Colonial Downs Re-opens Aug 8 with Secretariat Turf Course

The Secretariat Turf Course will be ready when Colonial Downs opens for live racing Aug. 8. The collaboration is part of a licensing agreement with the Tweedy family and Secretariat.com that also will feature an annual Secretariat Day at the racetrack as well as equine welfare fund-raising and other promotional opportunities, including festivities planned for Virginia Derby Day on Aug. 31.

“Colonial Downs is thrilled to partner with the Tweedy family and spotlight one of Virginia racing’s brightest stars, who was foaled less than 50 miles from our own gates,” said Jill Byrne, Colonial Downs Vice President of Racing operations. “Secretariat’s enduring legacy continues to reverberate with new generations of fans, and it is only fitting that Colonial Downs recognizes this native son of the Commonwealth.”

“My family and I are excited that live racing has returned to Virginia and that we can contribute by sharing the legacy of Secretariat.” said Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Penny Chenery. “The Secretariat Turf Course will no doubt witness great racing contests, something my mother and my grandfather would have especially loved to see. Our family also applauds Colonial Downs for their efforts to engage existing horse lovers and generate new racing fans.”

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How Virginians will be able to gamble on old horse races at Colonial Downs

NEW KENT – Fur coats, piles of cash, convertibles, yachts and diamond rings spun across the gambling machine’s screen. But the horses were optional.

The first shipments of historical horse racing terminals were scheduled to be delivered Monday at Colonial Downs, about a month before the track’s new owners hope to open the doors of their revamped, casino-esque facility in New Kent County.

To mark the occasion, Colonial Downs representatives held a demonstration showing how the machines the General Assembly legalized last year will work. The historical horse racing machines – a major step toward casino-style gambling in Virginia – will provide a critical new revenue stream to support the reopening of Colonial Downs and thoroughbred racing’s return to the track.

The plan was pitched as a way to revive horse racing, create hundreds of jobs and generate tax revenue for state and local governments. But the debate in the legislature focused largely on the return of horse racing, without delving deeply into the functionality of the gambling machines or their similarity to traditional slot machines.

According to an economic impact analysis circulated by Colonial Downs, the new iteration is projected to take in $203.7 million in revenue by 2022, with $161.9 million coming from historical horse racing.

The machines look and feel like traditional slot machines. But instead of using random numbers, they’re powered by an archive of horse races that have already been run, combining players’ money into pools under the same pari-mutuel wagering system used in live horse racing.

Monday’s game demo – just off a newly carpeted red floor lined with black bases awaiting the machines’ arrival – showed that players can pull up charts showing horse odds and jockey information and use it to carefully predict the horses’ finishing positions. Or they can just press a button over and over again and hope to get lucky.

At the New Kent Rosie’s, the minimum bet per spin will be 20 cents, company representatives said, but a “high-limit” room will allow up to $15 per spin. Winners’ payouts will depend on the size of the pools, they said, and could range from $1,000 to six-figure jackpots.

The company acknowledged most historical horse racing players would use the automatic bet feature, while more experienced horse racing fans could bet on live races or simulcast races from other tracks.

The machine used for the demo featured a game-show theme called “What’s Behind That Door?,” one of about 50 game themes Colonial Downs plans to use. Other themes listed on the website of Exacta Systems, the manufacturer providing the machines to Colonial Downs, include fairies, pirates, monkeys, angels, ninjas, turtles, leprechauns and conquistadors. Still, the games are based on past horse races, even if the machine has an entirely different cartoon theme.

The company has erected five billboards in Virginia to advertise the new enterprise, including one off Interstate 64 heading west out of Richmond.