The $65,000 Lightning City Stakes, a five furlong turf test for fillies and mares, tops opening day of the 2008-2009 Tampa Bay Downs racing meet, which begins Dec. 13 and runs through May 3. The Tampa Bay stakes schedule encompasses 26 races with more than $2.7 million in purses and is highlighted by the $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) on March 14.
Three of Tampa Bay’s five graded stakes are on the March 14 program, which also includes the $200,000 Florida Oaks (gr. III) and $175,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. III).
The most significant change in the meet was the announcement by the American Graded Stakes Committee that the Sam F. Davis Stakes has been upgraded to grade III status. The $225,000 event for 3-year-olds will take place on Feb. 14 and is joined by the Endeavour Breeders’ Cup (gr. III).
“With the grading of the Sam F. Davis Stakes, I’m pleased to give horsemen an added incentive to race their Kentucky Derby hopefuls here,” racing secretary Allison DeLuca said. “The Sam F. Davis Stakes is one of the highlights of the Tampa Bay Downs stakes program, and the fans that come out for Festival Preview Day really enjoy the chance to get to see these horses as they develop into nationally recognizable names.”
Smooth Air, Any Given Saturday and Bluegrass Cat are some of the recent winners of the Sam F. Davis. Dreaming of Anna captured the Endeavour and Hillsborough Stakes a year ago.
First post for most racing days at Tampa Bay is 12:25 p.m. EDT.