OLDSMAR, FL. – Brave Dave and Crumb, both victorious in stakes competition three weeks ago in Miami, headline the action Saturday when Tampa Bay Downs begins its 87th season of live Thoroughbred racing with its Lambholm South Cotillion Festival Day card devoted entirely to 2-year-olds.
Post time for the first of 10 races is 12:38 p.m. Opening Day officially begins with the annual Breakfast Buffet from 8-10 a.m. in the Picnic Pavilion Area, giving fans a chance to observe morning workouts and meet and greet trainers and jockeys.
Brave Dave, a Florida-bred colt who has already won $226,100 in his brief career, will face five rivals in the 28th edition of the $75,000 Inaugural Stakes, listed as the fourth race on the program. His Nov. 10 victory in the restricted Jack Price Juvenile Stakes at Calder Casino & Race Course was his third stakes triumph, including a score in the Grade III Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on Sept. 2.
Owned by David Melin and Laurie Plesa and trained by Eddie Plesa, Jr. (Laurie’s husband), Brave Dave will be ridden in the six-furlong Inaugural by Angel Serpa, the third-leading jockey last season at Tampa Bay Downs.
Brave Dave’s rivals include unbeaten gelding Purple Egg, trained by Jane Cibelli and ridden by Roberto Alvarado, Jr., and improving gelding Capital City, trained by David Fawkes and ridden by Juan Leyva.
Crumb, a filly who has never finished out of the money in four career starts, is the probable favorite for the 34th annual, $75,000 Sandpiper Stakes, also at six furlongs. Owned by Eric Wirth and trained by Larry Bates, Crumb won the state-bred Joe O’Farrell Juvenile Fillies Stakes on Nov. 10 at Calder. Leyva has been named to ride Crumb.
The eight-horse field for the Sandpiper, which is the seventh race Saturday, includes the Fawkes-trained Vitameta, who has two victories sandwiched around a fifth-place finish in the Grade II Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga, and Kirk Ziadie-trained runner R Free Roll, a two-time winner bred and co-owned by Bradenton, Fla.-based masonry executive Richard Averill.
Four turf races are scheduled Saturday, featuring horses trained by such leading conditioners as William Mott, Thomas Proctor, H. Graham Motion, Jonathan Sheppard and Wesley Ward.
Cost for the Breakfast Buffet is $6.95 and entitles attendees to free grandstand admission and a Tampa Bay Downs racing program. Peter Mallett, author of the annual “Betting Tampa Bay Downs” guide, will present a handicapping seminar following the breakfast and the guides will be distributed free of charge.
Poised at the forefront of technological innovation, Tampa Bay Downs is launching MyTampaBayDowns.com, a mobile-wagering platform which will enable patrons to bet on that day’s races through their mobile devices.
Bettors can open a “Day Account” with a teller and wager from their smartphones by enabling GPS on their device anywhere within the facility.
The 91-day Tampa Bay Downs meeting, which runs through May 5, is highlighted by the track’s annual Festival Day on March 9. That lucrative card features the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes.
In addition to its live racing season, Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Christmas and Easter for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.