Preparations Continue for Colonial Downs Summer Meet Opening July 13 Under CDI Ownership

The 2023 thoroughbred racing season at Colonial Downs is just around the corner and preparations are underway to make the 9-week meet in New Kent — the first since Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) purchased it — the best ever.

The season will extend from July 13 – September 9 with racing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 1:30 PM. All of Colonial’s races will be televised on FanDuel TV or FanDuel Racing. The barn area in New Kent opened June 19 and training began on June 22.        

Colonial’s 180-foot turf course is separated in two — an inner grass course and an outer one.

An average of $600,000-plus in purse money will be distributed daily. A record $5.2 million stakes schedule is highlighted by the relocation of a pair of Grade 1 stakes — the Arlington Million and $500,000 Beverly D — in addition to the $500,000, Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes. Another highlight is the 20th running of the Grade 3, $500,000 New Kent County Virginia Derby on September 9 when $1.3 million in stakes purses will be on the line.

The Arlington Million card, scheduled for Saturday August 12, is being branded as the “Colonial Downs Festival of Racing” program. The Beverly D, which is now a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race in the Filly & Mare Turf division, is on the card along with the Secretariat Stakes —  which both will be contested over Colonial’s signature Secretariat Turf Course. The massive grass course, 180 feet in width, is named for the elite Virginia-bred who captured America’s fascination 50 years ago when he won the Triple Crown in record setting fashion at all three legs. 

The Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes will be held at Colonial Downs for the first time on August 12.

The August 12 Million date remains on the traditional weekend that the internationally renowned trio of stakes had been held at Arlington International Racecourse — on the second Saturday of August. The Million will be run at 1-1/4 miles, the Beverly D at 1-3/16 miles and the Secretariat at one mile. 

The Virginia Derby will carry a purse of $500,000 — $200,000 more than in 2022 — while the purse of its sister race, the (Listed) Virginia Oaks, has been kicked up $50,000 to $250,000 this year. Also on the stakes-filled closing day card is the $150,000 Da Hoss, $150,000 Colonial Cup, $125,000 Rosie’s and $125,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes — all on turf.  

Opening Saturday, July 15 features four $125,000 stakes for Virginia-bred/sired horses — the Edward P. Evans at one mile, the Punch Line at 5-1/2 furlongs, the M. Tyson Gilpin/Glen Petty for fillies and mares at 5-1/2 furlongs and the Brookmeade for fillies and mares at 1-1/16 miles. 

Red Knight prevailed in the 2022 Colonial Cup at the 1-1/2 miles distance. The 2023 Cup will be part of the Virginia Derby under card.

The next round of stakes featuring Commonwealth connected horses is on Saturday September 2 with the $125,000 Jamestown Stakes for Virginia-bred/sired 2-year-olds at 5-1/2 furlongs along with a four-pack of $150,000 stakes for Virginia-restricted horses — the Meadow Stable for older horses at 5-1/2 furlongs and its female companion race, the Camptown, and the Bert Allen and its filly and mare counterpart, the Nellie Mae Cox, both at 1-1/16 miles. 

A pair of NSA steeplechase races will be contested every Friday as races one and two, and unlike the last several years, they will be part of the track’s pari-mutuel offering. In addition to single race wagers, the jump pair can be bet as an early daily double and as part of the early Pick-3’s. Featured steeplechase events this summer include the $75,000 Randolph D. Rouse Stakes on August 11 and the $75,000 Life’s Illusion Stakes on September 8 — both for fillies and mares. The former will be contested at 2-1/4 miles while the latter will be at two miles. 

Owner and trainer bonus incentives are a big highlight of the meet too. Owners will receive the greater of $1,000 or their share of purse money from each race while trainers will receive $300 per horse started. 

Owners of Virginia-bred and Virginia-sired horses will earn a 50% bonus on 1st through 4th place finishes in all open races. Developers of Virginia-certified horses will earn 25% more for wins in open races and Breeders of Virginia-bred horses will earn awards for all wins at Colonial, in addition to any win in North America.   

Ballyerin Racing’s Virginia-bred Kendama, who won a $41,800 starter optional claiming race June 11 at Laurel, could have his sights set on a $125,000 Virginia-bred stakes race at Colonial this summer (Jim McCue photo).

Training on the main track will be available every day but Sunday and turf training will be available one day a week. The first of two condition books is online at     

Colonial Downs is bringing back the Pick-6 wager for 2023 and will be adding a second daily Pick-5 all at reduced takeout levels. The Old Dominion 6 will be offered as a classic Pick-6 with a 15% takeout on the final six races daily. After a successful debut in 2022, an early and late 50-cent Pick-5 will feature a low 12% takeout rate. The early bet will cover the first five flat races while the late one will include the final five races.   

Fans will again enjoy free parking and free admission every day with one exception — “Festival of Racing” day when admission will be $25. Five different giveaway days are scheduled including a Baseball Cap on opening day and T-Shirt on August 11.