06/08/2004 11:00PM

Virginia is for turf lovers


Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., opens for an expanded race meet on Friday, with a card that is typical of the 34-day meet.

The 10-race card will include six turf races, and five of those have drawn 14-horse fields. Full fields on Colonial's massive turf course, the widest in the country, have become the track's signature after seven years of operation.

Twelve of Colonial's 13 stakes races will be run on the turf, including its three biggest races: the $500,000 Virginia Derby, the $200,000 All Along Breeders' Cup Handicap, and the $200,000 Virginia Oaks. For the first time, all three stakes will be run on one day, July 10, in what is being billed as Virginia Million Day. The July 10 card will be the richest day of racing ever in Virginia.

Both the Virginia Derby and the All Along are Grade 3 stakes. The Virginia Derby will be run this year for the first time as a graded race.

The remainder of Colonial's stakes races are of the $50,000 overnight variety, with the majority restricted to Virginia-bred horses.

Colonial has added four days of racing to its schedule this year and runs through July 26. Live racing and simulcasting will be offered Friday through Tuesday every week, with post times of 5 p.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. on weekends. Colonial also operates four simulcast parlors that are open seven days a week, in Alberta, Chesapeake, Hampton, and Richmond.

The opening-day feature is a $35,000 turf allowance that has drawn a strong entry from trainer Michael Dickinson. The entry includes Bowman Mill, who was second in his last start, the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup last November. Ramon Dominguez is named on both Bowman Mill and the other half of the entry, Chan Chan.

Another entry comes from trainer Lawrence Murray, who has entered Certantee and La Reine's Terms. In his last start, La Reine's Terms won the $275,000 NTRA Great State Challenge Turf in December 2002. La Reine's Terms also won the Maryland Million Turf Stakes in 2002.