OLDSMAR, FL. – Glorious, spring-like weather, a sparkling emerald turf course and highly competitive Thoroughbreds – along with the always-popular Opening Day Breakfast Buffet – will greet the masses Saturday when Tampa Bay Downs begins its 87th season.
The annual Lambholm South Cotillion Festival Day card features two $75,000, six-furlong stakes – the Inaugural for colts and geldings and the Sandpiper for fillies – as part of a 10-race program devoted entirely to 2-year-olds.
There are four turf races scheduled including horses trained by such masters as William Mott, Jonathan Sheppard, H. Graham Motion and Thomas Proctor. Post time for Saturday’s first race is 12:38 p.m.
After a whirlwind week, in which Tampa Bay Downs signed a contract with TVG Network for the 2012-13 season; the $150,000 Florida Oaks was elevated to Grade III status; and a mobile-wagering platform, MyTampaBay.com, was added to the track’s menu of wagering options, enthusiasm is at a fever pitch for the 91-day meet, which runs through May 5.
“All the elements are in place for a memorable meet,” said Peter Berube, the track’s Vice President and General Manager. “We have always strived to be one of the friendliest racetracks anywhere, and will continue to look for new ways to make our fans’ visits entertaining and memorable.”
All of the top 20 trainers from the 2011-12 season have returned to Oldsmar, led by reigning champion Jamie Ness. Those eager to challenge for the top spot include past track champions Gerald Bennett and Kathleen O’Connell, along with Jorge Navarro, Jane Cibelli and Thomas Proctor.
A deep, quality jockey roster includes four-time track champions Ronnie Allen, Jr. and Daniel Centeno, along with rising star Angel Serpa; past Tampa Bay Downs champion Willie Martinez, who won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Trinniberg; Scott Spieth, who gained his 4,000th victory here last season; and Deshawn Parker, currently third in the nation in 2012 with 303 victories.
The Breakfast Buffet begins at 8 a.m. in the Picnic Pavilion Area north of the grandstand. The cost is $6.95, which includes free grandstand admission, a Tampa Bay Downs program and a copy of Peter Mallett’s wagering guide, “Betting Tampa Bay Downs.” Fans will also have a chance to interact with jockeys and trainers and watch workouts.
At 10 a.m., Mallett will conduct a handicapping seminar and discuss some of his best plays for the afternoon’s card.
The Inaugural is the fourth race on Saturday’s card, with the Sandpiper slated as the seventh race.
Stakes winner Brave Dave and undefeated Purple Egg headline the Inaugural field. Serpa has been named to ride Brave Dave, while top mid-Atlantic jockey Roberto Alvarado, Jr. has drawn the assignment on Purple Egg.
The Sandpiper has been slated as the seventh race. While Alabama football fans might be attracted to 12-1 shot Bama Rose, the morning-line favorite at 5-2 is R Free Roll, bred by Bradenton resident Rich Averill, who owns the filly in partnership. Antonio Gallardo is named to ride R Free Roll.
MyTampaBay.com, the track’s new mobile-wagering platform, will allow patrons to bet on each day’s races from inside the facility using their mobile devices. Bettors can open a “Day Account” with a teller and wager from their smartphones by enabling GPS on their device.
Tellers and Customer Service personnel are equipped to provide a full lost of instructions for opening and maintaining MyTampaBay.com accounts.
In addition to the established lunch and dining areas throughout the facility, Tampa Bay Downs has added a barbecue-style food truck from Di Legge’s Old City Grill at the north end of the grandstand.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Christmas and Easter for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.