Virginia bettors will get their hearts racing on Monday when 111 horses hit the track and pari-mutuel betting takes its place at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia. Thoroughbred racing has returned to the commonwealth for the 2021 season.
Monday is opening day at Colonial Downs racetrack — and a big day for for Virginia gambling. It begins 21 days of racing through Sept. 1. The track will be open for racing Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays with a post time of 1:45 p.m. each day.
Those interested in VA sports betting will see thoroughbred horses from around the country run for seven weeks at the track.
When Colonial Downs announced its schedule in March, Jill Byrne, vice president of racing operations at Colonial Downs Group, said “the past year of the pandemic has been so challenging for everyone, we can’t wait to see our wonderful fans and supporters safely enjoying the excitement of live horse racing.”
The Virginia sports betting market launched in late January. The state posted $227 million in total handle in May.
Virginia Derby Aug. 31
The facility will also host the Virginia Derby on Aug. 31. It is raced on turf at a distance of nine furlongs and is open to 3-year-old horses.
The first Virginia Derby was held at Colonial Downs on Oct. 3, 1998, in front of 8,103 fans. This year will be the 19th running of a $200,000 derby after missing a few years in the past. The event will feature some of the country's top trainers, jockeys and turf horses.
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The track first opened Sept. 1, 1997, with more than 13,000 attending opening day. The start of racing at the track is the second major horse racing event each year in the state after the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase races in The Plains held in May. Virginia harness racing will be next at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock, scheduled to begin Sept. 17.
Opening With 12 Races
Twelve races are planned for Monday's opening day at Colonial Downs. There will be five 14-horse fields and one 13-horse field running on opening day, with a four-pack of $100,000 stakes.
Bettors can place wagers on Colonial Downs races at the track using one of their betting windows or virtual betting machines. Off-track betting is also available at several locations in Virginia. Online betting is available through TVG, twinspires.com, XpressBet and NYRABets.
Colonial Downs offers outdoor clubhouse boxes, reserved grandstand seating and a hospitality tent trackside with concessions. General admission is free and grandstand reserved seats start at $5, according to the Colonial Downs website.
This year, Colonial Downs has added a stringent COVID-19 mitigation and prevention program that includes daily screenings, frequent sanitation, and strict adherence to changing guidelines from federal, state, and local health authorities.
In addition, the facility planned on hosting a vaccination clinic this week featuring the Moderna vaccine for licensed horsemen and their immediate family members. A second dose is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 11.