Tampa Bay Downs adds Trakus, improvements for winter meet

by | 11.08.2011 | 11:31am

Fans, horsemen and the environment all stand to prosper when Tampa Bay Downs kicks off its 86th season of live thoroughbred racing Dec. 3, the earliest opening date in track history.

“Once again, we look forward to meeting the challenges of enhancing our live racing product and providing our fans and horsemen the most enjoyable experience possible,” said Vice President and General Manager Peter Berube. “As the economy continues to rebound, we believe we are in position to continue our growth as a premier winter racing destination and multifaceted entertainment complex.”

While trainers and their horses stream onto the backside from tracks across the country for the 92-day meeting, workers are putting the finishing touches on a $1.5-million capital improvements project that will keep Tampa Bay Downs at the forefront of the racing and sports entertainment industries.

Among numerous upgrades, the most noticeable to fans and horsemen will be the introduction of Trakus, the electronic tracking system which displays the exact position and location of each horse on television monitors during the entire race.

Already in place at such major tracks as Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Woodbine in Toronto, the technology system gives serious handicappers an added edge in evaluating horses' running styles and progress.

“We believe Trakus will be a welcome addition for our regular Tampa Bay Downs customers, occasional visitors and our vast simulcast audience,” Berube said.

Fans will also welcome the addition of 55 energy-efficient, flat-screen televisions to the 400-plus already in place throughout the grandstand and clubhouse. And getting to Tampa Bay Downs is easier than ever, with road access at an all-time high from each direction. The parking area has also been enlarged.

On the structural front, Tampa Bay Downs is in the initial stages of a “green initiative” that may one day result in the facility having a “net-zero impact” on the environment. The improvements in place for the upcoming meeting include a CREE LED lighting system throughout the clubhouse and grandstand and the installation of a Gaco Sil S-20 “Cool Roof” coating system.

More than 1,000 new LED fixtures have been installed inside the plant. LED fixtures can operate 16 hours a day for nine years with no maintenance.

The “Cool Roof” system, meanwhile, provides a weather-tight seal that prevents degradation caused by ultraviolet light, water and other weathering hazards. A Cool roofing system is in use at Disney World and has been used to treat military structures in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it has been proven to lower indoor temperatures by 20 degrees.

“Tampa Bay Downs management and our employees are well aware of the importance of wise energy use and practices, and this is only ‘Phase One' of our environment-friendly initiative,” Berube said. “Our objectives are to use less energy and substantially reduce our carbon footprint.”

In the barn area, storage sheds have been replaced as the track continues its annual program of barn improvements. Track superintendent Tom McLaughlin and his crew have worked diligently during the summer and early fall to ensure a bright, clean environment for the horses and their handlers.

On the wagering side, bettors are sure to embrace the new 50-cent Pick-5 wager, which features an attractive 15-percent takeout rate. The50-cent Pick-5, which requires bettors to select five consecutive race winners, replaces the Pick-6 and will be offered on the final five races of each card.

Takeout on win, place and show wagers have been lowered to 17 percent. Tampa Bay Downs' takeout structure is among the most bettor-friendly in the country, and when combined with full fields of runners, makes the track's simulcast signal hugely popular across the United States throughout the winter and early spring months.

Tampa Bay Downs will conduct its live thoroughbred meeting through May 6. Post time each day is 12:25 p.m. In addition to world-class horse racing and pari-mutuel simulcasting, Tampa Bay Downs offers poker and other card games and tournaments, along with fine dining, in The Silks Poker Room, open seven days a week from 10 a.m.-4 a.m.

Directly south of the racetrack is The Downs Golf Practice Facility, featuring 22 acres with a full range, chipping, putting and sand play areas. Pro shop hours are from 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

  • Other tracks should follow the Tampa Bay Downs model. Consistently lowering takeout has resulted in a significant increase in wagering handle especially the Pick 4 over the last few years.

  • David H.

    Each Saturday last winter, Tampa Bay Downs consistently had the highest per-race parimutuel pools of any track operating during the day. I watched the pools all winter, and the only time Gulfstream would have larger pools would be the 2 or 3 big stakes days (FoY, Florida Derby, Sunshine Millions, I think). Gulfstreams pools were otherwise always smaller than Tampa’s. I’ve been challenged on this point a few times here on Paulick Report, but I stand by my observations. :)

    This year my handicapping buddies and I are planning on spending the bulk of our energy and bankrolls at Tampa. The class of horses may not compare to Gulfstream, but the product is otherwise superior for horseplayers, in my opinion.

    And yay for Trakus! The older I get, the worse I am at identifying saddle towels and racing silks *laugh*

  • Tom

    “Each Saturday last winter, Tampa Bay Downs consistently had the highest per-race parimutuel pools of any track operating during the day.”

    And yet, their purses continue to suck. Wonder why?

  • Kerry Fitzpatrick

    I’ve been to more than 70 tracks, here and abroad, in my life and this is one of my favorites. Full fields, good quality grass racing, low win pool takeout (though still much higher than the 12% or so that existed when I started betting), seats available right on the finish line, friendly people, and a fun relaxed atmosphere.

