When patrons arrive at Colonial Downs this summer for live racing, there will be a few changes, said John Mooney, general manager of Colonial Downs and president of the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit.
Mooney recently told members of the Virginia Racing Commission of improvements made to Turf Club, parking lots, backstretch, fencing and other decorative items on the grounds in preparation for the meet that runs from June 13-July 22. The track opened for training May 26.
In an attempt to add to its increased attendance numbers, Colonial has moved post time on weekdays to 5 p.m. EDT, with a 1 p.m. start on weekends. Colonial will race Fridays through Tuesdays.
With the later weekday post time and no lights on the turf course, the dirt track is expected to get more use. Last year Colonial ran more than 90% of its races on its 180-foot wide turf course, which has two adjustable rails.
Mooney said he hopes to reduce the amount of turf racing to 60% in anticipation of when Colonial may add more live racing days with an expanded off-track wagering network that would include the opening of satellite wagering centers and the establishment of account wagering.
A five-year agreement between Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association could expand the number of satellite wagering centers from four to as many as 13over the next five years. Gov. Mark Warner has signed bill that allows the commission to regulate account wagering.
"If you look at the caliber of horses, many are suitable for the dirt, which we are going to do more of as we expand the meet and run more days," Mooney said. "The only way to preserve the turf course is to run more races on the dirt."
Colonial is attempting to accommodate trainers so they aren't forced to split their stables between dirt and turf runners.
Attendance at Colonial rose dramatically in 2001 when racing was moved to the summer and Virginia experienced a cool summer. In 2002, attendance continued to increase despite a drought and warmer conditions. Colonial Downs is experiencing a good year off-track with wagering up in every satellite wagering facility. Through April 30, handle in Virginia was up 3.5% from the same period last year.
As part of a giveaway promotion June 13, jockey Ryan Fogelsonger will be featured on a bobble-head doll. Later in the meet, trainer Ferris Allen will be featured. Davy Jones of the Monkees will be back for his third meet at Colonial with a stable of a half-dozen horses or so, and he will also perform July 4.