Handle Tops $40 Million at Colonial Downs

Well over $40 million was wagered in the 40 days of live racing at Colonial Downs during the 2005 summer meet that concluded on Aug. 9.

Worldwide wagering on racing at Colonial Downs was $42,765,250. Despite racing six more days than last year, the average daily handle rose to $1,069,131, up $63,605 from last summer.

The added racing days did have a minor effect on the average daily attendance that dropped to 2,028 from 2,155 in 2004. The turnstiles tripped 81,126 times from June 17 to the meet's conclusion, the most since Colonial's inaugural year in 1997.

"I was pleased with how our stakes program went," said John Mooney, the general manager of Colonial Downs. "It brought a lot of national attention to Colonial Downs. That's important when we rely on out of state money to support purses."

The inaugural running of the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup kicked off a new bonus series, the $5 million "Grand Slam of Grass." English Channel won it. The Smart Strike colt returned to Colonial three weeks later to win the $750,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT) on Virginia Million Day. English Channel looks to round third in the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Arlington Park on Saturday. Should he succeed, a $5 million bonus could be waiting for him in the John Deere Breeder Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Belmont Park.

The extra week of racing allowed two stakes races, the $60,000 Polynesian and the $60,000 Chesapeake, to be re-introduced to Colonial Downs. The two open stakes races had not been run since 1998.

By an agreement with the VHBPA, next year's meet at Colonial Downs will be 42 days long with the purses of the Colonial Turf Cup and the Virginia Derby raised to $1 million each. The Grand Slam bonus is expected to be $10 million.

Colonial's successful campaign can be attributed the increase of average daily out of state handle to $912,282 from $835,362, up $76,920.

A tragic moment of the meet happened over the July 23 weekend when apprentice jockey Emanuel Sanchez died from an apparent case of heat exhaustion while trying to maintain riding weight. Sanchez's only win of his career was at Colonial Downs.

Horatio Karamanos was not only the top rider of the meet with 66 wins but also broke Edgar Prado's win mark of 59 set in 1997. Ferris Allen won his fifth trainer title with 24 wins to remain the all-time leading trainer at Colonial Downs. It was Allen's first training title at Colonial since 2001.