06/06/2013 12:40PM

Colonial Downs opening card has big fields, three jump races


The opening-night card at Virginia’s Colonial Downs, which features three races over the jumps, has attracted 108 horses for nine turf races, including 12 horses for the featured David L. Ferguson Memorial Hurdle Stakes, designated a Grade 3 by the National Steeplechase Association.

The David L. Ferguson has a scheduled post of 6:56 p.m. Eastern as the third race on the card, 20 minutes after the post time for the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown. Colonial officials said that the Belmont will be broadcast on the track’s Jumbotron.

The 2013 meet, scheduled for 25 days from Saturday through July 13, will be the 17th for Colonial Downs, Virginia’s only racetrack. The track typically cards nearly 80 percent of its Thoroughbred races on its turf course, which can accommodate as many as 14 runners per race. The course, at 180 feet wide, is the widest turf course in the United States. The track’s dirt course is 1 1/4 miles in circumference.

The track’s most prominent race, the Grade 2, $500,000 Virginia Derby at 1 1/4 miles on the turf, is scheduled for July 13, closing day. The Virginia Derby undercard will feature the $150,000 Virginia Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on the turf and three other stakes worth $75,000 each.

The Grade 2, $300,000 Colonial Turf Cup, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 3/16 miles on the turf, is scheduled for June 22. The Grade 3, $100,000 Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes, for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, is on the undercard along with two other stakes.

Five $50,000 races restricted to Virginia-breds or horses sired by Virginia stallions are scheduled for July 6. All five of the races are scheduled for the turf.

For the first several weeks of the meet, live racing will be held on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with a post time at 6 p.m. each day with the exception of the Sunday cards. First post on Sundays is 12:55 p.m. As of June 21, live racing also will be held on Fridays until the end of the meet, with a first post of 6 p.m.

Colonial Downs is owned by Jacobs Entertainment Inc., a gambling company headquartered in Colorado. Earlier this year, Jeffrey Jacobs, the chief executive of the company, made a highly unusual statement offering to sell the company to MTR Gaming Group, a casino and racetrack company that already owns 18 percent of the equity in Jacobs Entertainment. MTR has not commented on the offer.

Colonial, which is located in New Kent east of Richmond, is supported by 10 offtrack betting facilities in Virginia that also are owned by Jacobs Entertainment. While hopes were high for the track when it opened in 1997, the track has not met expectations but has become a part of a circuit with Maryland, where the tracks operated by the Maryland Jockey Club shut down for the summer season.