Tampa Bay Downs: Preview of Upcoming Racing Season

By Jim Freer and Steven Buckner

Tuesday, Aug. 4 – Our report this morning that Tampa Bay Downs will be closed today for poker and simulcasts for the second straight day reminds us that it also is time to report this news:

We will soon begin regular coverage of events at Tampa Bay Downs during the months it does not host live racing. This will include:

News about preparations for the five-month racing season that begins Nov. 28.

  • The stakes schedule, when it comes out
  • Which top jockeys and trainers will be back, and who will be new in 2015-2016
  • Physical preparations: the turf course, the main track and any renovations in the grandstand building and other facilities
  • Stories on the people at Tampa Bay Downs
  • Coverage of regulatory and political developments and their potential impact on Tampa Bay Downs

The Oldsmar, FL track is heading toward its new season with momentum from its 2014-2015 meet that was one of the best in wagering in its history.

Data provided by Tampa Bay Downs (Tampa Bay) show that its average daily all-sources handle rose 8.1 percent for 2014-2015 compared with its 2013-2014 meet. That increase was from just under $3.8 million per day to just under $4.1 million per day. There were 88 race days in each meet.

Last season’s all-sources handle was Tampa Bay’s best since its record $4,545,541 in 2010-2011. All-sources handle is the total amount of money bet on a track’s races, both on track and off-site.

Tampa Bay in 2014-2015 experienced growth in live handle and in the Florida and non-Florida components of off-site handle, said Peter Berube, the track’s vice president and general manager.

  • Daily average live handle was up 7.5 percent to approximately $227,000.
  • Daily average attendance grew 2 percent to 3,263.
  • Daily average Inter-Track Wagering (ITW) was up 2.3 percent to approximately $278,000. That’s the amount of bets on Tampa Bay races made at other pari-mutuels in Florida.
  • Daily average Inter-State Wagering (ISW) on Tampa Bay races grew 8.6 percent to approximately $3.6 million. That is the amount of money bet on Tampa Bay races from sources outside Florida – racetracks, Off-Track Betting offices, simulcast centers, Las Vegas sports books, and Advance Deposit Wagering services via computers and telephones.

One major factor that helped Tampa Bay’s 2014-15 handle was that the average field size was up 6.5 percent to 8.7 horses per race.

On most days in 2014-2015, Tampa Bay’s all-sources handle was between the fourth and sixth highest among U.S. tracks. The top three tracks were usually Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach and Aqueduct in Ozone Park, N.Y. In April, Keeneland in Lexington, KY usually made that a top four.

Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., and Fairgrounds in New Orleans usually are near Tampa Bay in wagering totals.

Among the major tracks that run from January through March, only Tampa Bay, Gulfstream, Santa Anita and Fairgrounds can have turf racing – for weather-related reasons. The growing strength of Tampa Bay’s turf racing program is a main reason it is becoming increasingly popular among simulcast bettors.

Berube said that part of the 2014-2015 growth in field sizes, and consequently in handle, was attributable to the dry winter that resulted in fewer races being moved from turf to dirt. Tampa Bay had 30 more turf races in 2014-2015 than in 2013-2014.

“Our studies show that we do 25 to 30 percent more handle on turf races than on dirt,” Berube said.
The Tampa Bay racing surfaces team under direction of vice president Tom McLaughlin will soon begin getting the turf course and the sandy dirt track ready for racing.

And the days will soon begin dwindling down to Nov.28 when announcer Richard Grunder will again say: “And they’re off on opening day at Tampa Bay.”

We look forward to seeing you then and throughout the meet at Tampa Bay Downs, and we invite you to keep reading our coverage at: http://insidefloridahorseracing.blogspot.com and www.twitter.com/HorseRacingFLA

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