Colonial Wants More Dates; Sets Turf Stakes

Colonial Downs will continue with its plan to gradually add more Thoroughbred racing dates, having asked the Virginia Racing Commission for 42 days in 2006, two more than this year and eight more than 2004.

Colonial Downs has asked to race from June 16-Aug. 12. Earlier this year, the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit, which coordinated racing dates between the two states, was terminated, and racing interests in Maryland still haven't decided on a schedule for 2006.

The dates for the two marquee 3-year-old turf races at Colonial Downs have been tentatively scheduled though they could change to avoid conflicts with similar races at other tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Colonial Turf Cup and the Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT), each of which will be worth $1 million next year, are set for June 24 and July 15, respectively.

The two races are part of the track's "Grand Slam of Grass" bonus series. The other two races in the series, which may offer a total payout of $10 million for a sweep in 2006, are the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park and the $2-million John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), to be held at Churchill Downs.

Colonial Downs officials indicated there would be an added emphasis to attract European runners for the series. "I'd like to think that we would attract some European horses for the first two with $1 million in each race," Colonial Downs general manager Ian Woolnaugh said.

In early October, Colonial Downs opened its eighth off-track betting center in Chesapeake, Virginia, the second one in that community located near the Atlantic Ocean. The new parlor is located on the eastern end of the city closer to the Virginia Beach waterfront.

The track plans to open its next OTB parlor by the end of the year in Scott County, located in the southwestern corner of the state near Bristol.

"The handle has been good, track president Ian Stewart said of the second parlor in Chesapeake. "It's off to a real good start. There is a lot of potential in that market. We had a good day (Oct. 29) with the Breeder's Cup (simulcast)."