"Each year where warranted we try to increase the value of key stakes races to help us maintain or receive Graded status on deserving races," said Peter Berube, vice president and general manager. "This year we are cautiously optimistic that both the Sam F. Davis and Florida Oaks will be favorably evaluated."Scheduled for Festival Day, March 17, the Tampa Bay Derby will have a $300,000 purse, up $50,000 from last season and will once again join the $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) and the $75,000 Turf Dash.The Sam F. Davis Stakes, won by 2006 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Bluegrass Cat, now carries a $150,000 purse, a $25,000 increase. It is the feature on the Festival Preview Day card, Feb. 17, along with the $125,000 Endeavour Breeders' Cup and the $75,000 Suncoast Stakes.
Festival Day and Festival Preview Day are two of four multi-stakes Saturday afternoons in the upcoming 94-day meet, which opens with the $60,000 Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-olds. On April 7, the fifth-annual Florida Cup Day, a showcase for Florida-bred horses, will feature six $85,000 stakes. On May 5, Kentucky Derby Day, fans will be treated to renewals of two turf stakes: the $75,000 Chris Thomas Turf Classic and the $65,000 Lightning City Stakes.