Enriched Colonial Downs Meet Highlights Spectacular Summer Steeplechase Season

The following was written by Tod Marks and appeared on his social media channels.

In a blockbuster announcement, the National Steeplechase Association has released details of powerhouse jump racing programs at the flat tracks this summer that includes 19 races worth $950,000 at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., and four races at Saratoga Race Course in Upstate New York: the A.P. Smithwick and Jonathan Sheppard, both Grade 1s with a $150,000 purse, and two $75,000 novice stakes, the Jonathan Kiser and Michael G. Walsh.

Additionally, NYRA will showcase the $150,000 Beverly R. Steinman handicap hurdle stakes, named after the longtime owner who has successfully straddled both the steeplechase and flat racing worlds with stars such as Dark Equation, who captured the 2008 New York Turf Writers Cup (G1), and Colstar, a filly who won more than $1 million on the flat. The Steinman will be contested at 2 ⅜ miles on Sunday June 9 at the Spa, the day after Belmont Stakes, which is being run at Saratoga for the first time while Belmont Park is reconstructed from the ground up.

NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo pictured with Peggy Steinman.

“Peggy Steinman has represented the National Steeplechase Association at the highest level for decades, particularly at Saratoga, where her presence alone, sitting in her prominent finish-line box, has reminded people in the industry and especially at the New York Racing Association that the traditions of steeplechasing run deep,” said Bill Gallo, the NSA’s Director of Racing. “This is a fitting and wonderful tribute to a very special person on an historic weekend in Saratoga. She is thrilled with the honor and looking forward to the Belmont at Saratoga Festival.”

NYRA also reaffirmed its commitment to host the $150,000 Lonesome Glory (G1) and $75,000 William Entenmann novice stakes at the Belmont at Aqueduct meet on Thursday Sept. 19, a week after the Friday Sept. 13 opening day.

The summer calendar, which begins July 11 and ends Sept. 6, offers steeplechasing the opportunity to broaden its appeal to a wider fan base, especially at Saratoga, the highest profile race meet in the U.S.

NYRA races are broadcast live on Fox2 TV, with replays available on NYRA website, https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/replays. Fans can watch the races from Colonial Downs on their simulcast signal or via live stream from the NSA web site, www.nationalsteeplechase.com.

Colonial Downs will offer wagering on steeplechase races for the first time in years this summer. The races previously were held off the card — before the first pari-muuel flat race began — on Fridays.

All races will be part of the flat-racing cards at Colonial on Thursdays (the races were previously run on Fridays) and at Saratoga on Wednesdays. At both meets, the jump races will be at the beginning of the day. The races at Colonial will go off as the first, second, and third on the program, with a 1:30 p.m. first post. At Saratoga post time is 1:10 p.m.

Highlighting the action at Colonial are a pair of $100,000 filly and mare stakes, the Randolph D. Rouse and Life’s Illusion. Most of the races at Colonial Downs have been carded as open maiden special weights hurdles (one of which is restricted to four-year-olds), and all have gotten a purse bump to $50,000. There are also two $55,000 allowance contests for non-winners of two, and several ratings handicaps and starter events worth $30,000 to $35,000. Colonial is bringing back another popular event, a $50,000 flat race for horses who competed but didn’t win a jump race at the track during the meet. It’ll take place on the track’s closing Friday, Sept. 6.

The addition of the Beverly R. Steinman stakes gives the NSA a total of eight Grade 1s on the 2024 schedule. In January, the Virginia Gold Cup Association revealed plans for a new Grade 1 fixture, the Commonwealth Cup, at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, Va., on May 4. Before that, the Carolina Cup Association announced it would bring back after an eight-year hiatus the Colonial Cup at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., on Nov. 17.

Full major track schedule:

Belmont at Saratoga

• June 9, Beverly R. Steinman (G1)


• July 11, Open maiden, filly & mare maiden, allowance

• July 18, Open maiden, 110, and 115 ratings handicap

• Aug. 01, Open maiden, maiden starter, and allowance

• Aug. 08, Open maiden, 115 ratings handicap, and Randolph D.Rouse Memorial filly & mare stakes

• Aug. 22, Open maiden, four-year-old maiden, maiden starter

• Sept. 05, Open maiden, 110 ratings, Life’s Illusion filly & mare stakes

• Sept. 06, Flat race for jumpers who started at the meet but didn’t win


• July 17, A.P. Smithwick Memorial (G1)

• July 31, Jonathan Kiser Memorial novice stakes

• Aug. 14, Jonathan Sheppard Memorial (G1)

• Aug. 28, Michael G. Walsh Memorial novice stakes

Belmont at Aqueduct

• Sept. 19, William Entenmann Memorial novice stakes, Lonesome Glory (G1)

2024 NSA Grade 1s

May 04, $150,000 Commonwealth Cup, 2 ⅛ miles, Virginia Gold Cup Races

May 11, $200,000 Calvin Houghland Memorial Iroquois, 3 miles, Iroquois

June 09, $150,000 Beverly R. Steinman, 2 ⅜ miles, Saratoga

July 17, $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial, 2 ⅜ miles, Saratoga

Aug. 14, $150,000 Jonathan Sheppard Memorial, 2 ⅜ miles, Saratoga

Sept. 19, $150,000 Lonesome Glory, 2 ½ miles, Belmont at Aqueduct

Oct. 19, $250,000 Grand National, 2 ⅝ miles, Far Hills

Nov. 17, $150,000 Colonial Cup, 2 ⅝ miles, Colonial Cup

Note: The Iroquois and Grand National are weight-for-age races. The other Grade 1s are handicaps.