By Jim Freer
Late Saturday afternoon, on-site fans and simulcast bettors might have to move as fast as the horses to catch all of the stakes races at Florida’s two thoroughbred tracks.
There are seven stakes, with scheduled post times between 3:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.
Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs will each have three graded stakes. It will be the only day of the 2016-2017 meets when both tracks have one or more graded stakes.
Tampa Bay has a fourth Saturday stakes—the $100,000 Suncoast at one mile and 40 yards on dirt for 3-year-old fillies.
So, you might call the day a “Super Stakes Saturday.”
First post is 12:00 p.m. for Gulfstream’s 12-race card.
First post is 12:12 p.m. for Tampa bay’s 12-race card on its 37th annual Festival Preview Day. The Oldsmar track will hold its annual Festival Day on March 11, including the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) for 3-year-olds.
For this Saturday, Tampa Bay adjusted its first post and post times for the remainder of its races with a goal of preventing it and Gulfstream from running stakes races at the same time.
The seven stakes will be run in this order.
*3:45 p.m. – 8th at Tampa Bay: $100,000 Suncoast, mile and 40 yards on dirt, 3-YO fillies
*4:03 p.m. – 9th at Gulfstream: $150,000 Suwannee River (Grade 3), 1 1/16 miles on turf, fillies and mares 4-YO and up
*4:15 p.m. – 9th at Tampa Bay: $150,000 Tampa Bay, 1 11/16 miles on turf, 4-YO and up
*4:34 p.m. – 10th at Gulfstream: $500,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (Grade 1), 1 1/8 miles on turf, 4-YO and up
*4:45 p.m. – 10th at Tampa Bay: $250,000 Sam F. Davis (Grade 3), 1 1/16 miles dirt, 3-YO
*5:05 p.m. – 11th at Gulfstream: $350,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (Grade 2), one mile on dirt, 4-YO and up
*5:15 p.m. — 11th at Tampa Bay: $150,000 Endeavour (Grade 3), 1 1/16 miles turf, fillies & mares, 4-YO and up
If both tracks stick to schedules, there will be at least ten minutes between the start of any Gulfstream race and the start of any Tampa Bay race.
However, Gulfstream is well known for delaying starts of races with the goal of bringing in last-second dollars on exotic bets.
Saturday’s ninth race at Gulfstream, the Suwannee River, is the start of the Late Pick 4.
Gulfstream has a guaranteed pool of $300,000 on that bet.
It is likely that wagering will surpass that amount, and Gulfstream will not have to dip into its coffers to meet the guarantee. But if betting is lower than $300,000, don’t be surprised if the Minutes to Post sign stays at 0 for several minutes.
Let’s hope that Gulfstream announcer Pete Aiello and Tampa Bay announcer Richard Grunder are not calling stakes races at the same time on Saturday.
If you are at Gulfstream or Tampa Bay on Saturday, we suggest this plan for the stakes races: handicap early, and find a spot to sit or stand near a bank of TVs and near a betting window or betting terminal. It also might be a wise to focus on one track, and not bet all seven stakes.
Later today, we will have a detailed preview of the Gulfstream races and a detailed preview of the Tampa Bay races on his Web site and on our blog which can be accessed in the menu bar at the top of this Web site’s home page.
On Saturday, we will have staff members at each track and will have reports on our blog and on this web site.
The Florida race getting the most national attention is the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay. It is 1 1/16 miles on dirt for 3-year-olds. It is a points scoring race for berths in the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) that will be run May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
McCraken and Fact Finding, both unbeaten in three starts, head the nine-horse field in the Sam F, Davis
The highlight race at Gulfstream is the $500,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, at 1 1/8 miles for 4-year-olds and up.
Five of the eight entrants have won at least one graded turf stakes in the United States. The field also has Almanaar, a winner of two Group 3 turf races in France.
Handicapping this race will be difficult, as will just determining which horse might be the post-time favorite.
Lukes Alley and War Correspondent, the winner and second place finisher in this Grade 1 stakes last year, are in the field.
The race also has the first three finishers from the Fort Lauderdale (Grade 2), which was 1 1/16 miles on turf at Gulfstream on Jan. 14.
Those horses are Flatlined, Almanaar and Divisidero.
Beach Patrol, a 4-year-old making his Gulfstream debut, is the 5-2 morning line favorite.
Last Aug. 13, he won the 1 ½ mile Secretariat (Grade 1) at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. He ran in five other graded stakes, finishing second three times and third in one race.