Colonial Meet to Begin With Large Turf Fields

Colonial Meet to Begin With Large Turf Fields
Photo: Coady Photography

If entries for the first two programs are any indication, Colonial Downs in Virginia should have a strong meet from a wagering perspective.

The track begins its 2011 meet June 8 with nine races that attracted 122 entries. The June 9 card lured 109 entries for nine races.

On both days eight races are scheduled for the turf, as is the custom at Colonial Downs. Opening day has seven 14-horse fields on the turf.

“It’s as strong an opening-day card as I’ve seen here,” director of racing Tyler Picklesimer said in a statement. “You couldn’t ask for a better way to kick off the meet.”

Last year’s numbers were an anomaly for Colonial Downs, with average field size of only 7.71 horses per race for a 40-day meet, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.  In 2009 average field size was a more common 8.90 horses per race over 40 days.

Purses last year averaged $161,399 per day, down from $174,545 in 2009. This year’s meet was trimmed to 33 days to boost purses.

Colonial Downs will race four days a week through July 31. Live racing will be held Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 5 p.m. EDT, and Sundays at 12:55 p.m.

Purses are comparable to those of last year, with maiden special weight events going for $23,000 and entry-level allowance races for $24,000. The minimum purse, for $5,000 maiden claimers, is $7,600.

Each open race will offer a 100% bonus to winning Virginia-bred horses. The Virginia Thoroughbred Association said the owners’ bonus is the highest in the United States.

The races as usual have a decidedly Maryland flavor. Maryland and Virginia are the two Mid-Atlantic states that have “circuit” arrangement; the Pimlico Race Course meet ended May 21, and live racing won’t be held again until the Maryland State Fair at Timonium meet in late August.

The $600,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) for 3-year-olds is scheduled for July 16. The $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup, formerly a grade II event for 3-year-olds, is now open to older horses, so it won’t carry a grade this year.

New on the schedule is the “Commonwealth Turf Fest,” which will feature five $50,000 grass stakes for Virginia-bred runners July 30.

For ontrack patrons,Colonial Downs has constructed a viewing platform on top of the infield tote board that will offer betting windows, tables, and concessions.  The idea is to allow fans a better view of races on the turf course.

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