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2018 harness racing season ends on a high note

The third annual harness racing season at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock came to an end on Sunday.

Darrell Wood, director of communications of the Virginia Equine Alliance, said he’s happy with how the season went from a competitor and attendance perspective. Wood credited the appearance of the famed harness racing horse Foiled Again, which drew the biggest attendance ever posted at Shenandoah Downs,  and last weekend’s Autumnfest, which saw a record amount of $22,000 being wagered, as reasons for this season’s success.

“There were lots of people on the grounds enjoying craft beer sampling, barbecue, live music and other events,” Wood said. “We set up an auxiliary betting station in the festival area, and that looked like a big hit with the crowd.”

While Autumnfest was an event that was put on by the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce, Wood said that harness racing being a part of the festival was a big deal.

“To see so many folks exposed to racing that day was exciting,” Wood said. “It gives us a lot of hope for growing this event each year.”

The final weekend of the harness racing season featured the 14-race Virginia Breeder’s Championship, which saw trainer/driver Mark Grey take two wins and horses Lemonaideshine and Freddie K each retain their respective divisional titles.

The weekend also featured end of the season awards being handed out. Chuck Perry won the lead driver award with 26 victories during the season, while Marna Shehan took home the lead trainer award with 11 wins. One of the Shehan’s horses, Peppermint Candy, won Horse of the Meet honors.

Wood said that rainy weather throughout September and October didn’t hurt attendance for the races.

“The sun never came out the first two weekends, but support from the fans was still solid,” Wood said. “In weekends three through five, it really picked up.”

However, Wood said he feels the rainy weather did impact the amount of money bet on the races. The total amount bet this year was $119,099, while last year’s total was $132,646.

Wood noted that there would be discussions about how the season went and how things can be improved upon for the 2019 season.

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