By Nick Hahn
NUMBER 15: Hurricane Dennis swept across North Carolina’s outer banks after spending weeks off the East Coast. The deluge was officially reported to be 2.4 inches Richmond International Airport (RIC), but local measurements at the New Kent County Airport exceeded 3 inches and many New Kent rear deck gauges spilled over. With 10 races scheduled, 8 of those on the turf, Colonial’s turf course would be seriously tested for the first time and racing officials began to learn what they had created in Virginia. With the first year of racing on the dirt, Colonial’s Secretariat turf course had one short 25 day fall season traversed over it. It had never been tested like this and it never gave up a divot. Tom Keyser wrote in the Baltimore Sun two days after the deluge, “the star of the day was the turf course. It withstood the rain, and none of the eight races on grass had to be switched to dirt.”
Only a little over a tenth of an inch of rain fell prior to the starting gates opening up at 3:01 pm. In the next hour an inch and a quarter would drop. The rainfall rate would nearly double in the next hour when just a little over two inches dropped. The Memorial Day opener on September 6th opened Colonial’s 3rd season.
When a tree fell on a power line the resulting power outage forced the finale to be contested as a non-wagering event won by Spartan Mission trained Ferris Allen. Tom’s Revenge won the featured ninth race, the $30,000 Hickory Tree Farm Virginia Stallion Stakes that was scheduled for the dirt and run on the slop. Trained by John Salzman for owner Arnold Smolen, Nik Goodwin delivered the showery winner before Mother Nature pulled the plug on wagering. Jennifer Stisted won three races on the day with Mario Pino and Alberto Delgado collecting a pair each. Frankie Douglas delivered a winner with Thebes. One of Stisted winner’s was Madiana, a $33.20 winner for trainer Robert Bailes. Trainer John Scanlon and Daniel Borislow teamed up on a winner with So Pleased.
There were 5,301 spectators witnessing the germination of Colonial’s defining quality. John Mooney, the chief operating officer said afterwards, "Unfortunately, two things we don't control hurt us: the weather and an electrical problem outside the track," Mooney said. "But overall, I was happy with the way things went. I think everybody enjoyed the day who made it out. And we got a lot of positive response from patrons and horsemen."
It was also the beginning of the first season of what was then called “Down the Stretch” on SportsRadio AM 910 broadcasted from the Churchill studios overlooking downtown Richmond. Our first ever radio show had debuted two day earlier on Saturday morning.