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Virginia Loves Government Not Horses

August 4, 2019

Colonial Williamsburg  in Virginia vied with New York, Boston and Philadelphia in influence over life in 18th century America and in appreciation for a good horse race. In the Old Dominion horse racing, breeding, training  and the care of thoroughbred horses for races was a major business competing only with the business of government.

Today, only government has been constant from colonial days, the Confederate States of America and now the cities in Northern Virginia where federal government offices and the votes of federal government employees dominate.  Yes, Virginia’s true love is government, but this month one may see a glimmer of an enduring culture of horseracing.  This coming Thursday, thoroughbred racing returns to Colonial Downs located in a former cornfield so far from Richmond and Norfolk that it ceased operating several years ago.

Had Colonial Downs been placed on the ocean at Virginia Beach, Colonial Downs would have come to rival Del Mar racecourse in California.  But, Virginia loves government more and the then-Republican governor of the Commonwealth directed that horse racing’s return be placed on property owned by his friends. So, a great Virginia tradition that once vied for the attention of Virginians will be consigned to exist as a one-month-a- year attraction, like a State Fair, for as long as… Well, not for long. The appetite for risk will be sated at nearby casinos and an art form and great Vieginia tradition will pass into memory.

“What a tragedy,” I’ll say to myself next Saturday when I place wagers on some of the very best thoroughbred horses brought into the Commonwealth for three major races from other States where their leaders love the sport and nourish it–but not in Virginia. Virginia loves government more than horses.

One last point:  Why August?  Reader’s Digest editor, the late Ken Tomlinson,  a fellow conservative who raced thoroughbred horses at Colonial Downs, told me that the stables were “too hot” and he would bring his horses to the Downs on race days and not board them overnight. Why schedule races in August, if it endangers their health?

The reason is that Virginia loves government more than horses.

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