Shenandoah County Fair announces harness racing deal

The Shenandoah County Fair Association announced on Friday that it has reached an annual lease agreement with the Virginia Equine Alliance and Virginia Harness Horsemen’s Association to host Harness Horse Racing at the Fairgrounds, located in Woodstock.

The deal makes the track Virginia’s only harness racing track that will have parimutuel betting.

The deal was announced in a news release by Fair Association General Manager Tom Eshelman Friday evening.

Each year the lease will start after the Shenandoah County Fair according to the press release.

This year races will start the weekend after Labor Day and will run for four or five weekends. The 2017 lease will consist of seven consecutive weekends the news release states.

“During the weekends of racing, patrons will be able to view and participate in pari-mutuel wagering for approximately 8 to 10 races per day, featuring horses from all over the country,” the release states.

The Shenandoah County Fair Association has been working on a deal with VEA and VHHA since February.

VHHA executive secretary Iain Woolnough said on Feb. 18 that he was excited about the deal happening. Shenandoah County has had harness racing as part of the Shenandoah County Fair for many years, and Woolnough said it seemed like it would be a good fit for the VHHA and VEA.

“With the Shenandoah County Fair, we’ve raced there before,” Woolnough said. “… I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Woolnough said the organizations started holding harness racing at Colonial downs in New Kent County when that track opened in 1997, but had to stop when the track closed two years ago.

Last October they held races over four days at Oak Ridge Estate, located in Nelson County. Woolnough said that after those races they began seeking a more permanent home where they could sign a long-term deal.

According to the news release, “the VEA is investing over $700,000 into the SCFA track and infrastructure to include: track renovations, electrical and internet upgrades, restroom renovations, and the installation of a permanent motorsports track. The local community will benefit through growth in weekend tourism along with increased hotel and restaurant business.”

The release also stated that outside of racing weekends, there will be other festivities taking place on select weekends, including the Wine and Trotter Festival, a Craft Beer and Chili Festival and a Food Truck Festival.

There will be an official press conference held at the fairgrounds at noon on March 31 with more details.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com