Shenandoah Downs will kick off its first ever-spring harness racing season this weekend in Woodstock, Virginia. The spring harness meet will run from April 1 until May 14 every Saturday and Sunday.
The Virginia Racing Commission agreed to expand the harness racing season this year and run races in the spring and fall. Fall racing will run between Sept. 16 and Oct. 29.
That’s a big development in 2023 for a gaming scene that includes online Virginia sports betting plus a couple of retail sportsbooks, as well as the pari-mutuel wagering associated with horse racing.
The Shenandoah Downs spring meet offers a long list of events including the popular “Own a Horse for a Day” promotion on three separate weekends. The track’s Mountain Racing Series events — the $25,000 Blue Ridge Open Pace and $25,000 Alleghany Open Trot — will be held April 22.
‘Own a Horse for a Day’ Program
A total of 24 lucky contestants will vie for a total of $12,000 in purse money during the meet in the “Own a Horse for a Day” promotion.
Eight contestants will be randomly selected on the first, third, and final weekend in April. Each winner will randomly draw a horse in a specified contest race that day. They will get to spend time in the paddock with their horse, enjoy complimentary lunch and, most important, keep the purse money their horse earns in a $4,000 race. The Virginia Harness Horse Association sponsors the event.
Virginia Track’s Spring Schedule of Events
A trio of Miniature Horse races will complement pari-mutuel action on April 16 while Corgi dogs will battle on the track on April 30.
Fans at Saturday’s opening day festivities will receive a free commemorative stadium seat cushion. Fans attending on April 22 will get a free Shenandoah Downs barbecue apron.
The Shenandoah Valley’s largest Easter Egg Hunt will take place April 8 between races with 3,000 plastic eggs up for grabs. Additional family entertainment that day will include a magic show, face painting, inflatables, a petting zoo, and an appearance by the Easter Bunny.
The Harness Horse Youth Foundation will host a day camp for fans 12 and older at the track on April 29. Participants will have hands-on time with horses in the backstretch beginning with morning training.
Being the first spring meet, Shenandoah Downs made sure race fans won’t miss the Kentucky Derby on May 6. The track will offer wagering on the year’s first Triple Crown thoroughbred race – a popular event for fans of Virginia sportsbook apps to follow – from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Races at Shenandoah Downs will begin at a special time of 2:30 p.m. on Kentucky Derby day. A fancy hat contest will take place between the final harness race and the Derby.
Regular harness racing at the track will be held Saturday and Sunday starting at 1 p.m., including Easter Sunday and Mother’s Day. Parking and admission are free.
The seven-week spring session marks the first spring harness meet to be held in Virginia since 1998, when the inaugural standardbred campaign at Colonial Downs in New Kent took place.
Betting the Ponies Part of Appeal
Of course, wagering is a part of horse racing’s appeal. Bettors can wager on Shenandoah Downs races at the track or through one of the following Off Track Betting locations:
Rosie's Gaming Emporiums in New Kent, Vinton, Richmond, Hampton, Dumfries, and Collinsville.
Breakers Sports Grille in Henrico and Buckets Bar & Grill in Chesapeake also provide off-track betting.
Online betting is available via Twinspires, TVG, Xpressbet, and NYRAbets.
Shenandoah Downs is at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds at Interstate 81, Exit 283 in Woodstock, halfway between Harrisonburg and Winchester.
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