The fourth season of harness racing at Shenandoah Downs is set to begin on Friday.
Darrell Wood, director of communications of the Virginia Equine Alliance, said this will be the first year that races will be held on Fridays. The races have traditionally only run on Saturdays and Sundays for the first three years.
“We tried running on Friday last year,” he said. “We saw the potential to grow on Fridays. We’re trying to create a fun atmosphere on Fridays. We’re trying to open it up to a younger demographic.”
Opening weekend will feature an appearance by Foiled Again, considered to be the winningest harness racing horse of all time, on Saturday. The horse will be a part of a meet and greet with fans and will take a lap around the track earlier in the day. Wood said the first 600 attendees that day will receive a free commemorative Foiled Again T-shirt. Last year’s appearance of Foiled Again drew the biggest attendance ever posted at Shenandoah Downs.
Attendees will also get a chance to meet racer John Campbell, who has won 11,058 races in his career, on Friday. Campbell will also take Foiled Again out for a lap on Friday between races.
“It’s a cool opportunity for us,” Wood said.
The “Own a Horse For a Day” experience will return once again this year. Eight fans will be selected via random drawings to own a horse in a $4,000 race. They will get to visit their respective horse, trainer and driver in the stable area for photo opportunities and keep the purse earnings their horses win. One person is guaranteed to take home the winner’s share of $2,000 on each occasion. The experience begins on Saturday.
“It’s a neat experience,” Wood said. “We want to give people a chance to see what it’s like to own a racehorse.”
Races will be held every Friday starting at 3:30 p.m. and on Saturdays starting at 2 p.m. through Oct. 13. The season will also feature a pair of non-betting racing events that will take place Oct. 6 and 13, along with the Virginia Breeder’s prep races and the Breeder’s Championships on Oct. 13.
Wood said this year is the most interest he has seen in harness racing at Shenandoah Downs.
“We’re getting horses and drivers from all over the country,” he said. “It’s good that in its fourth year that the name Shenandoah Downs is becoming bigger. We want to grow another step each year.”
Other events include wiener dog races on Sept. 28, Autumnfest on Oct. 5, and the Pink Power Breast Cancer awareness event on Oct. 12.
Parking and admission for the races are free.
For racing schedules and event information, visit www.shenandoahdowns.com.