Day At The Track
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WOODSTOCK, VA  ---- Dates and post times for the sixth annual fall harness racing season at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock have been announced, pending Virginia Racing Commission approval. The five-week pari-mutuel meet will run from September 17 - October 16 with racing every Friday at 4 PM and Saturday at 1 PM.   Races take place at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in Woodstock, located halfway between Harrisonburg and Winchester off I-81 at Exit 283.   Racing applications will be available on line in late spring at vhha.net and shenandoahdowns.com. The barn area will open Wednesday September 15 and close on Wednesday October 19. Purse distribution is expected to average $50,000 per day.   The Virginia Breeders race schedule has also been confirmed and will be presented in a slightly different format from past years. Opening weekend will feature eliminations for three-year-old trotters on September 17 and three-year-old pacers the following day. Elims for two-year-olds will be held the second weekend --- trotters on September 24 and pacers on September 25. The 24th annual Breeders Championships, which also include aged races and combined purse monies well over $300,000, will take center stage on the third weekend. Trotters in the two, three and aged divisions will go for big money on October 1 while pacers in each will compete on October 2.   The Shenandoah County Fair will continue a decades long tradition of harness racing at their late summer Fair --- held at the same Woodstock location --- two weeks before the "Downs" meet begins. A four-day season will run September 1 - 4 with a daily post time of 12 Noon.   The Virginia Harness Horse Association (VHHA) also announced details of an enhanced Certified Residency Program that will offer combined bonus monies of $2 million to participating 2020 and 2021 foals.   In order to enroll in the lucrative program, horses must register with the VHHA and reside at a participating farm or training center in the Commonwealth for a minimum of six consecutive months before they turn two years of age. Once horses start competing, they will accumulate points from every money earning start as a two and three-year-old. The better the finishing position in each start, the more points they will accumulate. Double points will be awarded from any start in Virginia --- at the Shenandoah County Fair and Shenandoah Downs meets.   Awards are distributed based on cumulative year end point totals and the bonus money pool available. 2020 foals will compete for a $300,000 bonus pool in each of their two and three-year-old race seasons while 2021 foals will vie for a $400,000 pool in each. Horses in the Certified program will also be eligible to compete in a series of newly added $25,000 restricted races at Shenandoah Downs during their freshman and sophomore seasons, based on their age, sex and gait.   Complete program details, application forms and a list of participating farms is available at vhha.net. For more information, call Debbie Warnick at 443-463-0917. The Residency program is separate from the Virginia Breeders Fund program.   by Darrell Wood, for Shenandoah Downs  

(WOODSTOCK, VA ---- 4/23/20) ---- The Virginia Harness Horsemen's Association (VHHA) announced that the deadline to submit sustaining payments for two and three-year-old horses in the Virginia Breeder's Early Closer program, originally due on May 15, has been extended to July 15.   The fee is $200 per horse. Nomination payments ($200) were previously due on March 15 and declaration payments ($200) are due at time of entry. All races will be held during the fall pari-mutuel meet at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock. Purses for prep/elimination races will be $4,000 and estimated purses for the finals will be $40,000, plus all nominating, sustaining and declaration fees.   Three-year-old eliminations are scheduled for Saturday September 19 while two-year-old elims will be held the following Saturday, September 26. The finals for both ages will be Saturday October 3.   Virginia-bred yearlings, which were to have been registered with the VHHA by May 15, will receive the same two month extension. That $25 fee, along with a nomination form and USTA certification, is now due by July 15.   For more information, visit vhha.net or call Debbie Warnick at 443-463-0917.     Darrell Wood (C: 804-338-4632)

