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(WOODSTOCK, VA. --- 10/10/2020) ---- John's Dream, Hot Hot Jenna and Speedy Taxi won respective $10,000 Virginia Breeders races for harness racing aged competitors Saturday at Shenandoah Downs as the Woodstock oval completed its fourth weekend of a five-week fall season.   John's Dream continued a remarkable streak of success at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds oval with a victory in the first Aged Pace division. The 7-year-old Dream Away gelding wired the field in 1:54 1/5 and beat runner-up Rusty's Houdini by 1 3/4 lengths. With his 36th lifetime win, John's Dream's bankroll went over the $300,000 mark. Since 2015, he has made 30 starts in Virginia --- 28 in Woodstock and two at Oak Ridge in 2015 when he was a freshman --- and won 22 of those. John's Dream won a Virginia Breeders championship title as a 2 and 3-year-old and has won an Aged Breeders race now in back-to-back years. Chuck Perry owns, trains and drives the consistent pacer.   Hillbilly Fairytale finished third.   Mark Gray's Hot Hot Jenna, a 7-year-old pacing mare, wired the field in the second Breeders division in 1:57 4/5. The daughter of Jenna's Beach Boy also has a strong history in the Commonwealth. She was a Breeders runner-up as a 2-year-old at Oak Ridge in 2015, finished third in the '16 final at Shenandoah as a sophomore and has won an aged race, like John's Dream, in consecutive years. She now has 15 wins, 14 seconds and 14 thirds from 119 starts and with Saturday's score, saw her earnings top $90,000. Gray owns, trains and drives Hot Hot Jenna.   Sketcher finished second and One Proud Diamond was third.   Hot Hot Jenna   Speedy Taxi edged Zsa Zsa Dabor by one-half length in the Aged Trot to win his ninth career race. Also seven, the Gregory Pecs gelding crossed in 2:01 1/5 and was able to remain flat after encountering previous breaking issues at Shenandoah this year. He also has had success in past Breeders events. The Renfrow Hauser trainee was second in '15 as a freshman then won the '16 title as a 3-year-old. Chuck Perry was in the sulky and Arthur Hauser of Mount Airy, North Carolina owns Speedy Taxi.   Flaming Trix was third.   The final racing weekend kicks off Friday with a card at 2 PM and continues Saturday at 1 PM.   Darrell Wood    

(WOODSTOCK, VA --- 10/2/2020) ---- Trotters Celebrity Rolex and Paging Doctor Teo each won their third straight harness racing race today at Shenandoah Downs as the fall meet rolled into its third weekend.   Celebrity Farms' Celebrity Rolex has dominated in all his Woodstock outings. The four-year-old Trixton gelding, making just his fourth lifetime start, wired the field in a $4,000 conditioned race and won by 8 3/4 lengths. He crossed in 1:57 2/5, one-fifth of a second faster than his previous best which he recorded a week ago. The Jennifer Sansone trainee has led every step of the way in all three starts. His margins of victory have been most impressive --- he won by 17 lengths on opening day then by 8 1/4 last week. Fern Paquet Jr. has driven in all three.   Paging Doctor Teo has dominated too and has been in front nearly as often. The five-year-old Calchips Brute gelding won by two lengths today, 5 1/4 a week ago and 7 3/4 lengths on opening day. He finished in 1:58 3/5 today after a pair of 1:58 1/5 efforts. The Neal Ehrhart trainee has been in front at every panel through the run except this afternoon, when he was momentarily second at the top of the stretch just one-quarter length behind Wesley Hanover. The trotter is owned by Virginia Erhardt and was driven by Billy Carter in all three wins.   Fastest mile of the day was authored by Roger Hammer's Artists Ruffles who won his 25th career race in 1:54 1/5. The six-year-old Real Artist gelding came outside of Next Shot at the first marker, took control in the turn and never looked back. He crossed 3 1/2 lengths the best for his first win of 2020. Vicki Lynn Fair co-owns with Hammer, who drives and trains.   Shenandoah Downs hosts the 23rd annual $363,575 Virginia Breeder's Champions Day program Saturday beginning at 1 PM. Races are streamed live at shenandoahdowns.com.     by Darrell Wood

