February 27, 2024

Tampa Bay to open Saturday

Last updated: 12/10/04 8:30 PM

Tampa Bay Downs begins its 79th season of racing on Saturday with high
expectations. Last year, the Oldsmar, Florida, track established records in 10
statistical categories compliments of double-digit gains in handle and

“With last year’s 24 percent increase in total live all-source handle and
2002-03’s 20 percent increase, we’re now a significant player on the national
scene,” said Peter Berube, track vice-president and general manager.

The opening day feature is the $60,000 Inaugural S., which has drawn 14
juveniles, including GET WILD (Forest Wildcat), a winner in two of his four career starts. The six-furlong sprint is part of an 11-race opening-day card. It
is just one of 25 stakes worth more than $2.1 million, highlighted by
Festival Day and Florida Cup Day.

Festival Day on March 26 includes the 26th running of the $250,000
Tampa Bay Derby (G3), a prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1). Also to be
decided on Festival Day are the $125,000 Hillsborough S. (G3) and the $150,000
Florida Oaks. The former, named for the county in which the Florida track is
located, is a nine-furlong turf event while the latter is run at 1 1/16 miles
over the dirt. All three contests are for sophomores.

Florida Cup Day is a fairly new concept, started in 2002, and features seven stakes
for Florida-breds. Last year’s purses totaled more than $500,000 and
there are guarantees of $75,000 per race this year.

Other exciting additions include an expansion of the picnic area, a new
luxury suite called the Trackside Garden Suite and daily Texas Hold ‘Em
Tournaments in the track’s card room, Silks. For horsemen, the winner’s circle
has been redone and there is a new outside rail and receiving barn.

Top trainers Barclay Tagg and Denis Ebert have been granted stalls as well as
Tampa Bay regulars David Fawkes and Joe Waunsch. Jesus Castanon and
T.D. Houghton, who dueled for the last season’s riding title down to the final
days of the meet, will return for riding duties.

The 94-day meet runs through May 8. Live racing will be conducted on
Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays through December 28. Beginning December 31,
Mondays will be dark while racing will be held Tuesday through Sunday. Mondays
and Wednesdays, as well as March 31, will be dark during February and March, and
Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays will be dark in April, with no racing on April
26. The final three days of racing will be May 1, 7 and 8.