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Horse race tracks in Virginia

This page contains information about horse race tracks in Virginia that offer gambling on the races.

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Horse race betting across the United States is in considerable decline. According to ThoroughbredDailyNews.com, the number of horse races run in the U.S. in January and February 2024 was down by more than 11% from the previous year, and revenue was down 6.8%.

This negative trend has impacted horse race tracks in Virginia, where there are now just two venues that offer racing. While historic horse racing (HHR) machines have still supplemented track revenues (according to the Virginia Racing Commission, the state saw an increase in HHR betting year over year in January 2023 and 2024), the industry still is headed in the wrong direction for horse racing enthusiasts.

Here, we’ll take a look at the two remaining horse race tracks in Virginia that offer race betting. We’ll also walk you through how to bet at those venues.

Horse race tracks in Virginia


Below are the names and addresses of the two remaining horse race tracks in Virginia.

Virginia Race track

Address

Colonial Downs

10515 Colonial Downs Pkwy New Kent, VA 23124

Shenandoah Downs

300 Fairground Rd Woodstock, VA 22664

Yes, it is legal to bet at horse race tracks in VA. Colonial Downs and Shenandoah Downs both offer pari-mutuel and fixed odds wagering. There are a few other tracks in Virginia that hold races, such as Foxfield Racing and Morven Parks, but those facilities run steeplechase races (as opposed to thoroughbred racing at the other venues) and betting isn’t an option at Foxfield and Morven.

How to place a bet at a Virginia race track

Placing a bet at a Virginia race track is an easy process, provided you’ve done plenty of prep work ahead of time. Here is how you can make your wagers:

  1. Study the field: As you make wagers, you’ll develop a familiarity with the courses, as well as the track conditions and how weather impacts the events. That leaves you to focus on the horses in the race, their jockeys and trainers, and past race performances before you lock in your wagers.
  2. Figure out which wagers you want to make: Just as important as picking the winning horses is identifying where there is sufficient betting value for your wagers. If betting $100 on the winning horse will only result in a $105 payout, you stand to lose far more if that horse doesn’t win. Balance the horses you like with their respective odds to ensure the value you’re getting is appropriate and favorable.
  3. Travel to the race track: With only two race tracks accepting wagers, the choices are rather limited. For some enthusiasts, off-track betting facilities may be more convenient.
  4. Place your bets: Using either the staffed wagering windows or the self-service kiosks, back the horses you researched and decide which wager types you wish to play. You will need to have a government-issued photo ID on hand to affirm you are of legal age to make a bet. Be prepared, as betting windows get particularly busy around post time; don’t be the one holding up the line!
  5. Watch the races and collect your winnings: Finally, wait for the horses to run their races and see which bets turned into winners! Again, you’ll need to have your ID on hand to confirm you’re legally able to claim your winnings.

Tips when betting at the race track in Virginia

Here are the top Virginia horse betting tips our experts shared with us while betting at the race track in Virginia.

  • Start simple: If you’re new to the horse racing scene, it can be easy to get excited about the prospect of winning big. However, keeping your wagers simple to familiarize yourself with betting strategies and the competing racers is a smart way to avoid losing large amounts of money while you’re still learning the ropes.
  • Make a plan and stick to it: Failure to plan is a plan to fail. Developing a plan for how much time and money you are willing to spend at the race track will keep you from falling into irresponsible gambling habits.
  • Watch the horses in the paddock: In some cases, you’ll be able to see the horses in the paddock before the race. When you can, observe the horse’s behavior to see if it seems calm, confident, eager to race, nervous, or irritable. Research beforehand is important, but this can be a solid indicator of whether to back a horse or stay away.
  • Mix favorites with underdogs on your betting slip: The top two favorites in a given horse race win between 44-52% of races (with this range accounting for varying odds based on betting action or instances where multiple horses have the same odds at the top of the field). This means roughly 48-56% of the time, the winning horse will come from outside of the top two favorites by the odds listing.
  • Bet on multiple races, but not every race: It’s always better to walk away from a race, whether due to unfavorable odds, track conditions, or a lack of knowledge about the horses, than to continue wagering on every race. This will also help keep you from burning through your bankroll.

FAQ

Which is the oldest racetrack in Virginia?

The oldest racetrack in Virginia is Colonial Downs. The racecourse originally opened in 1997, running both standardbred harness racing and thoroughbred flat racing. After closing in 2014, the park reopened in 2019 as a thoroughbred-only course.

Which VA race track is the biggest?

The biggest VA race track is Colonial Downs. The venue has a 1 ¼ mile outer dirt oval, and the inner Secretariat Turf Course runs 1 ⅛ miles.

Can I bet on sports at Virginia horse race tracks?

No, you cannot bet on sports at Virginia horse race tracks. The venues do not have sportsbooks operating at their facilities.

How do I purchase tickets to a horse race at a Virginia track?

The easiest way to purchase tickets to a horse race at a Virginia track is by going directly to the venue’s website and selecting your seats from the race calendar.

Are there any age restrictions for attending horse races in Virginia?

No, there are no age restrictions for attending horse races in Virginia. However, you must be at least 18 years of age to bet on the races; certain parts of the racetrack may also have age restrictions, but general admission is open to anyone.

What is the history of horse racing in Virginia?

Horse racing in Virginia has a storied history, with the first horses arriving in the colony in 1609 and the first race course opening in 1739. Secretariat, who is widely considered the greatest racehorse of all time, was born in Caroline County, VA.

Are tours available at Virginia horse race tracks?

Yes, tours are available at Virginia horse race tracks. However, you will likely need to get tickets in advance. Certain areas of the grounds may also be inaccessible on race days.