Colonial Downs Looks to Open With a Bop

It's no joke that Folly Quarter Stable's turf sprinter Bop knows the Colonial Downs Punch Line.

The 6-year-old son of Rahy will return to the $50,000 Punch Line Stakes Saturday for a possible three-peat on the opening weekend of Thoroughbred racing at Colonial Downs. Bop is the only horse to win the Punch Line since it was switched to the turf in 2001.

"We're excited about being able to three-peat. We hope we're able to prevail," said Jonas Cash, the principle of Folly Quarter Stable. "It's a horse race. You never know."

The 32 races that make up the first three programs at Colonial average drew 362 entries, or just over 11 per race. Last year, Colonial Downs was in the top five nationally in percentage of turf racing and average field size.

"Everything is shaping up well," said John Mooney, the general manager and president of the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit. "As we expected, we booked and filled just like last year."

Colonial hopes to expand racing to include more races on the dirt. There are five races over the dirt the first three days of the meet. When they come out of the gate on the dirt it will likely be under the lights. Colonial does not have lights on its turf course and has switched its weekday first race post time to 5 p.m. Colonial Downs has had two years of increased handle and attendance since switching to June and July racing in June in 2001.

The connections of Bop think that the Punch Line is a perfect place to prepare Bop for the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint in Florida run in July. He is certainly a specialty sprinter; five or five or 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, usually on the lead. If he goes a longer distance, the ignition key turns off and the engines rapidly cool.

That's what happened in Bop's last start when he tired late on the softer turf in the stretch of the Grade 3, $100,000 Aegon Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. Bop dueled for the lead with Mighty Beau out of the gate. In the stretch he got passed by a pack of horses and finished eighth, a little over two lengths behind the winner.

"You run into races like that," added Cash. "That surface isn't the best for him. He's not going to run that number on the soft turf."

Colonial has raised the purses of most of their stakes races from $40,000 to $50,000. Colonial Downs races Friday through Tuesday with weekday first race post times at 5 p.m. and weekend races beginning at 1 p.m.