Harness racing will take place in Woodstock this fall, with precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The fifth annual harness racing season at Shenandoah Downs will kick off Sept. 18 at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds and continue through Oct. 17, with racing scheduled at 3:30 p.m. on Fridays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Parking and admission are free and the races are family-friendly, according to a news release from Shenandoah Downs.
Because of potential virus-related restrictions, wagering on races will not take place this year.
“We want to err on the side of caution,” said Virginia Harness Horseman’s Association Executive Director Debbie Warnick. “At this point, we can only have limited attendance at the races and feel it is in the best interest of everyone to not offer wagering. Betting stations are only available in a small concourse area and we don’t think social distancing guidelines could safely be adhered to with a constant flow of traffic heading to and from the betting area each race.”
Shenandoah Downs does not uplink its races to simulcast locations yet and relies on fans to bet at the track, the release states. The organization plans to resume pari-mutuel wagering in 2021.
Shenandoah’s planned purse distribution and season length will not be affected by the pandemic, the release states. Between $45,000 and $50,000 in purse monies will be given away on average each day, and the meet is initially planned for five weekends.
“A slate of Virginia Breeder’s elimination and championship races will be held over three consecutive Saturdays at their announced purse levels,” the release states. On Sept. 19, “Three-year-old elims for pacers and trotters of both sexes will be contested ... followed by two-year-old elims the next Saturday.”
An Oct. 3, a championship showcase program for both age groups will feature a $40,000-plus purse for each of eight different finals. A series of Virginia Breeder’s aged stakes will complement the freshmen and sophomore stakes that afternoon.
Racing applications for Shenandoah Downs riders are available at vhha.net and shenandoahdowns.com and must be submitted by Aug. 9. The barn area will open Sept. 14 and the track will be open for training starting that day. Draws will take place on Tuesday for Friday cards and on Wednesday for Saturday programs.
Dee Lineweaver returns as director of racing for the third straight season.