Amanda Jackson is a registered nurse who works in the recovery room at Saint Francis Medical Center in the Brandermill section of south Richmond by day, and is a harness racing trainer/breeder/owner on other parts of the days, evenings, weekends and holidays when she is not working.   She has been active in Virginia's pari-mutuel harness racing circuit since 2008 when her Hillbilly Haven Farm came into existence.   The 14 acre property in Burkeville is adjacent to a 120 acre standardbred farm her parents own.   A series of dirt paths snake through the woods and connect the two farms together, which are accessible by durable golf cart or harness jog cart, including horse.   A 3/8ths mile training track is situated between both.   Jackson, whose family relocated to Burkeville when she was young, was born in Hurley, Virginia. Even though they didn't race horses at a pari-mutuel circuit then, horses were part of her upbringing. "We used to get standardbreds after their racing career and break them to ride and re-sell them, and keep some of them," she said. "In the mountains, under saddle races are really popular especially in places like Jamestown, Tennessee. There is a great market for that believe it or not."   Amanda Jackson   Her interest in racing began when one of the horses they had showed good pedigree and history. "I reached out to Dr. Charlie Dunavant, who was President of the Virginia Harness Horse Association, to see what he thought. It all started from there. He got the ball rolling and got me going in the right direction. From that point I got a trainer's license and have been doing it since. With Doc's guidance, I bought my first horse named Take You There from a friend of Chuck Perry's and he won right away. It stuck with me immediately."   Her husband Randy was a conductor for Norfolk & Southern Railroad at the time and didn't have a backround with horses so the business started out with Jackson and her father, Tim Dotson. When the family moved to Burkeville, people in town referred to Tim as "hillbilly" since he came from the mountains. That nickname carried over to the farm moniker and to the name many of her horses have as well, from earlier years until today.     Randy has a trainers license now so between the trio, Amanda's son Adam and Tim's wife Sharon, it's become a family affair. "We do it together," she said. "We divide up duties based on who is working when. We get the horses going, get them jogged and clean the stalls. One day last week, Randy had to work early so I got my son up at 6 AM to help get two horses ready that I jogged before work. It is a collective effort."   Al and Katherine Smith are long time harness owners and fans, and know the Jackson family well. Two of their retired horses, Tom Bruce and Firm Fatale, are enjoying their golden years at Hillybilly Haven. "This family truly loves their animals and take incredible care of them," said Katherine. "They would do anything they could to help you out. I remember when Tim decided that Tom and Firm, as senior members of the farm, didn't really like eating from a bucket or ground feeder. So, he cut some trees from the place, treated them, and sunk the six foot sections into the ground to make waist high feeders for the oldsters so they didn't have to bend so far."   Hillbilly Camtastic and Hillbilly Heartache have each won a Virginia Breeder's Championship at Shenandoah Downs. Hillbilly Hardtimes won a Maryland Sire Stake final in 2012. Jackson has high hopes this year for a two-year-old colt named Hillbilly Nite Shift. Her father has a filly the same age named Hillbilly Fantasy. And her best horse to date has been Hillbilly Desire. "We have a whole list of names that could follow the word Hillbilly so when it's time to register a new horse, we run down the list and see what fits best. It makes the naming process fun."   As a two-year-old in 2011, Hillbilly Desire was 3-for-3 at the Colonial Downs meet before finishing third in the Breeder's Championships that year. In 2012, she went 4-for-6 there, set a lifetime mark of 1:52.0 and went on to win the Three-Year-Old Filly Pacing Championship. In 2013, she went 3-for-5 at Colonial. Over those three years, the daughter of Real Desire was 10 for 15 there, had three runner-ups and a third. The lone "out of the money" finish came in a distance race carded at 1 1/4 miles. At retirement after the '14 season, Hillbilly Desire had 20 wins from 58 starts and $108,323 in purse earnings.   "She is the name and face of Hillbilly Haven Farm," said Jackson. "She is still here, is an active broodmare and will die here. This will always be her home. It was very difficult to break her and very hard to get her to the races. She just gave you a thrill every time she raced. She liked to stay in the back of the field and come to the front late in the race. This may be crude to say," she added, "But because of her racing style, I felt like throwing up every time she was on the track competing!"   Jackson's favorite race memory also involves Hillbilly Desire, but it did not occur in Virginia. In 2012, right after winning the Breeder's Championship, she took her sophomore pacer to The Meadows (outside of Pittsburgh) to race in a $16,200 Fillies/Mares Preferred race. "She was an outsider there," recalled Jackson. "There was an attitude among folks there that horses coming from Colonial were overrated and would never do well there. It was a horrible rainy night and the track was sloppy but she ended up pulling the upset. Dave Palone drove her and she went from last to first. It was a great win."   Even though Al and Katherine Smith didn't own Hillbilly Desire, Al quickly developed a fondness for her. "She and I go back a long way," he said. "My "crush" on her started on September 16, 2011. That was the day she made her first lifetime pari-mutuel start and I had a $20 win ticket on her as she went off at 20-1. I watched every one of her races during her career and visited her often on the backside when she was racing at Colonial. We even purchased her first foal from Hillbilly Haven, and I still believe 'Desire' is one of the most beautful and talented pacing mares I have ever seen in person."     At Saint Francis Hospital, Jackson normally works three days a week, twelve hour shifts though she is on call other times. "I work in the recovery room so if you wake up from surgery, it's very possible I'll be the first person you see when you come to." With less surgery occurring during the covid-19 pandemic, Jackson helps out wherever needed now. "It's been difficult the last few months. I check patients in, take covid patients to ICU, take people's temperatures before they come in, and help deliver personal protective equipment wherever it's needed. Some days we have as many covid patients as Chippenham Medical Center. This has been quite an adjustment to the medical field."   Aside from work, horses remain her passion. "It's great to be able to look back and realize you helped make a horse what it is. You raised and broke the horse, saw it from its first day of life then got it to the track to see how good it could do. It's a huge accomplishment and very rewarding. We are a very small time operation here but are very lucky to be able to do what we do. My husband and I both have careers outside of horses which brings income in to help fund the whole operation."   Jackson will compete in the Virginia Breeder's Championships this fall at Shenandoah Downs. "I have high hopes for both my two (Hillbilly Nite Shift) and three-year-olds (Hillbilly Kisses)," she said. "The two-year-old is keeping up tit for tat with the older one. I've had very few two-year-olds in training that have been able to do that. He's got my juices flowing again. I'm pumped up."   The fall racing season in Woodstock is scheduled to run in September and October. This will be the fifth season there since the Virginia Equine Alliance invested $800,000 in a track surface renovation/upgrade in 2016. "It's a really good half mile track," said Jackson. "It has held up well and showed some good miles. I don't think people give it enough credit. It's also wonderful to see people standing trackside. The fans in the stands are so enthusiastic and cheer when horses turn for home. The whole atmosphere is great."   For more season information, visit shenandoahdowns.com. For information on the Virginia Breeder's and Certified-Residency programs, visit vhha.net.   By Darrell Wood, for Shenandoah Downs  

