Having added four additional days of racing to its lineup in 2004, Virginia's Colonial Downs this week posted all-time total attendance and handle records, and reported a rise in the average daily on-track handle. Track officials noted slight declines from prior years in average daily attendance and in out-of state wagering figures.
Record rainfall in the Richmond area was considered the prime factor in the slight decrease in average daily attendance. June was described as the "wettest on record", and measurable amounts of rainfall fell on 15 of the first 26 days in July. In all, 55% more rain than normal besotted the 34-day Colonial meet, forcing the racing off the turf 13 times -- a total representing more than the six prior seasons combined. Turf races -- as high as 91% of the total card in 2002 -- fell to 56% in 2004.
Despite inclement weather on two of the track's three major promotional days, average attendance fell just 38 people per day on those occasions from 2,193 in 2003 to 2,155 this summer. The year's total of 73,270 easily surpassed the 65,796 who walked through the turnstiles in 2003 -- the second best figure in the history of the New Kent Oval.
Total on-track-handle hit an all-time high with $6,717,620 sent through the betting windows -- $4,700,026 on the live offering, and another $2,017,594 wagered on incoming simulcasts. In all, the average daily on-track handle of $197,577 was the highest in the track's eight-year history.
Total import handle fell slightly from last year's all-time high of $29,488,341 to $27,367,823. The average daily import handle was $804,936, down slightly from the mark of $982,945 in 2003.
The inaugural "Virginia Million" day was said by track officials to be an "unqualified success." Total handle on that day was a record $3,084,466, up considerably from the 2003 mark of $2,473,385. The on-track handle of $669,958, also a record high, easily topped the 2003 figure of $569,355.
Weather also claimed Colonial's traditionally strong starters-per-race figure, with average runners in each race falling from 9.8 in 2003 to 8.7. Colonial's turf races in 2004 featured a typically high figure of 9.8 starters-per-race in keeping with the number of runners in prior years.
Track records were set in several stakes races, most notably Mt. Carson's clocking of a 1:35.07 mile in the Da Hoss Stakes on June 26. Ryan Fogelsonger lead all riders for the second year in a row with 53 winners and $1,006,010 in purse money -- the second highest winnings total in Colonial Downs history. Bug rider Christopher Van Hassel rode 31 winners to finish third overall while earning top apprentice honors.
Phil Schoenthal took home top trainer honors posting 22 wins, while two-time defending training champ Hamilton Smith led all conditioners in the earnings category with $358,250.
Colonial Downs resumes live racing on October 1 when it will launch an eight-week harness season set to run through November 22.