The biggest day in Virginia horse racing history is set for Saturday August 12 at Colonial Downs! The first ever “Festival of Racing” program will feature three prestigious turf stakes races that previously had been run at Arlington International Racecourse for decades — the Grade 1 Arlington Million ($1 million purse), Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes ($500,000 purse) and Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes ($500,000 purse).
The first Arlington Million took place in 1981 and was the first thoroughbred race to ever offer a purse of $1 million. The Million, which received Grade 1 status in 1983, was geared to attract European horses before their year-end championship events in fall. The race annually attracts the best grass runners in the world. The only two-time Million winner is the great John Henry who won it in 1981 and 1984. In its 40th running this year, it will be contested at 1-1/4 miles.
The first Beverly D Stakes was run in 1987 and is for fillies and mares, three years of age and up. The stakes reached Grade 1 status in 1991. The 2023 Beverly D Stakes is a “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win & You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf — the winner automatically advances to the “Cup” Championships at Santa Anita this November. Seven Beverly D winners have gone on to be voted American Championship Female Turf Horse. The stakes will be contested at 1-3/16th miles.
The Secretariat Stakes is named for who many consider to be the greatest racehorse ever. Secretariat was born, raised and trained at The Meadow Farm in Caroline County — where the State Fair of Virginia is currently held. “Big Red” was the 9th Triple Crown winner in 1973, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in record setting times that still stand today. The stakes named in his honor started in 1974 and is for three-year-old turf horses at the one-mile distance. Interestingly, two former Virginia Derby winners have won the Secretariat Stakes — Kitten’s Joy in 2004 and Paddy O’Prado in 2010.
The spectacular Secretariat “Racing Into History” bronze statue will be at Colonial Downs for fans to enjoy on “Festival of Racing” Day. The breathtaking piece was sculpted by acclaimed artist Jocelyn Russell, who has trailered it to stops around the country this year including extended visits at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, Pimlico Racecourse for the Preakness and Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes. The statue, which will be permanently based in Ashland if fundraising goals are met, is 1.5 times Secretariat’s actual size and showcases him racing full stride with jockey Ron Turcotte aboard.
Reserved seats are going fast for the “Festival of Racing” event but general admission and parking are absolutely free!