WOODSTOCK, VA -The 2019 license application and race day request submitted by the Shenandoah County Agricultural Foundation for a fall harness racing season at Shenandoah Downs was approved by the Virginia Racing Commission this past week at its regular meeting. Operations will be conducted by the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) and Virginia Harness Horse Association (VHHA).   A five week pari-mutuel season will begin at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in Woodstock September 13th and continue every Friday at 3:30 PM and Saturday at 2 PM until October 13th. A pair of non-betting racing events will also take place on Sunday October 6th and 13th. Virginia Breeder's prep races for two and three-year-old pacers and trotters of both sexes will be first up, followed by the $300,000 (est.) Breeder's Championships on closing day.   Stall/racing applications for the fourth annual Shenandoah Downs season are on line at vhha.net and at shenandoahdowns.com. Applications are due August 2nd. A $100 stipend will again be paid to owners of horses who finish out of the money --- 6th, 7th or 8th. The barn area and track will open on Wednesday September 11th. The meet will be preceded by four days of racing during the 102nd Shenandoah County Fair from August 28th-31st. More details are available thru horsemen's representative Debbie Warnick at 443-463-0917.   Opening weekend will feature a promotional appearance by legendary horse Foiled Again, who was inducted into Harness Racing's Hall of Fame in Goshen, New York on July 3rd. He is the richest standardbred of all time and last fall, earned victory number 104 at Shenandoah Downs. The now 15-year-old pacer retired January 1st with 109 wins. He will take a lap over the Woodstock oval Saturday September 14th then host a "meet and greet" with fans the rest of the afternoon. The first 600 attendees that day will receive a free commemorative Foiled Again t-shirt.   Another meet highlight is an "Own a Horse For a Day" promotion, sponsored by the VHHA. On three separate occasions --- September 14th, 21st and October 5th, eight fans will be selected via random drawings to own a horse in a $4,000 race the following weekend. They will get to visit their respective horse, trainer and driver in the stable area for photo opportunities and best of all, keep the purse earnings their horses win. One person is guaranteed to take home the winner's share of $2,000 on each occasion.   Other key promotions include Weiner Dog races on September 28th, an "Autumnfest" BBQ/Craft Beer Festival on October 5th, and the "Pink Power" Breast Cancer awareness event on October 12th which raises funds for the local American Cancer Society chapter. Every Friday, the 3:30 PM "happy hour" race card will feature one dollar draft beer and hot dogs along with karaoke in the party tent.   Shenandoah Downs is located at Exit 283 off I-81, halfway between Winchester and Harrisonburg. Both parking and admission are free and the races are family friendly. More details are at shenandoahdowns.com.     Darrell Wood  

The Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) announced the appointment of Doris Lineweaver to the position of Racing Secretary at its annual fall harness racing meet at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock, Virginia. This is the 42-year old Lineweaver's first position as Racing Secretary. A third generation horseman on both sides, Lineweaver owned her first harness horse at the age of 13 and started training and driving at the age of 18. Even though she was born and still resides in Mauertown, Virginia, the family's home track then was Rosecroft Raceway. After leaving track life and going to work in advertising and marketing for several years, she went back to the field she knew best, but with an added twist. "I was a single mother with two young kids and needed to have another avenue to pay the bills, said Lineweaver. "I wanted to stay in the racing business so I went to charting school. After I got licensed, I competed at the Pennsylvania Fairs as a horseman, but charted the races whenever I didn't have a horse in." A more permanent transition from on the track to off the track occurred when Lineweaver was racing at Ocean Downs in 2011. "I was looking at racing at Colonial Downs but my kids weren't allowed to live on the grounds there," she explained. "Ocean Downs Racing Secretary Craig Andow got me set up with a camper at Ron McLenaghan's farm in nearby Providence Forge where we were able to stay as a family. During that meet, Craig asked me to work for him." Lineweaver assumed the roles of Assistant Racing Secretary and Stakes Coordinator for four years until the New Kent track shut down after the 2014 season. Since then, she has held the same duties at three different meets conducted by the VEA --- at Oak Ridge in 2015 and at Shenandoah Downs the last two years. She even got her judges license two years ago in search of more opportunities in the sport. "It's an exciting change," said Lineweaver, whose Mauertown home is just several miles from the Shenandoah Downs oval. "Being local and having lived here my whole life, I can help grow interest in the area and educate new fans about harness racing. I have my hands in a lot of things in the community, from 4-H groups to the Chamber of Commerce to various networking groups." From the perspective of a Racing Secretary, Lineweaver joins a short list of females that hold that type of position. "The horsemen here have a lot of faith in me and I don't want to let them down. I've worked with many of them over the years during the Shenandoah County Fair, Colonial Downs races and even more of them during the recent Shenandoah Downs meets." If family is any indication, Lineweaver should adapt just fine. Her mother, Eileen, currently trains horses at The Meadows and Eileen's mother, Margaret Warren, was an Assistant Race Secretary at Ocean Downs and Harrington Raceway in the 1980's. Doris's father, Winston, has competed all over the Eastern Shore during his nearly 60 year career and is still recovering from a heart episode that occurred while in the sulky two years ago at Shenandoah. Her sister, Joyce, races at Harrington and Dover and tends to Winston, who is based with her now in Marydel, Delaware. And Winston's brother, Alvin, still drives on occasion at 77 years young. Growing up, Doris recalled that Winston and Eileen had several nice horses that stood out above the others ---an invitational pacer named Isle C, and a couple solid trotters named Sugar Crispins and Duke Of Kosmos. Doris Lineweaver is hoping to write more of her own chapters in harness racing, beginning with the upcoming Woodstock meet that begins September 15th. "Racing gets in your blood," she added, "And you just don't know anything different." Darrell Wood

NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. — A hub for gambling is taking shape in a historic area of Virginia between Richmond and Williamsburg, signaling sharp change in a state that long resisted the lure of gaming revenue. Two weeks ago, a Chicago company announced plans to buy and reopen the dormant Colonial Downs horse-racing track, Virginia’s only facility for major thoroughbred events. The deal — worth some $20 million — was made possible when the General Assembly this year legalized a type of video horse-racing game that some have likened to slot machines. Just a few days earlier, the Pamunkey Indian tribe disclosed an interest in land a short hop up the highway from Colonial Downs as the possible site of a $700 million casino and resort. While that project could take years to come about, the tribe has the right to seek the casino under federal recognition that it won in 2016 and has partnered with a billionaire investor. [A famed Va. Indian tribe seeks federal recognition amid casino fears] Virginia is one of only 10 states that have so far resisted any form of casino gambling, unlike neighbors Maryland, West Virginia and North Carolina. Its conservative legislature turned away riverboat gambling in the 1990s, outlawed Internet gambling cafes in the 2000s and has kept a casino bill bottled up in a Senate committee for the past five years. An artist’s rendering illuminates plans by the Pamunkey Tribe to open a resort and gaming development could bring the first casino to Virginia. (Pamunkey Tribe)   But momentum for gambling is getting a strong push from the popularity of the MGM Grand casino just across the Potomac River in Maryland, which estimates that at least 40 percent of its business comes from Virginia. In March alone, Maryland’s six casinos generated more than $44 million for that state’s education trust fund. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has taken note and said it may be time for something similar in the Old Dominion. “I think there is the potential for it. Obviously, we’re going to take it one step at the time,” Northam said. “If that’s something Virginians want to participate in, why not look at doing it here in Virginia, rather than those resources going to other states?” Such a step would be hard for some to stomach. Virginia House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights) voted against the horse racing bill, and is even more opposed to the idea of a major casino. “I have a long record of opposing the expansion of gaming in Virginia, particularly casino gambling,” Cox said via email. “I do not believe opening the Commonwealth to casino gambling is in the state’s long-term best interests.” But his party is changing. The Colonial Downs legislation was sponsored by a Republican from Fauquier County, and the GOP delegate representing New Kent County — where both the track and the casino site are located — said he is excited about the possibilities. “I think the mores, the social concerns over that have weakened a bit,” said Del. Chris Peace (R-New Kent). “I get the sense that if it was done right . . . New Kent is a very hospitable community and wants progress and would be a good partner.”   Historical horse racing Horse racing has always been an easier sell in Virginia than casinos, thanks to racing’s long history here. Virginia claims that the first thoroughbred race in the United States was held in Gloucester in 1752.   But the state that produced Secretariat had turned away from the highest levels of the sport until Colonial Downs opened in 1997, on Interstate 64 about 30 minutes east of Richmond. Virginia has other facilities for steeplechase and harness racing, but this is the only thoroughbred track. Owned and operated by Jacobs Entertainment of Colorado, the sprawling facility with Georgian-style construction also supported a network of as many as nine off-track betting parlors around the state. Over the years, though, Jacobs clashed with the state’s breeders, who wanted more racing with larger purses. Unable to resolve differences, Jacobs stopped racing in 2014. [Va.’s status as holdout on casino gambling hurt Colonial Downs] The Virginia Equine Alliance — a coalition of interests including breeders, harness racers and steeplechase groups — found a possible buyer for the track in a Chicago company called Revolutionary Racing. But to make the economics work, the buyers wanted the ability to install a new type of product called historical horse racing machines to draw business even when there are no live races. The devices use video from old races with all identifying elements removed. Players can see the odds and make bets.   In this year’s General Assembly session, Del. Michael J. Webert (R-Fauquier) sponsored legislation to legalize the historical racing machines. Webert is a farmer whose family has a long involvement in horse racing. Many of his neighbors are part of the annual Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase classic, which draws 60,000 spectators and was held Saturday. Revitalizing horse racing would have “a much broader impact than most people believe,” he said. A study commissioned by Revolutionary Racing claimed that a revitalized Colonial Downs could generate $41.6 million per year in state and local tax revenue. While the General Assembly has been reluctant to approve gambling-related legislation, Webert said he felt this year was the right time to push for it. “The makeup of the House is different,” he said, referring to the fact that a crop of young Democrats, who might be friendlier to such measures, made gains in the House of Delegates in last fall’s elections. Webert’s bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support and only modest debate. It was signed by Northam in April, clearing the way for the track sale.   With racing projected to start next spring, Webert said he could see a Pamunkey casino being a logical complement to Colonial Downs. “Now that Maryland has opened their casino, we have gambling in pretty much all the states around Virginia,” he said. “There are folks who believe the morality side of gambling is bad . . . but, well, if they could spend that money here and the commonwealth could harness some of that revenue and put it to good use, why not?”   Economic independence The Pamunkey tribe occupies 1,200 acres formed by an oxbow bend of the Pamunkey River in King William County, adjacent to New Kent County. It is said to be the oldest Indian reservation in the country, dating to the 1600s. The tribe spent more than 30 years seeking federal recognition through an administrative process that gave it the ability to pursue economic projects such as gambling. The six other Virginia tribes that won federal recognition this year used a political process and — to help win support — stipulated that they would not seek to build casinos. Pamunkey Chief Robert Gray said his tribe, which has fewer than 400 members, needs a way to become economically self-sufficient. The reservation land is beautiful — with low fields, wooded wetlands and the broad, twisting river on all sides — but does not generate any income. “We would love to not be reliant on federal programs,” Gray said, “to have our own economic drivers funding the programs that we want to provide for our tribal members — housing, medical, job placement, education. It’d be great if we could just pay for that ourselves.” The tribe is pursuing several possibilities, including becoming an Internet service provider, he said. But none of the other options would have the impact of a casino and resort. The tribe has released few details about its plans beyond the $700 million figure for a 1,200-room hotel and casino, a spa and multiple restaurants. Last week, it disclosed that it had an interest in a 600-acre site near Quinton in New Kent County, just off I-64. The parcel was bought by investor Jon Yarbrough, a billionaire with ties to Native American gambling, as first reported by the Daily Press. There’s still a long way to go, and the Pamunkey could consider other sites. Getting the land put into trust — a requirement before the work could begin — has taken years for tribes in other parts of the country. To have Class III gaming such as slot machines and roulette would require forming a compact with the state to share revenue. And the Pamunkey are likely to face opposition from competitors. The backers of the MGM Grand even lobbied the federal government against recognizing the Pamunkey during the tribe’s application process, trying to head off the potential for a rival casino in Virginia. The uncertainty produced a cautious official reaction last week in New Kent County, a largely rural area that serves as a bedroom community to Richmond on one end and Williamsburg on the other. “At this point, we don’t really have enough information to even comment on it,” said Matthew Smolnik, the county’s director of community development. “We’re working internally to figure out what we need to do and what the next steps are.” The casino would be a cannonball in the local economic pool. New Kent’s biggest private employer is a hospital, followed by a road contractor, Smolnik said. The tribe projected that the casino could generate 4,000 jobs. In the meantime, the Colonial Downs racetrack is likely to move into the top spot. At its peak, the track put about $750,000 a year directly into the county’s coffers, Smolnik said.   ‘Why not just keep that here?’   The prospect of both facilities being sited in New Kent in the next few years already has the community buzzing. “It’s all been a little bit much,” said Jeanna Bouzek, vice president for operations at Colonial Downs, as she prepared the grounds for the big sale announcement last week. “We’ve gone from no gambling to now we’re poised for this opening up” — she gestured at the entrance to the track — “then a casino. I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime, to be honest.” “I’m telling you, it’s exciting, man,” said Terence Davis, a real estate agent at the Coldwell Banker office near Colonial Downs. Davis lives in the Kentland golf community adjacent to the racetrack and said property values have suffered since the shutdown. The golf course almost closed. Now it’s all roaring back, with the possible casino as icing on the cake. “It’s the best news I’ve heard,” Davis said. He often drives to Maryland to gamble, he said, “so why not just keep that here in Virginia?” If there was a note of concern, it was that the pair of developments might be too much, too fast. “I understand why the Pamunkeys want to do this,” said Courtney Sodan, who runs Sodan Armament with her husband just off the highway near Quinton. “I’m not opposed to the principle of them wanting to provide income, but I’ve never been a big fan of casinos and gambling.” She said she worries that so much change might ruin the rural character of the area. “I was against the lottery, so I’m an old-school Virginian,” she said. “I just wish there were other options.” But there aren’t many alternatives that promise this kind of revenue. So far this year, Maryland’s six casinos have hauled in more than $414 million, with nearly $150 million of that going to state and local coffers. “They’re reaping a lot of money out of it,” said Virginia state Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), who has seen many failed gambling efforts during his 42 years in the legislature. With the state struggling to boost funding for education and to expand health care, Maryland’s windfall looks especially enticing. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t do what Maryland’s done,” he said. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Post

