Historic Morven Farm, an interlocking array of pastures and woods in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Va., was basically reborn under the 10-year ownership of billionaire businessman John Werner Kluge.
In addition to cattle and crops over its 8,500 acres was a commercial breeding establishment with approximately 25 high-class broodmares.
Morven, tracing back to 1730, became a noted Thoroughbred nursery under the proprietorship of Whitney Stone, who inherited the farm from his father in 1941. The Stone consignments at the Saratoga Yearling sales spanned 50 years, and in 1978, set a record for the most expensive yearling sold at that sale – $800,000 for a colt by Nijinsky II out of homebred Shuvee, a multiple champion who was inducted into the National Hall of Fame in 1975.
A preliminary proposal made by New Jersey track executives for a regional circuit was considered a non-starter for horsemen in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. The idea was to create a circuit that would cut down the fierce competition for horses, which creates short fields and a weak gambling product during the peak summer and fall meets at Mid-Atlantic tracks. The proposal would see New Jersey maintain the status quo, while the dates in the surrounding states would be slashed.
In December, the Virginia Racing Commission warned Colonial Downs that it was reviewing the process for revoking or suspending the track’s license due to a long list of problems. Betting fell far short of projections, Norglass Inc. (the track’s general contractor) filed five liens alleging nearly $12 million in unpaid bills, Colonial Downs lost off-track betting parlor elections in three cities, and the track’s temporary occupancy certificate lapsed. Those and other issues caused the track’s stock value to plummet.
“The perception of Colonial Downs and the reality of Colonial Downs are very different,” said the track’s lawyer, James Weinberg. “Colonial Downs is in solid shape; there’s a perception it is not.”
Mid-Atlantic-based Edgar Prado became the fourth jockey in history to record 500 wins in a single season, hitting 535 by year’s end, as well as recording his 3,000th career victory at North American tracks. “Prior to ’97, recognition of Prado’s exploits was largely confined to the Mid-Atlantic area, specifically Maryland,” wrote Bill Mooney. “But what he accomplished this past season has made him a jockey of national import.”
An Eclipse Award winner in 2006, Prado was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. Through 2022 he had 7,119 wins, eighth all-time.