As the calendar turns to September, so do we turn the page on an exciting 2021 Colonial Downs racing season with closing day taking place on Wednesday. By all accounts the move to Monday-Wednesday racing was a success after the track saw increased handle as one of the only games in town during dark days at summer boutique meets like Saratoga and Del Mar. Tuesday’s Virginia Derby card was definitely the highlight of the meet, but closing day is nothing to scoff at as it presents five stakes opportunities of its own. The racing office opted to pull out the stops for one final hurrah and 12 races are carded to close out the season, the largest of the year.
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- Race 1: 4-7-8-1
- Race 2: 3-5-6-1
- Race 3: 8-12-3-1
- Race 4: 7-3-5-6
- Race 5: 8-5-7-3
- Race 6: 11-7-12-8
- Race 7: 11-5-6-2
- Race 8: 10-3-8-14
- Race 9: 12-10-11-6
- Race 10: 2-1-3-6
- Race 11: 6-8-5-7
- Race 12: 2-6-1-4
Colonial Downs Race 1: Chalice Malice (#4)
I don’t want any part of the two favorites on the morning line in the lid-lifter on closing day at Colonial Downs. China Beach (#6) shortens up to a trip that I don’t believe will suit his plodding running style and morning line favorite Dashing Circles (#11) will get bet off of a second place maiden special weight finish in a field that I don’t believe was any tougher than what he faces today. Small Field (#8) is interesting to me making his third start going out for the Ken Huffman barn. His debut going long on the turf was a useful effort showing speed and fading and then last out dueled with the 4/5 favorite in a fast pace over the dirt. He won the battle, but lost the war as the the favorite backed up to finish sixth, but Small Field got run down late. He now gets his first chance at a try in a turf sprint and the claiming price hike might scare some backers away. Another one I’d use prominently would be A Great Affair (#7) who retains the services of current leading rider Horatio Karamanos for the locally-based Karen Godsey barn. His return race was solid, finishing second while closing into a slow pace over this course and distance. The winner that day came back to vastly improve his speed figure when second in a claiming event, so a similar step forward could be in store for A Great Affair. However, my top pick is going to be Chalice Malice (#4) for the dangerous connections of PTK LLC and Dane Kobiskie who have already teamed up for four winners from eight starters at this meet. This runner showed speed at a higher class level last out at Turfway Park and sports some lively workouts heading into this. I really think the switch to the turf will suit this son of Kantharos as that sire hits with 15% of his turf sprint starters.
Colonial Downs Race 7: Hot Blooded (#11)
A fun field of eleven runners goes out in this N2X allowance race and I think there is a distinct dichotomy between the runners on the upside of their careers versus the ones that might be over the hill. One of those that I’d put in the latter camp is Ballagh Rocks (#6) who ships into Colonial for Jeffrey Englehart with a $40k price tag attached to his name. This classy runner won the G3 Poker for Bill Mott in 2017 and competed in the Breeders Cup Mile that same year. However, he’s really gone off form since he was claimed away from the Hall of Fame trainer in October of last year. The favorite might end up being Hanalei’s Houdini (#5) coming in from Pimlico. It’s been a while since this Maryland bred has run over the grass, but he seemed to run fine over it in his starts back in 2019. He’s a better horse now and if he translates his current dirt form over to the turf, he’ll be tough to beat, but he’ll be bet off those dirt figures making him a precarious gamble. That’s why I’ve turned to Hot Blooded (#11) as the top pick in this spot. Carlos David shipped in and took down the Rosie’s Stakes with Trust Our Journey yesterday and I think this one could be equally dangerous. I’m not thrilled with the outside post, but I think this three-year-old has upside when others in this field do not. His race last time at Monmouth behind promising Chad Brown trainee Founder would put him right in the mix and was flattered when second place finisher It Can Be Done came back to finish third in the Virginia Derby yesterday.
Colonial Downs Race 8: Island Treasure (#10)
This elongated turf route kicks off the final pick five sequence of the Colonial Downs meet and the strength of the affair is centralized within some high class barns that race primarily in the NYRA circuit. Jonathan Thomas sends out Be Up (#8) for the powerful Augustin Stable operation. The dam of this runner swept the Waya and Glens Falls Stakes at Saratoga back in 2011 which is why this filly should appreciate every inch of this 9.5f trip. I fear she actually might want longer as her maiden score was over 11 furlongs and she seemed to lack any sort of punch going just the two turns at Saratoga last out. I prefer both the runners coming out of the August 11th Saratoga allowance in Lisheen (#3) and Island Treasure (#10). The former goes out for the Graham Motion barn that had quite the day yesterday taking down both the Old Nelson Stakes with Tuned and the G3-Virginia Derby with Wootton Asset. I’m using her but my top pick is Island Treasure for Shug McGaughey. This filly also sports a stamina-laden pedigree with her dam taking down multiple three-turn stakes races throughout her career. She ran well to finish 5th in that aforementioned allowance last time against a tough field and continued her moderate improvement on the speed figure scale. I took a look at her last workout on XBTV and it seemed like her best yet when equipped with blinkers as she kept pace in company with good allowance runner In a Hurry who is capable of running Beyers in the mid-80’s. Shug teamed up with Forest Boyce for a win with a similar looking runner on the Virginia Derby undercard.
Colonial Downs Race 12: Whistle Player (#2)
We put a fitting cap to the 2021 Colonial Downs racing season with a double-digit sized field of claimers going long on the turf. Sunnymede Dream (#6) is a formidable favorite going out for the Tim Schuh barn that has sent out 2 winners from as many starters this meet. This runner was one of those when scoring in a maiden claiming last time out at 3/5 and now steps up for the first try against winners. The second and third place runners from his maiden score came back to finish third and fourth at the same level here on Monday, but did regress their speed figures a couple points. I’m going to take a shot with Whistle Player (#2) to close out the meet. His last start is a complete toss as he broke poorly and then was impeded on the backside by a runner being pulled up out of the race. He rallied on through the lane and now gets to stretch back out to a route of ground while drawing a coveted inside post. His three prior efforts are as fast as anything the favorite has run and could get lost in the wagering for a low-percentage barn. Let’s see if the meet will end with the same way it began with Victor Carrasco piloting a square price to the winners circle in a N2L claimer.