Colonial Ready to Serve as Horse Evacuation Center

from Colonial Downs

With Hurricane Isabel poised to hit land late in the week of Sept. 15, Colonial Downs in Virginia has once again opened its barns to area horses that may have to seek safety from the storm.

"We've done this each of the past couple years, but not to this extent," said Iain Woolnough, director of treasury management at Colonial Downs. "When I came into my office (Sept. 15), there were 28 messages on my voice mail, all regarding the stabling of horses based on projected weather forecasts."

First calls came from the Naval Weapons Station, Portsmouth, Va., Police Dept., and the Newport News, Va., Police Dept, whose equine units had stabled at the New Kent County track during past weather emergencies. Colonial Downs is located an hour or so from the Atlantic Ocean.

"I already have 405 horses coming in the next couple days," Woolnough said. "As a former horseman, I'm proud to open our barn area up as an evacuation center. You can always put your dog or cat in the car and head away from a weather disaster, but you can't do that with a horse."

Craig Andow, who serves as director of racing for the upcoming fall Standardbred meet, has had to switch gears. Instead of preparing for the influx of pacers and trotters, which were due to begin arriving Sept. 20-21, Andow has become a reservation clerk for area horses that could make Colonial's backstretch their home for a few days.

"Most racing stables that had planned on moving in this weekend are pushing back their plans a few days, so we're making use of the stalls," Andow said.

Colonial's sixth harness meet goes from Oct. 3-Nov. 17. The track offers Thoroughbred racing in late spring and early summer.