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Tampa Bay Downs
Tampa Bay Downs is located just outside Tampa Bay, Florida and has operated under several different names since opening its doors in 1926. For decades the track was a popular hangout for sportswriters from all over America, in Florida for a month to cover major-league baseball spring training. It has a winter/spring meet from December to May.
Tampa Bay Downs Horse Racing
Tampa Bay Downs features a standard one-mile dirt oval as well as a seven furlong turf course with a quarter mile inner turf chute. Handicappers have noted the fairness of the dirt course as front-running horses and closers seem to prosper equally over the footing. The turf course, which was added in 1998, has received rave reviews from horsemen and has drawn major turf horses such as Gio Ponti in recent years.
Major Races and Events
Tampa Bay Downs is best known for the Tampa Bay Derby, an official Kentucky Derby prep race with 50 qualifying points awarded to the winner. In total, Tampa Bay Downs currently offers 25 stakes races including six graded stakes races.
Restricted to three year-olds, the Tampa Bay Derby is a Grade 2 event currently run for a purse of $350,000. In recent years, the Tampa Bay Derby has risen in stature with 2007 winner Street Sense using the race as a springboard to his Kentucky Derby victory. In 2007, Street Sense defeated the well-regarded Any Given Saturday by a nose in a memorable stretch duel. The 2008 renewal drew the undefeated, Eclipse Award-winning Two Year-Old, War Pass who finished last at odds of 1/20. The race has been run at a mile and one sixteenth since its inception in 1981 with Street Sense holding the stakes and track record with his time of 1:43.11.
Sam F. Davis Stakes
Run in February, the Sam F. Davis Stakes is viewed as a prep race for the Tampa Bay Derby and is run at the same distance – a mile and one sixteenth on the dirt. Restricted to three year-olds, the Sam F. Davis is a Grade 3 race worth $250,000. Notable winners include Grade 1 winners such as Vinceremos (2014), General Quaraters (2009), and Any Given Saturday (2007). Like the Tampa Bay Derby, the Sam F. Davis was inaugurated in 1981.
The Florida Oaks is a Grade 3 turf race for three year-old fillies run at a mile and one sixteenth for a purse of $200,000. The race has been run on turf since 2011, but was a notable dirt race before that with two winners – Luv Me Luv Me Not (1992) and Secret Status (2000) – going on to win the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.