Coming on the heels of a highly successful Florida Sire Stakes program at Gulfstream Park in 2018 where six summer Florida Sire Stakes for 2-year-olds totaling more than $1.4 million in purse money racked up $27.241 million in all-sources handle while featuring strong field sizes that averaged 11.33 starters, the Florida-bred/Florida-sired action now travels to the Florida gulf coast to Tampa Bay Downs in pursuit of 3-year-olds for the winter and spring.
The FSS action starts early in the meet with the second running of the $125,000 FTBOA FSS City of Ocala for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs on the main track and the $125,000 FTBOA FSS Marion County for 3-year-olds, also at seven furlongs on dirt. Both races will be contested on Dec. 15.
Last year, Marco Thoroughbreds Corp. and Stuart Zook's Mo Cash won the inaugural running of the FTBOA FSS Marion County ahead of 2016 FTBOA Horse of the Year Three Rules in an exciting stretch run with Zipping third. Mo Cash went on to finish second behind winner X Y Jet in the Sunshine Millions Sprint in January and won the $100,000 Benny the Bull Stakes in August, both at Gulfstream Park.
William A.T. Rainbow's homebred Surprise Wedding took the first running of the City of Ocala over future Grade 2 winner and 2018 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1)-bound Stormy Embrace in second with R Angel Katelyn third.
As was the case last year, two additional FSS stakes of eligible 3 year-olds will take place in May with the first renewals of the $100,000 FSS Silver Charm for colts and geldings at a mile and 70 yards and $100,000 FSS Ivanavinalot Stakes for fillies at the same distance.
The Silver Charm and Ivanavinalot will combine with the six $100,000 “Florida Cup” stakes races to be contested by Florida-breds in March, as well as numerous stakes bonuses and purse incentives comprise a 2019 Tampa Florida-bred stakes schedule which even surpasses 2018's record offerings. In fact, the only significant difference is an additional $90,000 in FSS Win bonuses to be equally spread over the six Florida Cup stakes.
“As Florida breeders and owners, we easily recognize the importance of Tampa Bay Downs to our entire industry. Our support of a vibrant Florida stakes program there acknowledges our belief that a strong Tampa racing program is good for our entire industry,” noted FTBOA CEO Lonny Powell. “Virtually all but a couple of their stakes have some form of Florida-bred and/or Florida-sired bonus money attached. Those economic rewards, combined with six $100,000 Florida-bred stakes, each with a $15,000 FSS Win bonus, and four FSS races combining for an additional $450,000 in purses, really shine a bright light on owners and trainers with a number of Florida-breds in their Tampa shed rows.”
Tampa Bay Downs general manager Peter Berube is also excited about the Florida Sire Stakes and Florida-bred racing set for the upcoming season.
“It is extremely gratifying to us to partner with the FTBOA for the betterment of the Florida thoroughbred racing industry,” Berube said. “Our FTBOA stakes last season produced four quality winners, while providing our fans and racing participants a chance to watch many of the top state-bred horses in action.
“We are also appreciative of the additional $90,000 in funding being provided to our Florida Cup Day races on March 31 through the FTBOA's Florida Sire Stakes program. The Florida Cup is in its 17th season, and the purse enhancements allow us to continue to attract the quality of racehorse that has made the series such a success.”
FTBOA president, Brent Fernung, put the importance of the mutual support and synergy between the track, horsemen and his association in perspective.
“Many good Florida-breds have competed at Tampa,” Fernung said. “They play an important role in the Florida thoroughbred industry and it only makes sense that we work together to grow our businesses together. The close proximity of the track to Marion County and the Ocala area also leads itself to many of our area members, connections and residents to driving over for a day of fun at the races while rooting home their favorite Florida-breds.”
Tampa Bay Downs HBPA president Bob Jefferies also said he was happy with the agreement.
“Once again, the Tampa Bay HBPA is pleased to partner with the FTBOA for an exciting season of racing,” Jefferies said. “Because of the support and additional funding provided by the FTBOA, Tampa Bay horsemen are able to earn Florida-bred supplements in addition to regular purse money. We look forward to a continuing partnership with the FTBOA and Tampa Bay Downs as we move forward to promote racing in Florida.”
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