Horses to Start Arriving at Tampa Bay Downs  

By Jim Freer

Tampa Bay Downs will open its stables to horses on the morning of Oct. 30, in preparation for its resumption of racing on Nov. 26.

Beginning Nov. 8, horses will be allowed to train on the Tampa Bay Downs track.P1050943

The Oldsmar, Fla., track has 1,460 stalls. Almost 1,400 are for horses that will race at the track during its 2016-2017 meet.

Tampa Bay Downs has a section in its stable area for horses that have been shipped in for the day to race. It also has about 50 stalls set aside for ponies that accompany thoroughbreds during post parades.

Stalls All Taken

The stalls have all been allocated and the number of requests exceeded the available space, said Tampa Bay Downs vice president of marketing and publicity Margo Flynn.

Tampa Bay Downs is the winter and early spring home for numerous prominent trainers who during the remainder of the year have their horses stabled at tracks in Kentucky, Illinois, Pennsylvania and other northern states.

This will be the 91st season for Tampa Bay Downs. The regular portion of the meet will extend through May 7. Live racing will be primarily on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tampa Bay Downs is open daily year-round for wagering on simulcasts from other tracks.

Tampa Bay Downs also has live racing each July 1, the first days of Florida fiscal years, and each June 30, the last day of Florida fiscal years.

By doing that, Tampa Bay Downs can be a year-round host track for simulcasts of thoroughbred races from track outside Florida.   A host track distributes those signals to other Florida pari-mutuels and receives part of the takeout on their handle from those races.

Annual Handle

Tampa Bay Downs is coming off its 2015-2016 meet in which it averaged $4.2 million a day in all-sources handle on its races. That was an increase from an average of $4.1 million in 2014-015.

Last season’s all-sources handle was Tampa Bay Downs’ best since its record $4.5 million in 2010-2011. All-sources handle is the total amount of money bet on a track’s races, both on track and off-track.

Tampa Bay Downs will have 24 stakes races in its upcoming meet with purses of almost $3 million—the largest in its history.

The centerpiece of the season will be the March 11 Festival Day card, with five stakes races. 

That day is headed by the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) at 1 1/16 miles on dirt for 3-year-olds.  It is a major prep for the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) that will be run May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

During the upcoming week we will have the first in our series of preview stories on the Tampa  Bay Downs meet.

–Photos by Barry Unterbrink