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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Colonial Downs Release — At a time when everyone is seeking signs of a return to normalcy in the months ahead, Colonial Downs, in conjunction with the New Kent Fire Department and Virginia Department of Forestry, will conduct a controlled burn of its Secretariat Turf Course today (March 30).

The burn will take place, conditions permitting (high winds could delay the burn) at 10515 Colonial Downs Pkwy, New Kent, VA 23124. This annual burn helps prepare and nurture the country’s widest grass racing surface for a six-week summer thoroughbred season which is scheduled to begin July 23 and continue through August 29.

The burn itself takes dead “cover” off the turf in a rapid manner and allows it to grow back more plush, green and safe within weeks if not days. The controlled burn strategy is used as opposed to trimming, because the fire drives nutrients back into the soil. This method yields benefits over cutting the grass.

“The dormant leaf that sits atop the Bermuda grass is dead and that’s what burns,” said Colonial Downs VP of Racing Jill Byrne. “If we were to cut and blow that leaf, it would take ten days and we’d lose nutrients.”

Today’s burn is scheduled to begin around 4:00 PM and will take several hours. Colonial Down’s Racing Operations Manager Jeff Wingrove will oversee the burn process.

The New Kent Fire Department will supply brush trucks and position inside the turf course and outside the track’s perimeter to prevent flames from spreading. A crew of fire swatters will also be on-hand to ensure the fire stays within its planned boundaries.

NOTE: Smoke in the sky above the track on Monday, March 30 is not cause for concern. Turf burns should not be attempted by the general public.

Today’s burn is taking place on Secretariat’s 50th birthday. The iconic Virginia-bred was born March 30, 1970 at The Meadow Farm in Doswell. Colonial’s Secretariat Turf Course is 180 feet wide and at its outermost part, is 1 1/8 miles around. Ten different rail positions and lanes are available over the surface to maximize its use during the meet. It is divided into an inner turf course and an outer turf course. Last year, 130 of the 144 races contested were held on grass.

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