Virginia’s House of Delegates voted 79-21 late Tuesday to advance a bill to allow “historical racing” machines, a step required by a potential buyer of the long-shuttered Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County. The bill, which many see as integral to reviving Virginia's racing industry, now moves to the Senate. The bill would add gaming machines involving pre-recorded races, which Chicago-based Revolutionary Racing proposes to use at Colonial to bring in more revenue in addition to on-track and off-track wagering. Historical racing machines use old races, horses and jockeys whose identities remain secret until after a bet is placed and the videotape starts. Industry representatives say historical racing is a game of skill as much as pari-mutuel wagering at the racetrack because actual pre-race odds are shown along with some past performance stats. “This bill is Virginia’s opportunity to revitalize and restart an industry that is about as old as the commonwealth itself,” bill sponsor Del. Michael Webert, R-Fauquier, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “The biggest winner will be Virginia.” "New money coming to the Virginia Equine Association from historical racing will go to support member groups -- the Virginia Gold Cup, harness racing, the breeders, flat racing, and other racing industry events and programs such as the local steeplechase races and point-to-points," explained VEA executive director Jeb Hannum. "We appreciate Mike Weber's longstanding support of the racing industry. "Reopening Colonial Downs will benefit the entire equine industry and all agricultural-related businesses." Historical racing wager "take-out" is the same as other pari-mutuel wagers, with percentages retained for various Virginia equine entities such as the Virginia Breeders Fund, Morven Park horse hospital, Virginia Horse Industry Board and the Virginia Horse Center in addition to paying out winning bets. By Betsy Burke Parker

(WOODSTOCK, VIRGINIA---10/15/17) ---- Fixed Income cemented her status as "Horse of the Meet" by engineering a fourth straight wire-to-wire effort at Shenandoah Downs Sunday as the second pari-mutuel harness racing meet came to a close in Woodstock, Virginia. The 6 year old Yankee Cruiser mare cut fractions of :27 3/5, :56 1/5 and 1:25 1/5 before hitting the wire in 1:54 2/5, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Pow Chicka Pow Pow. Remarkably consistent, Cory Kreiser's pacer authored consecutive week miles of 1:53 4/5, 1:54.0 and 1:54 1/5 in addition to Sunday's effort. Fixed Income, who is out of the Abercrombie mare, La Daydreamer, has six straight wins overall. Kreiser, of Myerstown, Pennsylvania, accepted honors as Co-Leading Trainer along with hardware for "Top Horse". In addition to driving, he trains and owns Fixed Income. Betsy Brown, who had three wins last Sunday and another one Saturday, closed the meet strong to equal Kreiser with seven training wins. Chuck Perry, who pulled away in the race for top driver with four wins closing weekend, took category honors with 16 wins. The 52-year-old Virginia reinsman collected his 1,000th driving victory last weekend. On Sunday, he scored with Friskie Sadie and track record holder John's Dream. It may not have been the richest race of the day, but it provided the most drama. Sunday's fourth featured a rematch that had been a year in the making. Last Chance Harvey and B Blissful, Co-Horses of the Meet in 2016, squared off against each for the first time since closing day a year ago. Each collected their first wins of the '17 meet last weekend and entered the rematch with momentum. Summer Deo cut the first two fractions of the $5,000 conditioned race but at the 5/8ths mark, Last Chance Harvey unleashed a three wide move from fourth. The 8 year old Full of Fun gelding took immediate control of the field and powered home to beat runner-up B Blissful by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:55 3/5. The victor is owned and trained by Henry Lewis and was driven by Bill Carter. The runner-up is a 13 year old Blissful Hall gelding who is trained by Jimmy Viars and was driven by Perry. A year ago in their battle, Harvey prevailed when a tire went flat on B Blissful's sulky. The Shenandoah meet featured both attendance and handle increases, exceptional weather, and competitive racing. The third season will kick off next September. Meet updates will be available throughout the year at shenandoahdowns.com and virginiahorseracing.com. Darrell Wood

