Tampa Bay Downs

Tampa Bay Downs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (wikipedia.org)

Tampa Bay Downs is an American Thoroughbred horse racing facility located in Westchase in Hillsborough County in the U.S. state of Florida, just outside Tampa. It opened in 1926 under the name Tampa Downs, and has also been known as Sunshine Park and Florida Downs and Turf Club.


The track races most Wednesdays, Fridays, and weekends from the end of November to the beginning of May.
Physical attributes

The main track is a one-mile (1.6 km) dirt oval. The turf course is seven furlongs and includes a quarter-mile inner chute. Tampa Bay Downs, the only Thoroughbred race track on the west coast of Florida, has live racing action, simulcasting, poker, as well as golf at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.


Tampa Bay Downs first opened its doors in 1926 under the name of the West Coast Jockey Club and has since amassed a long and colorful history. The founding operation was headed by Ohio investor Harvey Myers and Kentucky Colonel Matt J. Winn.

In 1943, the United States Army took over the track for use as a training facility.

In 1946 the track was renamed Sunshine Park, and entered the modern era with the installation of an electric starting gate, photo finish and electric tote board.

During the 1950s, the racecourse was a popular attraction with many sportswriters who came to the Tampa Bay area to cover baseball spring training. Legendary names like Grantland Rice, Red Smith, Fred Russell and Arthur Daley became regular visitors, calling the track the “Santa Anita of the South.”

The year 1965 marked the third name change for the track when it became Florida Downs and Turf Club. The track was renamed Tampa Bay Downs in 1980.

On February 12, 1981, Julie Krone, then a 17-year-old apprentice jockey and now a U.S. Racing Hall of Fame member, got her first career victory here on Lord Farkle.

In 1983 the track began running periodic Arabian horse races. The Arabian-bred program ended in 2003.

The present owners, Stella F. Thayer and her brother Howell Ferguson, purchased the track in its entirety at auction in 1986.

In 1998 Tampa Bay Downs added its 7/8-mile grass track, complete with a quarter-mile chute, which has become one of the most popular turf courses in North America. The course was completed in the spring of 1998 and the first race was contested on Kentucky Derby Day, May 2, 1998. This new avenue has provided more opportunities for horsemen and patrons alike. Other renovations include a 22-acre (89,000 m2) golf range and short-game area called The Downs Golf Practice Facility, including a 270-yard (250 m) driving range and betting machines.

When Tampa Bay Downs concluded its 81st season on May 6, 2007, the track had established new records in handle, attendance and purses paid, including an all-time attendance mark of 11,014 on Kentucky Derby Day, May 5, 2007, which featured Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense becoming the first graduate of the Tampa Bay Derby to win the Kentucky Derby. A new single-day attendance record of 12,746 was established March 15, 2008 on Festival Day, featuring the Tampa Bay Derby. Tampa Bay Derby Day 2007 also marked the Oldsmar oval’s highest-ever handle, with $10,916,634 wagered on the Tampa Bay Downs signal on that day; a new mark of $10,949,948 was set March 12, 2011.

Street Sense and Any Given Saturday were two of the notable horses that competed over the Tampa Bay Downs surface in the 2006-2007 racing season, with Street Sense defeating his rival by a nose in the Tampa Bay Derby. They were joined by such notable horses as Cotton Blossom, Istan and Autobahn Girl. More recently, 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Eclipse Award turf champion Gio Ponti, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned have raced at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Silks Poker Room opened on December 13, 2003.

Tampa Bay Downs had 25 stakes scheduled for the 2014-2015 meeting, including six that were graded. The Tampa Bay Derby, contested March 7 for a $350,000 purse, is a Grade II race for 3-year-olds. The $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds, a Grade III event, was on January 31. Other Grade III races were scheduled on the turf: the $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes and the $150,000 Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares and the $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for horses 4-years-old and upward.

Before the 2007-2008 race meet began, Tampa Bay Downs underwent several renovations, including the installation of the Grandstand elevator; the all-new Silks Poker Room, located on the third floor of the Grandstand; and the Party Suite, adjacent to the Silks Poker Room, was also updated with new flat-screen TVs installed. The Legends Bar, which includes a museum-quality exhibition of famed Thoroughbred Seabiscuit, became the newest feature of the Legends Bar on the second floor of the Grandstand. Horsemen enjoyed improvements to the Paddock area, with all-new stalls in the saddling barn ensuring the safety and comfort of horses and their connections. Other facility upgrades at the Oldsmar oval include a refurbished Racing Office on the backstretch, as well as a renovated track kitchen.

Tampa Bay Downs had three Eclipse Award winners attend the 2007-2008 meeting: Rosemary Homeister, Jr., who won the Outstanding Apprentice award in 1992, was a regular fixture in the Jocks’ Room at the Oldsmar oval, finishing the season as the second-leading rider overall. Dreaming of Anna, who was the Champion Juvenile Filly of 2006, swept both the Grade III Endeavour Breeders’ Cup and the Grade III Hillsborough Stakes at the Oldsmar oval. War Pass, who was the 2007 Two-Year-Old Champion, competed in the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby.

The 85th season saw more records. Average daily wagering handle during the 2010–11, 90-day meeting was a record $4,572,074, an increase of 9.2 percent from the previous season. The average field size of 9.11 horses per race was among the highest in the country and was aided by an increase in the number of turf races, from 205 to 243. Average daily attendance was 3,195. The 31st running of the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 attracted a record all-source wagering handle of $10,949,948, which included $876,063 wagered on track.

Prior to the 2011–2012 meeting, the track installed Trakus, an electronic tracking system which displays the exact position and location of each horse on television monitors during a race. Tampa Bay Downs began a green initiative to eventually result in a net-zero impact on the environment. Other improvements included a CREE LED lighting system in the clubhouse and grandstand and the installation of a Gaco Sil S-20 Cool Roof coating system.


In 2007, Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger brought his 3-year-old Street Sense to Oldsmar for the Tampa Bay Derby, and the colt’s victory was a springboard to his win in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Another Hall of Fame trainer, William Mott, selected Tampa Bay Downs for the first 2011 starts for his 3-year-old filly Royal Delta and 4-year-old colt Drosselmeyer. Royal Delta went on to twice win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Drosselmeyer won the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The track’s annual showcase is Festival Day. The centerpiece is the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth. Also on the card are the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares 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.

Stakes races

As well as numerous non-graded stakes races, the track holds one Grade II and several Grade III stakes races.

Grade II: Tampa Bay Derby, an official prep race for the Kentucky Derby.

Grade III:

– Endeavour Stakes
– Hillsborough Stakes
– Sam F. Davis Stakes
– Tampa Bay Stakes
– Florida Oaks

Listed races:

– Challenger Stakes
– Columbia Stakes
– Gasparilla Stakes
– Inaugural Stakes’
– Lightning City Stakes
– Minararet Stakes
– Pasco Stakes
– Pelican Stakes
– Sandpiper Stakes
– Suncoast Stakes
– Wayward Lass Stakes

Courtesy of wikipedia.org

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