Colonial Downs

Colonial Downs, now under the ownership of Churchill Downs Inc., will host its biggest season of thoroughbred horse racing ever in the summer 2023. The 9-week season runs from July 13 – September 9 with racing every Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 1:30 PM.

Racing fans will want to make note of two dates in particular when planning their horse racing travels. On Saturday August 12, two Grade 1 Stakes will be presented — the Arlington Million and Beverly D — in addition to the Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes. On September 9, the 20th running of the New Kent County Virginia Derby (Gr. 3) will take place along with a full slate of under card stakes.

The New Kent track, located halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg, came back to life in 2019 after a five-year hiatus. As a result, the entire Virginia horse racing industry has a new sense of momentum and optimism courtesy of the comeback season. The industry has been fueled by a new revenue stream — 2,600 historical horse racing (HHR) terminals are in operation at Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums around the state — at the track itself in New Kent, and in Richmond, Vinton, Hampton, Collinsville and Dumfries. A new HHR site in Emporia and a larger HHR resort in Dumfries are expected to open in 2023. Off Track Betting Centers are located inside each Rosie’s Gaming Emporium.

2019 Virginia Derby winner English Bee (#8, inside) won a thriller at Colonial Downs over Jais’s Solitude. Photo by Coady Photography.

The HHR machines allow players to wager past horse races on slot machine-like terminals that have various themed games. Payoffs are still determined through pari-mutuel pools. Colonial Downs originally opened in 1997 and held thoroughbred races through 2013 and standardbred (harness) races through 2014.  

2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Four Wheel Drive was most impressive in his career debut at Colonial Downs. Photo by Coady Photography.

The signature Virginia Derby turf stakes race, which carries a $500,000 purse this year, has been won by champion horses like Kitten’s Joy, Gio Ponti and English Channel. The Arlington Million and Beverly D will be the first Grade I events ever held at the New Kent track!

Horses compete over the Secretariat Turf Course at Colonial. Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

The two track surfaces at Colonial Downs are second to none. The Secretariat Turf Course is 1 1/8 miles around and is 180 feet wide. The outer dirt oval is 1 1/4 miles long and is second in length only to Belmont Park’s, which is 1 1/2 miles around. Over 80% of the races in 2023 are expected to be held over the grass surface. This year is also the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown sweep in 1973. Stay tuned out for details on exciting local events to celebrate Virginia’s greatest equine athlete including a life size statue unveiling at Randolph Macon College in Ashland.

Colonial Downs operates two “VA Horseplay” Off Track Betting Centers that are in existing bar/restaurants. Originally opened by the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) as Virginia Bets OTBs, Colonial took over ownership and management of them in April, 2019. The pair continue to offer live simulcast wagering from up to 20 tracks daily. Locations are:

*HENRICO – Breakers Sports Grille – 9127 W. Broad Street – Henrico, VA 23294

*CHESAPEAKE – Buckets Bar & Grill – 228 N. Battlefield Blvd – Chesapeake, VA 23320

More details can be found at