  • mike w

    David H.

    Your information is not even close to right. Pick any day of the meet and check the charts on DRF and you’ll see how wrong you are. Not saying that as a second choice its a bad product to bet on , but their no Gulfstream

  • David H.

    Hi Mike!

    I didn’t know how to look this up, so following your suggestion, I went to Equibase and found their “Historical Charts” under results. Randomly, I chose Jan 15, 2011, and selected race 5 (middle of the month, middle of the race card).

    GP had bigger pools for WPS and Exacta/Tri/Super and it wasn’t particularly close.

    I then looked at Sat Mar 12, and again, GP had bigger pools, and again, it wasn’t close.

    I’m wondering if my impressions were skewed by TB showing per-race handle totals after the running a race, vs. me looking at GP pools in the few minutes leading up to the race (which was the only time they showed them until later in the meet when they started mimicking what TB was doing).

  • mike w

    David H.

    You are right Gulfstream did not start posting pools until the middle of the meet and for some reason in the beginning it was incomplete information by the end of the meet the numbers were right. Gulfstream doubles TB handle on ISW and almost triples it on track. Once again they do a good job with much cheaper racing and it is a good product to bet with there large fields. Gulfstream has large fields and superior racing with the largest pools in the country at that time. Good Luck where ever you play.

  • Jerry

    Tampa great races to gamble but management should share some of the profits and raise the purses. Something’s not right with the amount of handle and the low purse money

  • Distaffer

    Sounds as though they take the customer experience very seriously, more tracks should do the same. Trakus is useful and interesting, and going greener is the wave of the future. But the horsemen are right in expecting purses to raise, preceding or in conjunction to other major improvements.






  • Joe the Plumber

    The weather is great. Super bowls have been lost, due to the numerous “strip” clubs.

    Support this track! Boycott California.

  • Allen g

    I’m pretty sure Tampa does not have the luxury of slot fueled purses as gulf stream, fairgrounds and Oaklawn does. However, Tampa is consistently the second largest pools on any given Saturday. The pick 3 playoffs are amazing,

  • Racer Rex

    Joe the plummer,
    Better not bet gulf stream park either as their takeout is even higher than Santa Anita

  • Charli125

    @Alan G: You’re right, Tampa doesn’t have slots fueled purses like Gulfstream and that’s why their purses are lower. Tampa has however raised purses in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2011.

    @Racer Rex: That’s wrong actually. Santa Anita has lower takeout on WPS, TRI, and SPR. Everything else is higher. SA’s blended takeout is higher than that of GP.

  • Joe the Plumber

    California increasing takeout in this economy shows a lack of respect for the customer. Tampa is a least heading in the right direction.

    Remember how the CHRB guys insulted everyone with stupid comments about age and takeout. If you must bet on California, bet for “entertainment” purposes only.

    It is not always about the hard takeout numbers, it is the attitude and lack of respect for the customer.

  • ace

    17% on WPS is respect for the bettor? Really Joe? Its funny how you “takeout” yahoos have selective reasoning powers. This track also shows no respect for the horsemen with their absolutely pitiful purses-pitiful. They make Turf Paradise seem like the promised land.

  • tfly

    i don’t know any regular handicapper that likes trakus, and i know a lot of them. Personally, i find it detracts greatly from the race itself. i’ll find another track to bet come the TB meet.
    Yes, i agree with others comments- the purses are bad and something is wrong at TB.

  • Thank you Tampa Bay Downs for making the right moves once again…

    a) incrementally lowering the takeout rates
    b) the addition of Trakus technology

    Will certainly $upport the racing product over the winter.

  • frankie

    Thank you Tampa for lowering the takeout.

    You support me,the Bettor,I’ll support you.

  • Ray Paulick


    If we created an award for the most inane comments, you would be a nominee with this one:

    “i don’t know any regular handicapper that likes trakus, and i know a lot of them. Personally, i find it detracts greatly from the race itself. i’ll find another track to bet come the TB meet.”

    If I understand correctly, you will play some track other than Tampa Bay because Tampa Bay is trying to make the races easier to follow for novices, who just might put more money into the betting pools for you to win.

    I suppose you would prefer to have four incorrect or outdated numbers flashing on the TV screen instead of accurate tracking of each race.

  • tfly

    Ray, thanks for the insult. You think there’s not a difference between 4 numbers on the bottom of the screen, as compared to 10 zigging and zagging? Did it occur to you that some people like to watch the horses race, and not numbers racing around? You think there’s not a distraction element with trakus? i don’t like trakus, most of the handicappers i know do not. You do? Fine, but no reason to be insulting.

  • David M

    In large fields Trakus can be a godsend. Try watching a 13 horse field at WO on turf and locate your horse quickly. Can be daunting for even folks like me who have seen tens of thousands races. Also throw in a race where they use Special uni-color stakes saddle cloths and then you are sunk if your horse is not in the lead pack. Personally, I can live with the chicklets for 71 or 96 seconds.

  • Ray Paulick

    David M…
    I couldn’t agree more.

    Don’t like it? Don’t look at it.

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