Tampa Bay Downs is offering a $1 million bonus payout in 2014 to the owner of any horse sweeping the track's Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III), Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
The "Tampa Bay Downs Million Dollar Derby Bonus" is addition to the regular purses for the $250,000 Sam F. Davis, which is Feb. 1, the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby March 8, and the May 3 Kentucky Derby.
In addition, immediately after the Sam F. Davis Stakes, the triumphant jockey will select the name of a fan who could strike it rich in the "Lambholm South $100,000 Fan Bonus," should the Davis winner capture the next two races. The fan's name shall be drawn from a bin among entrants who have correctly picked the Davis winner on the day of the race.
"Tampa Bay Downs is thrilled to offer a million-dollar bonus to the connections of any 3-year-old talented enough to sweep all three races," said general manager Peter Berube. "Nothing would make us happier than presenting $1 million to one of our owners and $100,000 to one of our loyal fans right after the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May."
In case of a Sam F. Davis dead heat, both winning ownership groups will be eligible for the "Tampa Bay Downs Million Dollar Derby Bonus," and the names of two individuals will be drawn to become eligible for the "Lambholm South $100,000 Fan Bonus."
Todd Pletcher, Carl Nafzger, and Nick Zito headline a list of trainers who in recent years have used the Tampa Bay Derby to prepare their leading 3-year-olds for a shot at immortality in one of the world's most prestigious races.
The Pletcher-trained Super Saver won the 2010 Kentucky Derby for owner WinStar Farm after finishing third in the Tampa Bay Derby, while Nafzger's Street Sense won the 2007 Kentucky Derby for owner James Tafel after capturing the Tampa Bay Derby in record time.
Additionally, the Tampa Bay Derby is part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, awarding 50 points to the winner, 20 to the runner-up, 10 for third place and 5 for fourth place. Points go toward determining which 20 3-year-olds are eligible for the Kentucky Derby.
Had the "Tampa Bay Downs Million Dollar Derby Bonus" been in effect in 2006, WinStar Farm's Bluegrass Cat would have come close to taking home the prize. After winning the Sam F. Davis, he finished second in both the Tampa Bay Derby and the Kentucky Derby. In 2009, Musket Man, owned by Eric Fein and Vic Carlson, finished third in the Sam F. Davis, won the Tampa Bay Derby and was third in the Kentucky Derby.
Patrons can enter the "Lambholm South $100,000 Fan Bonus" drawing Feb. 1 at Tampa Bay Downs by submitting an entry blank choosing the winner of the Sam F. Davis. Entry blanks will be distributed at the turnstiles, to be filled out and deposited in a bin corresponding to an individual's choice for the race.
In addition, the selected fan will be treated to free clubhouse seating and lunch for a party of six for the Tampa Bay Derby and, should their choice win March 8 and remain in contention for the bonus, again on May 3 (Kentucky Derby Day).
All fans who select the Sam F. Davis winner Feb. 1 will be mailed a Tampa Bay Downs prize package.
Horses that have won both the Sam F. Davis and the Tampa Bay Derby include Phantom Jet in 1987; Speedy Cure in 1991; Marco Bay in 1993; Thundering Storm in 1996; and Burning Roma in 2001. None of the five competed in the Kentucky Derby.
"The Sam F. Davis and the Tampa Bay Derby both came into being in 1981, so it seems a natural fit to combine them for purposes of the bonus," Berube said. "There have been several years when the Tampa Bay Derby winner had not run in the Davis, but we hope the bonus makes both races, as well as our $100,000 Pasco Stakes on Jan. 4 for 3-year-olds, part of a logical progression on the road to Louisville."
In addition to unveiling plans for the "Tampa Bay Downs Million Dollar Derby Bonus," Berube announced 33% purse increases for three 2013-14 stakes races to $100,000, thanks to additional revenue from the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association.
With the raises, 14 of the track's 25 scheduled stakes will offer purse money of $100,000 or more. Stakes purses for the meeting now total $2,770,000, an all-time high in the track's 88-year history.
The Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-olds and the Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies both on Dec. 7. and the Super Stakes for horses 4-and-upward Feb. 22 have all been raised from their previous $75,000 level.