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Colonial Downs is Virginia’s only pari-mutuel horse racetrack, and it’s located in New Kent County at Exit 214 off I-64. The track features a summer thoroughbred racing season, a fall harness racing season, and an ever growing year-round slate of special events.

Eighty percent of the summer thoroughbred races are held over the Secretariat Turf Course, which at 180 feet wide, is the widest grass surface of any track in North America. The 1¼ mile dirt track is the country’s second largest, next to Belmont’s. The large dirt track enables harness horses to pace or trot a one mile distance while encountering just one turn, the only track anywhere to offer this unique configuration.

The Virginia Derby is Colonial’s annual showcase event. Generally held in mid-July, the $600,000 Grade II event draws over 9,000 fans to the New Kent oval. Thoroughbred racing’s top three year old turf horses, along with the sport’s top jockeys and trainers compete 1¼ miles in the Virginia Derby. The $500,000 Grade II Colonial Turf Cup, a Derby prep race of sorts, is held four weeks prior.

Summer racing is generally held on a Friday thru Tuesday basis from mid-June thru early August. Races begin at 4 PM during the week and 1 PM on weekends. A two-day “Racing to the Stars & Stripes” Festival is held over 4th of July weekend and features horse racing, a patriotic concert and fireworks with racing starting at 5 PM those days.

Fall harness races begin in mid-September and continue through early November. Opening weekend festivities coincide with the New Kent County Fair, which also is held at Colonial Downs.

In mid-October, the country’s top trotters are invited to Colonial Downs to compete in the $100,000 Patriot Trot and several weeks later, top Virginia-bred pacers and trotters compete in the annual $350,000 (est.) “Day of Champions” event.

Hours vary

804-966-7223http://www.colonialdowns.com/

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