Colonial's requested 42 days of racing that will start Friday, June 16 and continue through Saturday, Aug. 12. Colonial's request is consistent with the track's agreement with the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association to race 42 days in 2006 and 50 days in 2007. The VRC approval is the earliest Colonial Downs has been awarded their dates."I'm really looking forward to a good year. The early approval allows us to get the stakes races published on the racing calendars early and allows the horsemen to begin thinking about coming to Colonial," said Colonial's vice president and general manager, Ian Woolnaugh.
Although the meet will essentially run over the same period of days as in previous years, Colonial's stakes races will be shuffled, avoiding several conflicts that were present last year.
Colonial's two $1 million turf stakes races for 3-year-olds, the Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT) and the Colonial Turf Cup, will be run on the same weekends as in 2005. The date of the Colonial Turf Cup will be June 24 with the Virginia Derby being run three weeks later on July 15. The two stakes make up the first two legs of the $5 million "Grand Slam of Grass" bonus offered by Jacobs Investments.
The $200,000 All Along Stakes (gr. IIIT) that had historically been run on the same day as the Virginia Derby will now be run on the same day as the Colonial Turf Cup. The $200,000 Virginia Oaks will be run on the Friday prior to the Virginia Derby on July 14.
Colonial Downs has been in discussions with Delaware Park to avoid running similar stakes races on the same day. Under the concept, the All Along will be moved to avoid a conflict with the $300,000 Benjamin G. Dick Breeder's Cup that is run at Delaware Park. Delaware Park would move its $500,000 Kent Breeder's Cup (gr. IIIT) to a date after the Virginia Derby. Woolnaugh, a former jockey who rode in Europe, maintains a home in Newmarket, England and plans to utilize a planned vacation in December to recruit European horses to Colonial.
"With the two $1 million races three weeks apart, you can get two for the price of one," explained Woolnaugh. "You can get good money even if you don't win."In other matters, Colonial has also hired John Passero and Joe King as consultants to restore Colonial's dirt course. Jim Weinberg, counsel to Colonial Downs, reported to the commission that the Scott County off-track betting facility located in southwestern Virginia near Bristol is on schedule to be completed by the end of the year with its grand opening scheduled for mid-January. The Scott County facility would be the ninth off-track betting facility in Virginia and the fifth off-track betting facility opened by Colonial Downs since November of 2003.