Woodstock, VA --- A pair of horses who were at or near the $200,000 mark in winnings earned additional bragging rights Saturday (Oct. 14) at Shenandoah Downs as closing weekend of the second fall harness racing meet kicked off. Cathy Rutherford's Just Fred powered from fourth to first at the quarter mark of his conditioned race and went on to dominate from there. The 9-year-old gelding, who won by 12 lengths, had his best performance since winning at the Red Mile Aug. 24 in 1:52.1. He entered the race with a bankroll of $203,181. Calcutta on the other hand, entered Saturday's $5,500 fourth race with $199,294 in earnings and needed a first or second place finish to push her bankroll over the $200,000 mark. She led much of the way until Beep Beep Bye Bye challenged her at the top of the stretch and ended up prevailing by one-half length. With the runner-up finish, the 8-year-old Tom Ridge mare did reach that mark in earnings in front of the hometown faithful. Both driver/trainer Betsy Brown and owner Terry Kibler are from Woodstock. Driver William Carter had three wins while Scott Woogen and Chuck Perry had two apiece on another gorgeous weather race day in the Shenandoah Valley. Reinsman Carter had his best day of the meet, collecting wins aboard Tulsi, A Major Impulse and Victoria's Munky. Tulsi, who was 0-for-18 entering the day's kickoff race, wired the field in 1:58.4. A Major Impulse, who shipped in from Harrah's Philadelphia, got his second win of the year by wiring the field as well in 1:55.2. Victoria's Munky captured a thriller in which four pacers finished with one-half lenth of each other. The 5-year-old Bettor's Delight mare was a neck better than Moonshinemonkeys and Place At The Beach. Scott Woogen had his best day of the meet as well, connecting with World Peace and Peoplesayimnogood. Both collected their first wins of the meet. The latter had won a pair at the Shenandoah County Fair, which preceded the pari-mutuel campaign. Chuck Perry, who collected his 1,000th win last Sunday, scored with Royal Red and Beep Beep Bye Bye. For the first time this season, last year's two "Co-Horses of the Meet" will square off in a grudge match Sunday as Shenandoah Downs presents its last harness racing card of the fall. Last Chance Harvey and B Blissful will duke it out in the fourth race. They are the two favorites, of course, and last met 53 weeks ago on closing day of the first season at Woodstock. Bill Carter will pilot Last Chance Harvey from the rail while Chuck Perry will be aboard 13 year old B Blissful from post 2. The 2017 "Horse of the Meet" will be recognized during the program. by Darrell Wood, for Shenandoah Downs

(WOODSTOCK, VIRGINIA --- 10/10/17)---The second season of pari-mutuel harness racing at Shenandoah Downs wraps up this coming weekend in Woodstock, Virginia. Pacers and trotters will compete both Saturday October 14th and Sunday October 15th beginning at 1:00 PM. Parking and admission are free. The Shenandoah "Autumnfest" celebration will take place in conjunction with the races from 11:30 AM - 5:00 PM on Saturday. The event features a Kansas barbecue championship competition with 40 different teams, craft beer and spirit sampling, a cornhole tournament, live music, a car show, log splitting competition and more. Attendees will need to purchase a ticket to access the "Autumnfest" party area, but racing only admission will remain free. Event tickets can be purchased in advance at ShenandoahCountyChamber.com or at the gate Saturday. On Sunday's closing day, awards will be given out to the leading driver and trainer, and the "Horse of the Meet", which will be announced later in the week. Fore more information, visit shenandoahdowns.com and virginiahorseracing.com.  

Harness racing season is about to wrap up once again in Shenandoah County. Shenandoah Downs is in its second year of Harness Horse Racing. Every fall they come to the fair grounds in Woodstock and Communications Director for Virginia Equine Alliance, Darrell Wood says interest has grown since last time around. Harness racing is different from racing in something like the Kentucky Derby, because instead of a jockey, a "driver" sits behind the horse in a two-wheel cart. This is an opportunity for people to make some money by betting on races. Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to bet on horses. Other people come to watch the races and cheer the horses on. "Here it's all about live racing, so the people are all around the finish line, there's an energy in the crowd, it's a very intimate experience, the grand stand is literally at the track itself," said Wood. Saturday October 14 and Sunday October 15, 2017 is the last weekend for races in the 2017 season. It is going to be during the Autumn Festival on the fair grounds where there will be BBQ competitions and other events. There is a cost for the ticket to the Autumn Festival, but admission to Shenandoah Downs is free.

