Tampa Bay Downs will kick off its 91-day meet Dec. 11, with the Tampa Bay Derby highlighting the Oldsmar, Fla. racetrack’s 85th season. Twenty-five stakes will be run with an approximate total of $2.5 million in purse money up for grabs.
The Tampa Bay Derby was awarded grade II status for the first time in 2011 and it also gets a purse boost from $300,000 to $350,000 for its March 12 running. The Tampa Bay Derby has become a major stop on the Triple Crown trail, with two of its participants winning the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) in the last four years. Also on the March 12 Festival Day card are the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares and the $75,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on dirt.
The Florida Oaks, which was previously run on the same day as the Tampa Bay Derby, will be held on Feb. 12 this season. A grade III event last year worth $175,000, the Florida Oaks lost its graded status and will be contested on turf for the first time. It will be worth $100,000. Also on the Feb. 12 card will be the $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds and the $125,000 Endeavour Stakes (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares.
The $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, formerly the Tampa Bay Breeders’ Cup, was given grade III status for the first time. It will be held on the Feb. 19 program.
The 2010-2011 meet will see a decrease in takeout for Pick 3, Pick 4, Super Hi-5 and Pick Six wagering to 18% from last year’s 19% rate. Also new this year is a 50-cent Pick Three. Tampa Bay hopes to build upon its large field sizes, with a goal to increase upon last season’s average field size of 8.95 horses per race.
“We’ve worked hard to make the stakes program here as competitive and exciting as possible, and it is gratifying to see Tampa Bay Downs continue to become a major destination for the country’s finest horses and horsemen. We’re looking forward to another thrilling season,” said racing secretary Allison DeLuca.