Virginia’s new harness Certified Residency program got off to a flying start June 22 when the first two graduates of the 2019 foal crop to make their career debuts each got to the winners circle at Monticello Raceway.
KJ Hunter and KJ Unreal — both 2-year-old pacers — were best in their respective $3,900 conditioned races. The pair are owned by Dr. Scott Woogen, trained by Gary Messenger and were driven to victory by Jim Taggart. The former won by 6 3/4 lengths as the 1-2 betting choice and crossed in 2:00.0. The latter prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:59 3/5. Both competed over a sloppy track.
Before the pair started racing, Woogen sent them — along with his other babies — to the Powhatan Plantation in King George, Virginia where they spent six months being raised, per residency program requirements.
Once a horse’s residency is complete and they are of age to start racing, program graduates accumulate points every start during their respective 2 and 3-year-old seasons. The better the finishing position in each start, the more points they accumulate.
Awards are distributed based on cumulative year end point totals and the bonus pool monies available. 2019 foals will compete for a $200,000 prize pool in each of their 2 and 3-year-old seasons. 2020 foals will compete for a $300,000 bonus pool each season while 2021 foals will vie for a $400,000 pool in each. Double points will be awarded from any start in Virginia — at the Shenandoah County Fair and Shenandoah Downs meets.
Horses in the Certified program, beginning with the ’20 foal crop, will also be eligible for a series of newly added $25,000 restricted races at Shenandoah Downs during their freshman and sophomore seasons, based on age, sex and gait. With bonus and restricted race opportunities combined, ’20 and ’21 foals will compete for a combined $2 million in bonus monies.
“We are excited to see the program coming to fruition,” said Debbie Warnick, Executive Director of the Virginia Harness Horse Association (VHHA). “After time spent mapping out the program and welcoming foals to farms and training centers in Virginia the past couple years, it’s nice to see the first foal crop begin to compete. It’s especially nice to kick the program off with wins from the first two starters.”
To enroll in the lucrative program, horses must register with the VHHA and reside at a participating farm or training center in the Commonwealth for a minimum of six consecutive months before they turn two years of age.
Complete program details, application forms and a list of participating farms is available at vhha.net. For more information, call Debbie Warnick at 443-463-0917. The Residency program is separate from the Virginia Breeders Fund program.