle of $627,560 was 35% off the prior season’s mark of $960,834, while average total handle of $780,365 was 31% off the 2008 average of $1,118,743.
On the track itself, full fields held up throughout the 40-day summer meet. Of the 379 races carded, 272 were held over the Secretariat Turf Course, while the other 107 were run on the 1 1/4-mile dirt oval. Turf races averaged 9.49 starters per race, up over the 8.18 average in 2008, while dirt races averaged 7.5 starters per race, the highest figure in the past six years.
Colonial had 8.93 starters per race overall, the second highest figure in the past six years. The track lost five and a half days of racing on turf due to weather conditions.