Woodstock, VA --- Local Woodstock trainer Betsy Brown scored a driving/training triple, Chuck Perry inched closer to a career milestone, and Fixed Income forced herself into a "Horse of the Meet" conversation in an eventful Saturday (Oct. 7) of harness racing at Shenandoah Downs. Brown's Calcutta, Believe In Him and BP Burner all reached the winner's circle as area residents filling the grandstand cheered. Calcutta wired the field in the day's kick-off event and won her second straight. The 8-year-old Tom Ridge mare, owned by Terry Kibler, won by 2-1/2 lengths and crossed the wire in 2:00.1. She won her 19th career race and is less than $1,000 shy of reaching the $200,000 level in earnings. She will have a chance to do so at Shenandoah next week during the meet's closing weekend. Believe In Him shook off four straight runner-up finishes to claim victory in the third race trot. The 3-year-old Conway Hall filly collected that batch of seconds during the Shenandoah County Fair meet, which preceded the pari-mutuel season in Woodstock. Brown had Believe In Him positioned second in the final turn before passing front stepping Toolbox Tuesday in the stretch. The victor won by a length in 2:03.3, her second career score. Brown completed the hat trick with BP Burner courtesy of a fifth-to-first burst in race seven's final quarter. The 5-year-old Brian P gelding, sent off as the betting choice, passed four in the final stanza and crossed the finish line 1-1/4 lengths the best in 1:56.4. Chuck Perry had a pair of wins aboard Highland Hellion and Last Chance Harvey, giving the 52-year-old reinsman a total of 998 career victories. The former, a 9-year-old Mach Three gelding, won for the second time in three starts in the "Valley" while the latter, an 8-year-old Full Of Fun gelding who was 2016 Co-Horse of the Meet, prevailed for the first time in five starts this year. Perry has six drives scheduled on Sunday. Cory Kreiser's Fixed Income won her third straight start at Shenandoah and fifth straight overall with another stellar effort. The 6-year-old Yankee Cruiser mare wired the field again and cruised to a 5-1/4 length triumph in 1:54.0. She previously won in 1:54.1 and 1:53.4. The hot pacer came to Shenandoah fresh off a pair of 1:54.2 winning miles at The Meadows. Prior to this five-race streak, Fixed Income had only two wins from 98 career starts. Shenandoah Downs will usher out the fourth weekend of racing with a nine-race card on Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m. by Darrell Wood, for Shenandoah Downs 

(WOODSTOCK, VA --- 10/2/17) ---- Victories by Southwind Glider and John's Dream in respective $7,000 open trotting and pacing features headlined the third weekend of racing action at Shenandoah Downs. The Woodstock, Virginia based track, now in its second season of pari-mutuel harness racing, has two more weekends remaining in its fall meet. John's Dream endeared himself to racing fans in the Shenandoah Valley when he triggered a record setting 1:52 1/5 winning mile on the track's opening day a year ago. That mark has not been touched since. The 4 year old Dream Away gelding had competed twice this meet in the Open Pace and collected runner-up efforts in both. On Saturday, Chuck Perry's pacer surged from fifth in the final quarter to defeat fraction cutter Western Captive by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:54 2/5. John's Dream cut the final fraction in :27.0 and in doing so, won his sixth race of the year. In 13 starts, he has finished "out of the" money just once and from 33 career outs, has bankrolled $218,980. Perry owns, trains and drives the pacer, who is out of March On In by Armbro Emerson. Roger Hammer's Southwind Glider may have come up a neck shy in Shenandoah's Open Trot September 24th but on Saturday, the 7 year old Glidemaster gelding was dominant. After passing Southern Palms to take the lead in the second turn, Southwind Glider cruised from that point. He opened up by three at the top of the stretch and crossed 5 1/2 lengths ahead of betting favorite War Chief in 1:58 2/5. Dominus Hanover, who won this division a week earlier, finished third. Southwind Glider is trained an co-owned by Lance Barber of Volant, Pennsylvania. The victor, who was a beaten favorite last out, paid a surprising $15.20 to win. He earned his third win from just ten starts this year and 13th lifetime victory. Bourbon St Hanover recorded the fastest mile Saturday in a $5,500 secondary pacing feature. The classy 9 year old Western Hanover gelding wired the field convincingly, hitting the wire in 1:54 3/5, eleven lengths the best. Jeff Lieberman drove for owner/trainer Jamie Coffy.  Bourbon St Hanover earned his 79th career victory in his 254th start. Fastest mile of the weekend though was authored by Cory Kreiser's Fixed Income, who kicked off Sunday's matinee program with a 1:54 1/5 effort. The 6 year old Yankee Cruiser mare went to wire-to-wire and won by 8-plus lengths in gaining her fourth straight triumph. She wired the field in her Woodstock debut a week prior in 1:53 4/5. Reinsman Chris Shaw entered weekend action second in the driver standings with six wins, compared to leader Roger Plante, who had eight. Shaw collected a trio of winners circle appearances over the two days with Ruffle Up, Irish Valentine and Art Of Dancing while Plante competed elsewhere. Heading into the fourth weekend, Shaw has nine wins and sits atop the standings.           Shenandoah Downs is back in action Saturday and Sunday, October 7th and 8th, with afternoon cards beginning at 1:00 PM. Saturday is the "Seafest" Festival where regional seafood vendors will be on hand selling shrimp, clams, oysters, fish and other delicacy items. "Fiddling" Willy Marschner will perform with his band in the party tent all afternoon. Parking and admission are free. For more details, visit shenandoahdowns.com or virginiahorseracing.com. Live streaming of the harness races can be seen via both websites. The season continues through October 15th.  Darrell Wood

