Colonial Downs Schedule Includes $2-Million Grass Bonus Scheme

Colonial Downs Schedule Includes $2-Million Grass Bonus Scheme
Photo:
Colonial Downs racetrack.
A $2-million "Grand Slam of Grass" bonus and a three-day Labor Day Weekend Turf Festival highlight a proposal prepared by Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association that will be reviewed by the Virginia Racing Commission Feb 16.

A new $250,000 stakes race, the Colonial Turf Cup for 3-year-olds is part of the proposal.

Colonial Downs would pay a $2 million bonus to the Grand Slam winner. The "bases" for the Grand Slam would be comprised of the $500,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT) at Colonial Downs, either the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park or the $150,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga, the new $250,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs, and the $2,000,000 John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).

The plan isn't specific on whether the Virginia Derby winner could choose the Secretariat or Hall of Fame race as "second base," or whether it will be determined in upcoming weeks. The length of the Colonial Turf Cup hasn't been determined but is expected to be at least one mile.

It's a lot to ask, but the Grand Slam of Grass could be won. In 2004, Kitten's Joy won the Virginia Derby, the Secretariat Stakes, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) against older horses and was second in the Breeders' Cup Turf. At year's end, he was honored with an Eclipse Award as champion turf male.

"Kitten's Joy is the type of horse that could have swept all of them," said Frank Petramalo, a member of the Virginia HBPA board of directors.

At the Feb. 16 commission meeting, Colonial Downs and the Virginia HBPA will request approval of 40 days of live racing at Colonial Downs in 2005. Colonial Downs held 34 days of racing in 2004.

The expanded racing season would open June 17, the Friday after the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) as it traditionally does. For the first time, the summer meet would overlap with racing at Saratoga. These 37 days of racing would offer an average of $200,000 a day in purse money.

A turf festival concept that has been a priority for Colonial's CEO and chairmen Jeffrey Jacobs is part of the proposal. An all turf three-day racing event offering $300,000 a day in purses over Labor Day weekend is being requested coinciding with the "America's Day at the Races."

"The track used to open on Labor Day when we raced in the fall. We've been there and done that at that time of year," said John Mooney, general manager of Colonial Downs.

Colonial Downs and VHBPA also agreed on a tentative two-year racing plan. In 2006, Colonial would host 39 days of racing with average purses of at least $200,000 along with the three-day Turf Festival. The purse for the Colonial Turf Cup would increase to $500,000. In 2007, 50 days of live racing with a 47-day summer meet and three-day turf festival is proposed.

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