Tampa Bay Downs

Tampa Bay Downs

Tom Cooley Photography

Tampa Bay Derby Heads Track's Stakes Roster

Grade II Tampa Bay Derby heads 25 stakes at the Florida track.

For the second meeting in a row, Tampa Bay Downs will run 25 stakes, worth $2,595,000. The added-money slate is highlighted by the 33rd edition of the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), a 1 1/16-mile event March 3 for Triple Crown candidates.

The Derby is one of five graded events scheduled at the track. Opening day is Dec. 1.

"The growth of our stakes program over the years is a source of pride for everyone involved," said Tampa Bay Downs vice president and general manager Peter Berube. "Keeping our stakes schedule and purses intact during a challenging economic period is a major accomplishment, and we think our fans will appreciate everyone’s efforts because they get to watch and wager on top-quality Thoroughbred racing."

Stall applications for the 2012-13 season are due Oct. 1. The barn area opens Nov. 7.

The Tampa Bay Derby, which has produced two of the past six winners of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Street Sense  (in 2007) and Super Saver  (2010), is the centerpiece of the track's annual Festival Day extravaganza. The day includes the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/8 miles for older fillies and mares and the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes at a mile and 40 yards for 3-year-old fillies.

Horsemen with Tampa Bay Derby aspirations may target opening day as a stepping stone. The track is offering a pair of $75,000, six-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds on its Dec. 1 Cotillion Festival Day card: the Inaugural Stakes and the Sandpiper Stakes, the latter for juvenile fillies.

Tampa Bay Downs' path to the Triple Crown then resumes Feb. 2, Festival Preview Day, which is the track's second-richest program on the 91-day racing calendar. The card is headed by the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III), a 1 1/16 race for 3-year-olds. The Sam F. Davis has been won in recent years by such notables as Bluegrass Cat  (in 2006), Any Given Saturday (2007), and General Quarters (2009).

Also on the Feb. 2 lineup are the Endeavour Stakes (gr. IIIT), a $150,000 race at 1 1/16 miles for older fillies and mares, and the $150,000 Florida Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for 3-year-old fillies.

The other graded race on the Tampa Bay Downs stakes calendar will be the $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT) for 4-years-old and upward at 1 1/16 miles. The race is scheduled for Feb. 16.

On April 6, Tampa Bay Downs will offer $450,000 in total stakes purses on its annual Florida Cup Day card, a set of six races (all worth $75,000) for registered Florida-breds. Three races will be run on the main dirt track and three on the turf.