Harness racing fans that stayed for a trio of Virginia Breeder's Three Year Old Championship races were rewarded with thrilling finishes Sunday at Shenandoah Downs. The second weekend of racing in Woodstock wrapped up with ten pari-mutuel races followed by three non-betting Breeder's events on another clear and picturesque day in the Shenandoah Valley. Sunday's $44,000 Filly Pace saw The Third Day and Camystery battle side by side through the stretch and at the wire, The Third Day was best by a head. The Third Straight filly set early fractions of :29 2/5, 1:01.0 and 1:30 4/5 before tackling her main challenger, who sat a patient second throughout the four horse race. Driver/trainer James Stiltner II directed his charge to a 2:00 3/5 finish for owner Herman Hagerman of North Tazewell, Virginia. The victor, out of Klondike Lady by Cambest, was the most experienced of any with 15 starts heading into the Breeder's finale. Camystery, who won a  conditioned race in 1:59.0 opening weekend, was the runner-up. Gone South finished third and Ellie'sbelleringer was fourth. Yagot A Winner gained revenge on his stablemate Dusty Fool in the $41,200 Colt & Gelding Trot. In this rematch of trainer Carlo Pliseno's pair, Yagot A Winner trotted patiently behind front stepping Dusty Fool through three fractions, came out in mid stretch and edged the early leader by a head in 2:07 3/5. The duo, both owned by Jane Dunavant of Kenbridge, Virginia, were the sole competitors last year when Dusty Fool took freshman championship honors. They were the only two to compete as sophomores Sunday as well. Heading into the showdown, Yagot A Winner had earned $60,867 while Dusty Fool collected $49,425. The '17 winner is out of the CR Commando mare, Yagot Me.  Six colt & gelding pacers battled in a $43,600 divisional title race where two year old Breeder's champ Royal Red looked tough early on. The  Dream Away gelding had won five straight Fair races in addition to a conditioned race in 1:56 2/5 opening weekend. Trainer Jimmy Viars' pacer led through three fractions, tripping the timer respectively in :27 4/5, :57 3/5 and 1:28 2/5. In the final turn, Leon Harris's Lil Cool Fly'n Fun and Stacy McLenaghan's Welcometotheparty came on strong and surged into a match race of sorts from that point. The former, driven by Justin Vincent, was a neck better at the finish in 1:58 4/5. The winner, who was third in last year's freshman clash, is by Cool Flying Fun out of River Isle by Laag. The runner-up, who finished a close second to Royal Red in the September 2nd prep race, was driven by Wayne Long. Royal Red was third followed by Hot Card Shark, Tulsi and Southern Jamie. The $44,600 Filly Trotting Championship was held during the pari-mutuel card Sunday and Miss Pick Up, who did not compete as a two year old, won convincingly in wire-to-wire fashion. The Master Glide filly disposed of five other foes, including two year old champ Lizzybeth Taylor, in 2:02 4/5. The winner is owned by Anne McDonald of Alexandria, Virginia, and was trained and driven by Mark Gray. Miss Pick Up had four starts entering the race and most recently, finished fourth in the $175,000 Kentucky Sire Stakes Final at The Red Mile. Renfrow Hauser's Lizzybeth Taylor finished second, 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner, and Betsy Brown's Irish Blessings took third. Gretal Garbo was fourth followed by Boog and Guacamolie Gammy. The third race weekend at Shenandoah Downs is slated for this Saturday and Sunday, September 30th and October 1st, at 1 PM. parking and admission are free. The annual "Wine & trotter" festival is on Saturday where fans can purchase a ticket to sample wines from area Vineyards. Attendees are encouraged to wear their most elegant or unique headwear and enter the WINC Fancy Hat Contest. On Sunday, the first 200 fans will receive a commemorative Shenandoah Downs baseball cap. The season continues through October 15th. More details are at shenandoahdowns.com and virginiahorseracing.com. Darrell Wood

(WOODSTOCK, VA --- 10/10/2016) ---- Sunday's closing day at Shenandoah Downs featured a battle between the top two "Horse of the Meet" candidates, which Racing Secretary Mike Wandishin fittingly carded as the last race of the harness racing meet. Unfortunately, Wandishin's hope at drama didn't materialize in the showdown between B Blissful and Last Chance Harvey. The former, a Jimmy Viars trainee, developed a flat tire on his sulky and by the final turn, had fallen to the back of the field. The latter, a Henry Lewis trainee, did win an exciting race nonetheless by 1 1/4 lengths over Hare Force One in 1:57 3/5 to more than justify award winning status. Entering the finale, Last Chance Harvey's Woodstock resume was nearly identical to B Blissful's outside of a slight blemish. In a September 17th start that last Chance Harvey appeared to win, he was disqualified and placed second. Outside of that runner-up finish, the 7 year old Full Of Fun gelding won four other races and a pair at the Shenandoah County Fair, which preceded the five weekend pari-mutuel meet. B Blissful had won six straight heading into Sunday's action --- one each during the meet's four weekends and two during the Fair. The 12 year old Blissful Hall gelding's bankroll went over the $300,000 mark from his October 2nd triumph. The duo ended up sharing "Co-Horse of the Meet" honors. Tyler Shehan captured the driver's title with 14 wins, two better than Frank Milby and Roger Plante Jr., who tied for second with 12 apiece. Gerry Longo won the trainers title in a wire-to-wire effort, finishing with ten wins from horses like Magnifique, Caress Of Steel, Sparkin Your Fire and Explosive Muscles, who won the afternoon's co-featured $8,000 Open Handicap Trot. Amanda Jackson and Herman Hagerman tied for second with six victories each. Darrell Wood  

(WOODSTOCK, VA., 10/8/2016) ---- Igotyourcrazy came outside from fifth in the final turn then passed all four front steppers late in the stretch en route to a thrilling conditioned race victory at Shenandoah Downs on Saturday. Reinsman Roger Plante Jr. directed the come from behind effort and with two wins on the day, pulled into a second place tie with Frank Milby in the driver standings with one day to go in the inaugural harness racing meet. Igotyourcrazy was last at the half among the six horses competing but stayed within four lengths of the leader, Camturo Beach. Plante positioned the Del Richards Jr. trainee perfectly moving forward and was part of a four wide contingent coming out of the turn. The 7 year old Cam's Card Shark gelding crossed in 2:00 4/5, 1 1/4 lengths over betting choice Sparkin Your Fire. The winner, out of Allamerican Raquel by Life Sign, won his 15th career start for owner Eric Decker of Milford, Delaware. The meet's leading driver and trainer each added another win to their category leading portfolios Saturday. Driver Tyler Shehan directed Whiskery to victory in the day's finale and trainer Gerry Longo reached the winner's circle with Caress of Steel earlier in the card. Shehan boosted his win total to 14, three ahead of Plante and Frank Milby, while Longo extended his lead among conditioners. Longo enters Sunday with nine triumphs while the next closest is Herman Hagerman with six. Sunday's final day of racing features a 13 race card, free admission and free $5 betting vouchers to all fans. Gates open at 11 AM and first post is at 1:00 PM. Darrell Wood

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