As the parking lots outside Colonial Downs swelled with cars Thursday afternoon, the grandstands at the historic gambling facility filled with spectators, and folks looking to put money on horse races for the first time in nearly five years.
For Robert Lee, a native of Hanover, betting on horses at Colonial Downs has been a family tradition since he was 8-years-old.
Now 60 years later, Lee has returned to his home track to bet on horses like he did with his family all those years ago.
Lee is a long-odds bettor. The greater the potential payout, he said, the more likely he is to bet on the horse.
He thought when the track closed in 2014 that it was the end of horse racing in Virginia. Now, he said he’s happy it’s back and he’s going to bring his two grandsons to continue the family tradition.
While Lee is looking for a big payout, Teresa Hodges, a Gloucester resident, said she showed up out of curiosity. A former patron of Colonial Downs, Hodges said she came back to see the changes the track’s new owner, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, has made.
“It’s something fun to do and a good way to support the community,” Hodges said.
For the first race of the day, the pack of horses and jockeys held together in a tight pack.
As the horses rounded the final bend, the announcer’s staccato voice rang out among the crowd of hundreds. The number six horse, Charmn Charlie Ray pushed through to beat out the number two horse, Conquest Falcon, in a photo finish.
Afterward, Charmn Charlie Ray’s owner, Vince Tucciarone of Philadelphia, stood in the winner’s circle with a big grin. He still had five other horses yet to race.
After the races, there will be a classic rock concert at 10 p.m. with tributes to Queen and Led Zepplin among other music.
Steve Roberts Jr, email@example.com, 757-604-1329, @SPRobertsJr.