Virginia Derby Highlights Colonial Downs Slate

Across the board purse increases in stakes races along with the return of the $500,000 Virginia Derby highlight Colonial Downs' 2003 Thoroughbred stakes schedule, which was released by Racing Secretary Clayton Beck.

A total of 14 stakes will be contested over a six-week, 30-program meet, which runs from June 13th thru July 22nd.

The sixth annual "Derby," slated for Saturday July 12th, returns at a $500,000 purse level for the second straight year. Past purse levels of Colonial's Derby ranged from $200,000 to $250,000 until 2002, when prize money for the turf event was raised to $500,000.

Biggest purse increase of any stake this summer was earmarked for the All Along Breeders' Cup (Gr. III), which went from $150,000 in 2002, to $200,000 this year. The All Along, which is part of the Virginia Derby undercard, is 1 1/8 miles on the turf and open to fillies and mares, ages three and up.

The $50,000 David L. "Zeke" Ferguson Memorial (NSA) is a Grade II steeplechase event and completes the trio of stakes on Virginia Derby Day.

The remaining 11 stakes, which include both Virginia bred and non-restricted events, each received a $10,000 purse increase to $50,000 this summer.

The Virginia bred races include the Punch Line, John D. Marsh, Somethingroyal, Oakley, W. Meredith Bailes Memorial, Brookemeade and Daniel Van Clief Stakes, while the Da Hoss, Buckland, Chenery and Tippett Stakes are not restricted.

All but one of the 14 scheduled stakes offerings are slated for the Secretariat Turf Course, the widest grass surface in the country at 180 feet. The lone dirt stakes race is the Bailes Memorial, which is held at six furlongs.

Colonial Downs' seventh pari-mutuel Thoroughbred campaign will feature racing five days per week. Monday, Tuesday and Friday programs begin at 5 PM (EST) while Saturday and Sunday cards go to post at 1 PM