Virginia-Restricted & Virginia-Bred/Sired Stakes Take Center Stage
Colonial Downs kicked off its 2021 racing season Monday with a record opening day handle of $2.66 million, spurred by a four-pack of $100,000 Virginia-restricted turf stakes races, and the return of fans to the New Kent track now in its third year under ownership of the Colonial Downs Group.
“We would like to thank the horsemen, our fans on and off site and our team for starting the meet on the right foot,” said John Marshall, Executive VP Operations for the Colonial Downs Group. “What a delight it was to see 2,500 fans at Colonial Downs on a Monday afternoon with such enthusiasm. We appreciate our fans for urging a new all-time Colonial Downs all-source handle opening day record. Looking at today’s card, Colonial Downs has arrived at a whole new level.”
Story lines were aplenty in the nine-race program as Colonial’s all-time leading rider Horacio Karamanos reached the winners circle three times including a gate-to-wire victory atop Reiley McDonald’s Passion Play in the 1 1/16th miles Bert Allen Stakes. The 5-year-old Hold Me Back gelding crossed two lengths ahead of Forloveofcountry, who had a four-race win streak snapped. The winner, a Mary Eppler trainee who broke his maiden two years ago in New Kent, pushed his bankroll to $197,947. Betting favorite Chess Chief finished fourth.
“I expected someone else to go to the front, but when my horse broke out of the gate and took the lead, I tried to control the pace and at the half mile mark, knew I had plenty of horse left,” said Karamanos. “I’m so happy to come here and win this much. This is like my home. I broke records here and feel so happy when I’m back at Colonial Downs.
Karamanos also scored aboard Cavalier Cupid and My Sweet Story.
Gordon Keys’ Grateful Bred’s win in the 5 1/2-furlong Meadow Stable Stakes gave Middleburg, Virginia-based trainer Madison Myers her first stakes win. The 5-year-old Great Notion gelding raced three-wide around the turn, took the lead at the top of the stretch and crossed 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Sky’s Not Falling. He is now 4-for-5 on the turf with earnings of $159,765.
“It’s pretty important and exciting to get my first stakes win,” said Myers. “I can’t thank Mr. Keys enough for giving me a chance with a horse like this. We only have a handful of horses, so for him to leave him with me and let us go down this route is very special. He won a Maryland-bred allowance four weeks and this was the goal, so we worked him once in between.”
Myers added that winning in Virginia made it extra special win. “The horse is Maryland-bred and Virginia-Certified, and we want to support both programs. We moved to Virginia 8 1/2 years ago, bought a house and just had a baby, so we’re pretty settled here now.”
Newtown Anner Stud Farm’s Tasting the Stars earned her third stakes win in the Nellie Mae Cox for Virginia-bred and sired horses with Feargal Lynch in the irons. The John Kimmel trainee was fifth heading into the final turn, launched an inside bid turning for home, and won by 2 1/4 lengths. The 5-year-old Bodemeister mare previously won the Brookmeade at Laurel and Just Jenda Stakes at Monmouth. She is now 5-for-7 with earnings of $204,600.
Big Lick Farm’s Puppymonkeybaby prevailed in the M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes, her second straight win, and gave trainer Sara Nagle her second win of the day. The lightly raced 3-year-old Hit it a Bomb filly was sent off at 24-1 and was making just her third lifetime start. Winning jockey Jevian Toledo collected his second stakes win — he also guided Grateful Bred to victory. Betting favorite Street Lute, winner of seven dirt stakes, finished sixth in her first effort on grass.
Colonial Downs continues its summer meet with a nine-race card Tuesday at 1:45 PM. The season continues every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday thru September 1.