Many of the top Thoroughbreds in training are expected to participate in the Tampa Bay Downs 2018-2019 stakes program, which includes 28 stakes races worth a record $3.74-million in purse money.
The stakes schedule includes six graded races and a $1-million Festival Day program on March 9, highlighted by the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-olds. The announcement was made today by Tampa Bay Downs Vice President-General Manager Peter Berube.
Purse money for each of the track's six Florida Cup Day races on March 31 has been raised 15 percent to $115,000, accounting for the $90,000 total increase from last season's total stakes purse level. The additional money is in the form of win bonuses from the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association (FTBOA) through its Florida Sire Stakes program.
Tampa Bay Downs, which officially began its 93rd anniversary season on July 1, resumes in earnest with its Opening Day racing card on Saturday, Nov. 24. The 91-day meeting runs through Sunday, May 5, plus an additional day on June 30, which is the first day of the two-day Summer Festival of Racing.
Stall applications for the upcoming meeting are due Friday. An online application is available at www.tampabaydowns.com
The barn area opens on Thursday, Nov. 1 and the track opens for training on Nov. 5.
“We're excited to offer a stakes program of such outstanding quality to our horsemen and fans, featuring tremendous races for horses of both sexes and all ages on both our main dirt track and turf course,” Berube said.
“Trainers and jockeys have praised the consistency and safety of both surfaces, and as a result, we've been able to attract such superstars as Kentucky Derby winners Street Sense, Super Saver and Always Dreaming, plus champions like Zagora, Stephanie's Kitten, Tepin and World Approval,” Berube said. “We are eager to help unveil new standouts this season.”
The 2018-2019 stakes schedule begins Saturday, Dec. 1 with a pair of sprint races on the immaculate Oldsmar turf course: the $100,000 Turf Dash for horses 3-years-old-and-upward and the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes for fillies and mares 3-and-up. Both will be contested at a distance of 5 furlongs.
The added-money bonanza picks up steam on Dec. 15 with four stakes. That day's high-energy card includes a pair of $125,000, second-year stakes for 3-year-olds funded by the FTBOA: the FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes for colts and geldings and the FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes for fillies. Both are at a distance of 7 furlongs on the main track.
Also on the Dec. 15 program are the $100,000 Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-olds and the $100,000 Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, both at a distance of 6 furlongs on the main track.
The most lucrative card of the season is Festival Day on March 9, with the 39th Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, for Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prospects, certain to attract national attention. The track's showcase event is for 3-year-olds at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track.
The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Championship Series qualifying race, with 50, 20, 10 and 5 points awarded to the first four finishers toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4 at Churchill Downs.
Other graded stakes on the Festival Day card are the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for fillies and mares 4-and-up at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf and the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf.
Rounding out the million-dollar-plus afternoon are the $100,000 Challenger Stakes on the main track and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes on the turf.
Setting the stage for all that March 9 excitement is the track's annual Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South card on Feb. 9. Three graded stakes are on tap, highlighted by the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a mile-and-a-sixteenth test for 3-year-olds on the main track and the major local prep for the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.
The Sam F. Davis is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Prep Season qualifying event, awarding points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four finishers.
The Feb. 9 program includes the Grade III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes, for fillies and mares 4-and-up on the turf; the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for horses 4-and-up, also on the turf; and the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-40-yards on the main track.
The Suncoast is a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” qualifying race, awarding 10-4-2-1 points to the first four finishers toward qualifying for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
The 17th edition of the aforementioned Florida Cup Day on Sunday, March 31 features six stakes races for Florida-bred horses worth $115,000 apiece, with three races on the main track and three on the turf and offerings for both males and females.
Tampa Bay Downs 2018-2019 season visitors should be impressed by a number of facility upgrades and renovations.
Members of the track's Maintenance Department and outside contractors are in the process of installing a NuCore waterproof, vinyl plank floor throughout the Grandstand. Workers are also redesigning the main Grandstand entrance to enhance the ease of access and egress for patrons.
Tampa Bay Downs installed new AmTote International wagering terminals throughout the facility during the summer.
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