Virginia’s Colonial Downs is the latest racing victim of COVID-19, announcing Friday evening that its canceled the remainder of its 2020 summer meet.

Colonial Downs-Closure
Colonial Downs has had a rough decade, exacerbated by a five-year closure and ownership change. Now, the Virginia track canceled the rest of its 2020 season due to the coronavirus. (Image: Coady Photography)

The abrupt closure came three days after jockey Trevor McCarthy, who led the track’s jockey standings with 14 wins, tested positive for COVID-19. The Daily Racing Form reported McCarthy first felt symptoms on Saturday, took off his Sunday and Monday mounts, and received his positive test results Tuesday.

Colonial Downs scrubbed its Tuesday and Wednesday cards, and tested its entire jockey colony. Due to medical privacy laws, the track declined to announce the number of positive tests or the names of jockeys who tested positive.

“As a result of recent test results at the track in New Kent County, and in an abundance of caution, Colonial Downs is cancelling the remainder of its 2020 meet,” track officials said in a statement. “In making our decision, we collaborated with the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent Protection Association (VHBPA), and Virginia Racing Commission. We have communicated the outcome with all participating parties. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s cooperation and support.”

A Downer Year for Colonial Downs

Even by 2020 standards, this has been a nightmarish season for Colonial Downs. The track is in its second year under new ownership after being closed for five years. Expected purse averages of $500,000 were cut by almost a third to around $340,000 because of casino closures. Colonial Downs Group, which owns the track and the Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums casinos throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, said the coronavirus cut into purse revenue.

The track opened on July 28 for an 18-day meet scheduled to end Sept. 2. Running Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, it had nine days remaining, highlighted by the Sept. 1 Virginia Derby. But in an ominous foreshadowing, the track canceled the opening-night card due to extreme heat. It wiped out the Aug. 4 card due to Tropical Storm Isaias.

Track officials made up both scrapped days. Then, in the meet’s third week, two more cancellations, followed by the eventual closure and regrouping for 2021.

Two Other Tracks Closed — and Reopened — in July

Colonial Downs is the latest American track to close abruptly, although it currently remains alone in not re-opening. Lone Star Park in Texas abruptly closed in early July after a jockey and track official tested positive. It reopened 15 days later. During Lone Star’s hiatus, Del Mar scrubbed an entire weekend of racing in mid-July after 15 members of its jockey colony tested positive for COVID-19.

The San Diego-area track reopened the following weekend.

“This was a difficult decision, but the best one for Virginia’s racing community,” the track’s statement read. “We are already starting to make plans for the 2021 meet at Colonial Downs, and are optimistic for a safe return in a better health environment for our nation, state, and community.”

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