The second Saturday in the month of love at Tampa Bay Downs offers day-long fun and excitement for horse lovers and golf lovers alike.
For devotees of the Thoroughbred, an 11-race card – featuring the 30th renewal of the $50,000 Manatee Stakes for older fillies and mares – begins at 12:30 p.m. Past winners of the Manatee include the 2006 champ, Ebony Breeze, who won the 2003 Florida Oaks and was owned by the late George Steinbrenner’s Kinsman Stable.
The Manatee, slated as the seventh race, has drawn a field of eight, headlined by morning-line favorite and multiple-stakes winner Risky Rachel. Fans attending track announcer Richard Grunder’s Morning Glory Club at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the grandstand can meet veteran jockey Harry Vega, who has ridden almost 4,100 winners, while enjoying free coffee and donuts.
Golf aficionados, meanwhile, are invited to attend the fourth annual Golfest Presented by Valspar event at The Downs Golf Practice Facility. Hours are from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday. Admission both days is $10 for adults, with children 14-and-under free.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive standouts Shelton Quarles and Corey Ivy and Tampa Bay Rays ace pitcher David Price are among the participants in Saturday’s Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge from noon-2:30 p.m. Patterned after The Golf Channel’s “Big Break” show, the Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge features seven two-person teams competing in a variety of fun activities, including the “Glass Break,” chipping over a wall, closest-to-the-pin and longest drive inside a grid.
Golfest Presented by Valspar is the Tampa Bay area’s largest demo day and golf expo. Golfers will be able to test new clubs from such leading manufacturers as Nike, Wilson, TaylorMade, Mizuno, Ping, Adams, Cobra and Callaway.
There are also numerous activities for children, including the Future Champions Junior Golf Tour putting contests from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. both days and the U.S. Kids Golf Junior Experience, where youngsters can sample the latest in U.S. Kids golf clubs.
As always, The Silks Poker Room will be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with $599 paid out every 30 minutes for the high hand in the room from 1-7 p.m. and from 9 p.m.-1 a.m., rounding out the Oldsmar oval’s bucketful of multi-entertainment offerings.
On the racing front, jockeys Ronnie Allen, Jr., and Antonio Gallardo continue to separate themselves from the pack in the standings, with Gallardo riding two winners today to climb to within seven (50-43) of the four-time Tampa Bay Downs champ.
Gallardo captured the fourth race on 3-year-old filly U S Rockette for owners Blazing Meadows Farm, LLC, Ben Walden, Jr., and Hugh G. King III and trainer Timothy Hamm and the seventh on 4-year-old filly Melody Lin for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., and trainer Jamie Ness.
Midwest and Ness continue to pace the owner and trainer standings, with Ness – who trains exclusively for Midwest – stretching his lead from runner-up Kathleen O’Connell to 20-14 with a pair of victories.
Ness – who is gunning for an eighth consecutive track training title – also won the sixth race for Midwest with 8-year-old gelding Costa de Oro, who was ridden by Fernando De La Cruz.
Back to the links, where Golfest offers sharpshooters a chance to claim virtually unspeakable riches in the TROT (Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa, Inc.) $1,000,000 Hole-in-One Challenge.
Qualifying will be held throughout both days beginning at 9 a.m, with the finals Sunday at 2 p.m. The cost to enter is $10. Proceeds benefit TROT, which is dedicated to the safe retirement, rehabilitation and adoption of Tampa’s racing Thoroughbreds.
In addition to the Quarles-Ivy and Price-Andy Sonnanstine pairings in the Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge, other twosomes include former Tampa Bay Lightning goalkeepers Daren Puppa and Pat Jablonski; rockers Nicko McBrain from the group Iron Maiden and Shawn Drover from Megadeth; Reginald Roundtree and Dave Wirth of Channel 10; Whit Watson from The Golf Channel with former NFL placekicker Ryan Longwell; and WDAE 620-AM radio personality Steve Duemig and 12-year-old Latanna Stone, who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur as a 10-year-old.
Saturday’s stage lineup begins at 10:30 a.m. with long-drive champion and trick-shot artist Mike Ziegler, followed by the Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge and, at 2:30, exhibitions by award-winning instructor Rick Bradshaw and former PGA Tour and Champions Tour mainstay Jim Dent. Sunday’s lineup begins at 10 a.m. with North Florida PGA Teacher of the Year Steve Whidden, followed by Ziegler and, at 1 p.m., trick-shot artist Chuck “The Hit Man” Hiter.
For more details on Golfest Presented by Valspar, call (813) 854-4946.
Tampa Bay Downs 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.