The Virginia Racing Commission gave unanimous approval at its Thursday, August 18 meeting to bring pari-mutuel harness racing back to the Commonwealth this fall at Shenandoah Downs.
The limited license request was submitted by the Virginia Downs Foundation. The Virginia Equine Alliance will provide race office personnel and conduct the races, and the Virginia Harness Horsemen’s Association will provide $800,000 from its purse account to fund the races.
In the request presentation on Thursday, VEA Executive Director Jeb Hannum noted 10 days of racing will occur this fall over five consecutive weekends from September 10 – October 9, and races will be held every Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. An extensive $700,000-plus track renovation project reached the completion stage this past week and everyone is looking forward to getting horses on the track for the upcoming meet.
Hannum also noted the weather challenges workers faced early in the renovation process when an unusually wet spring caused delays. Despite those issues, work was completed on schedule. He extended special thanks to Dr. Scott Woogen, president of the VHHA, Tom Eshelman, GM of the Shenandoah County Fair, and David Lermond, executive secretary of the VRC.
Dr. Woogen also thanked all parties for their cooperation in the ambitious project. “Shenandoah Downs is a track that Virginians should be proud of and it will be one of the finest half mile ovals for racing in the country.” The VHHA President added he was thrilled at the response horsemen have shown in support of the track and he is expecting a full barn/stable area.
“This is a very significant day,” added D.G. Van Clief, chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission. “The commission approved a new racetrack and meet today along with a slate of racing officials. This is a big step forward as we rebuild the Virginia racing industry.”