Powhatan Plantation in King George is a Virginia farm/training center that is embracing the Virginia Harness Horse Association's (VHHA) new Certified Residency bonus initiative, which brings young horses into the state to be raised for a six month period of time before they turn two. A pool of $400,000 in bonus money is available for the 2019 foal crop with $600,000 for the 2020 crop. The incentive monies are distributed between the horses respective two and three-year-old campaigns.   Located 16 miles east of Fredericksburg and three miles west of Route 301, Powhatan is a 1,000 acre farm that was built in 1829. The property was purchased in 1952 by Raymond Guest, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, who owned, raced and bred thoroughbred horses in England, Ireland, France and the U.S.. Formerly a major agricultural center that traded with ships from England from its dock on the Rappahannock River, Guest designed and laid out a farm upon purchase based on his interest in thoroughbreds.   His racing resume is impressive. Guest is one of three horse owners in history to have won both the Epsom Derby (with Larkspur in '62) and the Grand National at Aintree (steeplechase with L'Escargot in '75). In the States, his Tom Rolfe won the Preakness Stakes in 1965 --- with jockey Ron Turcotte aboard --- and was named American Champion 3 Year Old Male Horse that year. In 1958, Guest served as President of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association. He was a past Chairman of the National Steeplechase & Hunt and also played polo in the "Golden Age of Polo" and was inducted into that sport's Hall of Fame.     Guest passed away in 1991 and his son Achille now lives in the property's main house which is currently undergoing renovations. The Plantation property itself includes a 3/4 mile oval training track, a main training barn, broodmare barn and a yearling barn. 600 of the acres feature well fenced pastures and paddocks. A long airstrip that divides the expansive complex allows horse owners to fly in. There are currently 210 horses on the grounds now, all of which are polo horses except for 13 which are recent standardbred arrivals courtesy of that breed's new residency program.     Holly Layne is Farm Manager at the Potomac Plantation. A Charlottesville native, she has been there three years now and stays quite busy boarding professional polo horses from top ten players and teams. In the past couple months, they have added standardbreds to the mix.   Layne has a staff to tend to the horses and maintain the large property. Her assistant Gena Nelson lives in a house on the grounds. Her son Wyatt and niece Lucy help with cleaning stalls. A team of four maintenance workers do everything like fixing fences, cutting trees, weed eating, mowing, bush hogging, dragging and fixing equipment.   "It's great to have the extra help here now," she said. "For a while, it was just Jena and myself. That was it for a long time. We both live at work and work from home so we're always here."     When Layne arrived in spring of 2017, there were 36 horses on the grounds. In 2019, that number rose to 300. "That increase is due to a lot of hard work. I always make myself available to owners, network with them and make them feel like their horses are well cared for," she said. "We have the staff to do it. Every horse is checked after twice a day. We have a hands on approach. It's a lot of work but every horse on the farm gets touched and eyeballed. They get the best care we can give."   Layne goes out her way to help owners whether it be sending them pictures and videos of their horses, getting health certificates or providing overnight accommodations for drivers who ship horses in and out. "Positive word of mouth has been the biggest help with advertising Powhatan," she added. "I stay in contact with the owners. I know who all the horses are and where they are. Owners can contact me any time for whatever their needs are."   The three years spent at Powhatan have been a learning experience for Layne because she never played polo or even watched a match before arriving in King George. "I grew up riding hunter ponies then started doing speed events like team penning and barrel racing," she said. "I managed my own farm, bred and raised quarter horses and paints and pretty much worked for myself like most breeders. I do have a variety of experience," she added. "I've come through the ranks and have worked with some really good mentors. There's been a lot to take in and learn here."   For more information on the Powhatan Plantation or boarding prices, call 540-775-4434 or e-mail powhatanplantation1@gmail.com. For details on the Certified program itself, visit vhha.net or call Debbie Warnick at 443-463-0917. The fifth pari-mutuel harness racing season at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock will take place this fall. Opening day is slated for September 18.   Darrell Wood

(WOODSTOCK, VA --- 2/26/19) ---- The Virginia Harness Horse Association (VHHA), in conjunction with the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA), is introducing a new Certified Residency Bonus Program that will begin immediately for harness racing foals born beginning in 2019. Once horses complete a six month residency at a Virginia farm or training center (before they turn two), they are eligible to begin collecting bonuses as two and three-year-olds in any overnite race where they receive a piece of the purse. A bonus pool of at least $200,000 will be available annually for those certified horses. Instead of receiving a set award from each money earning start, horses would accumulate points over the year based on purse dollars earned --- one point per dollar. At the end of the year, the entire bonus reward fund will be divided by all points earned, and each horse would receive that set dollar value per point. Awards would then be paid out to owners proportionately. "I think this shows that Virginia is back in the race and that the future looks bright," said Dr. Scott Woogen, VHHA President. "Some key parts of this program were adopted from the successful residency program the state thoroughbreds now enjoy, while others like the point system are aspects we thought could be fair and equitable. Each year, we'll find out how much money is available for this program and advertise it for the next crop of foals." The state's live harness racing operations are now focused in Northwest Virginia, where a ten day pari-mutuel meet has taken place at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock since 2016. This year's fall meet will begin September 13th and continue every Friday and Saturday afternoon for five consecutive weekends. "To help incentivize horsemen to race here, Certified horses will receive double the number of points on dollars earned from any overnight race in Virginia," added Woogen. "A single race bonus normally would be capped at 5,000 points but on the in-state events, that cap will increase to 10,000." "The residency program is designed to bring new horses into the state," said VEA Executive Director Jeb Hannum. "The standardbred program is exciting as it stands to impact farms that wouldn't normally be associated with racing. A six month stay in Virginia, or longer, will help a lot of farms and will direct much needed revenue to agricultural businesses. Our main goal is to increase the number of standardbred horses that are being raised in Virginia." With historical horse racing set to start this year at Colonial Downs and it's Rosie's Gaming Emporium sites in New Kent, Richmond, Hampton and Vinton, additional purse funds and incentive program opportunities could be on the rise in the near future. Live simulcast races will be available to bet at each Rosie's site, in addition to the four existing OTBs which will continue under Colonial management. Information, registration forms and a list of 25 participating farms and training centers in the state that have available space can be accessed at www.vhha.net. For additional details, contact Debbie Warnick at 443-463-0917 or by e-mail at info@vhha.net.  

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