Virginia Horse Betting Is In the Gate, Ready For 2021

Virginia Horse Betting Is In the Gate, Ready For 2021

With the Kentucky Derby now behind us, Virginia bettors can turn their attention to four annual events that support pari-mutuel betting in the commonwealth.

Pari-mutuel betting is the most common form of horse racing betting. Rather than placing a bet against the race track, as one would with a bookie or sportsbook, horse racing bettors are wagering against each other. For this reason, the payouts on a single wager could range anywhere from less than the actual amount wagered to astronomical amounts.

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There are three types of pari-mutuel horse races that take place in Virginia — Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase racing at Great Meadow in The Plains, thoroughbred racing at Colonial Downs in New Kent and harness racing at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock. Colonial Downs also hosts the Virginia Derby.

96th Virginia Gold Cup

The Virginia Gold Cup is held at the Great Meadow Foundation's 374-acre equestrian event park in The Plains. Founded by philanthropist Arthur “Nick” Arundel as a permanent home for the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase races, Great Meadow today hosts numerous events that draw 200,000 through the gates each year to see steeplechasing, polo and show jumpers.

Working with the state and public health authorities over the past few months to provide a safe environment for spectators, the decision was made by the Virginia Gold Cup Association to move the 2021 race to May 29 from its original date of May 1.

”This decision was made to have the most favorable race environment for our spectators and our horseman,” the association posted on its website. “We will return to the first Saturday in May for 2022.”

Bettors are encouraged to grab a race program at the event, scope out their horses and head to one of the betting stations placed around the grounds to see a mutuel teller and place their bet. The minimum bet is $2.

Colonial Downs

Colonial Downs is located in New Kent County adjacent to Interstate 64, halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg. The track runs about 21 races per year between July and September.

Thoroughbred horses from around the country run every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for seven weeks at the track.

Colonial Downs offers a family-friendly atmosphere, casual dining in the Jockey Club and upscale Turf Club dining, private suites for larger parties, outdoor clubhouse boxes, reserved grandstand seating and a hospitality tent trackside with concession fare open to everyone.

For 2021, the racetrack opens for training on July 5 with races beginning July 19 and running until Sept. 1. Post time for all race days is 1:45 p.m.

All Colonial Downs races will be televised on TVG for online betting, according to the Paulick Report.

Virginia Derby

The Virginia Derby is a thoroughbred horse race held at Colonial Downs. 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 be held on Aug. 31 and feature some of the country's top trainers, jockeys and turf horses.

In addition to the Virginia Derby, Colonial Downs will host the $150,000 Virginia Oaks, $150,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Old Nelson Stakes, $100,000 Exacta Systems Rosie's Stakes and $100,000 Kitten's Joy Stakes. Horse Racing Radio Network will broadcast live from Colonial Downs on Virginia Derby Day.

Shenandoah Downs

Located at the historic Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in Woodstock, halfway between Harrisonburg and Winchester on I-81 at Exit 283, sits Shenandoah Downs.

The track offers a “throwback”-type experience where fans gather in a grandstand close to the action on the track. There is no simulcasting, no casino and no grand dining room. It's all about the live racing on a half-mile track that underwent an $800,000 renovation in 2016.

The 2021 Shenandoah County Fair Harness Meet is scheduled for Sept. 1-4. The 2021 Racing Schedule is Sept. 17-Oct. 16, Fridays at 4 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m.

Online betting

For online horse betting, there are four partner companies that Virginia residents can wager through:,, and Fans can simply create an account and begin wagering on horse races worldwide from Virginia.

Off-Track Betting

If you can't make it to the track this year, visit one of these off-track betting locations where you can place wagers:

Breakers Sports Grille, TJ Maxx Shopping Center, 9127 W. Broad St, Henrico, Va. 23294

Buckets Bar & Grill, 228 North Battlefield Blvd, Chesapeake, Va. 23220

The Windmill OTB Sports Grill, 2360 Virginia Ave., Collinsville, Va. 24078

State impact

According to a study by Chmura Economics & Analytics, Virginia's horse racing and breeding industry generated an estimated economic impact of $542.1 million in the commonwealth in 2019.



Keith Stein is a Virginia-based writer for who covers sports betting and casinos.

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