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Thoroughbred racing fans and bettors will have another opportunity in 2014 to “Live it up at the Downs” with the introduction of the “Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest, an online competition beginning on Festival Preview Day, Saturday, Feb. 1.
Registration for the “Live It Up Challenge” begins Wednesday, Jan. 1 and may be accessed through a link on the track website, www.tampabaydowns.com or by going to the contest website directly at www.liveitupchallenge.com
The grand-prize winner of the “Live It Up Challenge,” which runs every day through Saturday, April 5 (Florida Cup Day), receives $1,000 and a seat at the 2015 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship (date and site to be determined). Second place will award $1,000, third place $500 and a $500 prize will be awarded to the handicapper selecting the most overall winners.
There is no fee for entering the contest. Complete rules will be available at the online site.
“We are pleased and delighted to offer all of our area fans and regular visitors, as well as handicappers throughout the country and Canada, the chance to test their skills,” said Tampa Bay Downs General Manager Peter Berube. “It will also be exciting to follow the grand-prize winner when she or he competes against the best of the best in the DRF/NTRA handicapping championship in 2015.”
The first day of the “Live It Up Challenge” coincides with the beginning of the Tampa Bay Downs Million Dollar Derby Bonus. The owners of the winning horse in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 1 become eligible to win a $1-million bonus, payable if that horse also wins the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 8 and the Kentucky Derby on May 3. Additionally, the name of a fan who selected the Davis winner will be drawn by the winning jockey after the race, and that person becomes eligible for a $100,000 payday if the horse fulfills the bonus stipulations.
To compete in the “Live It Up Challenge,” participants must register by 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 1 using a valid e-mail and residential address. Once the contest begins, players are required to make a mythical $2 win-place-show wager on one horse in either of that day’s two designated challenge races. Based on official pari-mutuel results, a player’s bankroll will accrue by that amount through the course of the contest.
Should a player’s horse finish out of the money, or should the player skip a day, she/he will be assessed a strike. Three strikes terminates a player’s participation, but they remain eligible for the $500 bonus for picking the most winners.
Additional rules and information will be available beginning New Year’s Day.
Sunday’s rainy weather failed to dampen the spirits of a festive holiday-season crowd, which enjoyed a competitive program featuring a pair of prep races for upcoming Tampa Bay Downs stakes. Both races were moved from the turf to the main dirt surface because of wet grounds.
In the seventh race, the $34,000 Endeavour Prep for fillies and mares at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, 4-year-old Final Escrow toyed with six rivals to post a nine-and-a-quarter length score from Wild About Irene. The stakes-winning Final Escrow is owned by her breeder, Waterville Lake Stable, and is trained by Arnaud Delacour. Antonio Gallardo was in the irons.
The ninth race was the $34,000 Lightning City Prep at five furlongs, and again, a Delacour-trained 4-year-old made the grade. Ageless notched her second consecutive victory on the sloppy surface for owner Lael Stables (Roy and Gretchen Jackson) with Luis Garcia aboard. National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux finished third aboard Lignite.
Both the Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes and the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes will be run Jan. 25.
Gallardo rode two winners, including his first of the day in the fourth race aboard 2-year-old colt Wildcatpleasures, a Florida-bred owned by Liam F. Benson and trained by Liam D. Benson. Wildcatpleasures paid $41.40.
Jockey Shannon Uske recorded her initial victories of the meeting, visiting the winner’s circle twice. In the third race, Uske scored on 3-year-old gelding Danielle’s Honor for owner Just for Fun Stable and trainer Kathleen O’Connell. Five races later, Uske got the job done on 6-year-old gelding Switching to Glide for owners Versatile Thoroughbreds, LLC, Russel Lawson and Billy Olson and trainer David Hinsley.
Desormeaux was in Oldsmar to ride two horses for trainer Wesley Ward and was rewarded in the fifth race aboard Sunset Time, a 3-year-old filly owned by Ten Broeck Farm, Inc. Dennis Ward, Wesley’s father, saddled Sunset Time.
Desormeaux has ridden more than 5,500 winners, including three Kentucky Derby champions: Real Quiet in 1998, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 and Big Brown in 2008. He came within a nose of winning the 1998 Triple Crown when Victory Gallop nipped Real Quiet at the wire.
Thoroughbred racing resumes Wednesday, Jan. 1 with a nine-race card as Tampa Bay Downs commences its four-days-a-week schedule (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) for January. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.

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