NEW KENT, Va. (WWBT) — The final piece of the puzzle to the revival of Colonial Downs is in place as live horse racing makes its return.
“The anticipation had been building, and people can’t wait,” Jill Byrne, vice president of racing operations, said.
Officials expected more than 2,000 people to turn out for the Thursday night races.
The horses will run on the newly-built Secretariat Turf Track, named after the legendary champion horse.
Fans also get a chance to explore the newly renovated suites and paddock areas, putting fans just feet from the competitors.
“It’s nice,” Al Bellavance, of Virginia Beach, said. “I didn’t realize there were gambling machines downstairs.”
Bellavance traveled to Colonial Downs for the first time specifically to take part in the races. But for more seasoned horse race bettors, the day meant a little more.
“1997 is when the original Colonial Downs opened. I was here on that day in September,” Mike Barone said.
Barone already had some money on Thursday’s races in Saratoga, N.Y., but was eager to finally be able to place bets once again in his home state.
“We are absolutely excited to have live racing back,” Barone said. “It’s even better this time around because the folks in charge are doing a fantastic job of drawing in top trainers and top jockeys from the region, and a couple of jockeys from outside the region that we’re not used to seeing here already.”
The races will take place from Aug. 8 until Sept. 7 on Thursday nights through Saturday nights. The gates open at 4 p.m. and the first race starts at 5 p.m.
Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Vinton offers a chance at live betting on the races as well. Rosie’s is owned by Colonial Downs, and proceeds from 150 Historical Horse Racing Machines at the gaming center in Vinton are helping to fund purses at Colonial Downs.