Day 1 of the inaugural Summer Festival of Racing marked an end and a beginning for Tampa Bay Downs, which has been conducting Thoroughbred racing since 1926.
Sunday’s eight-race card marked the conclusion of the 92-day, 2012-13 season, while heralding a new era in which the track can import simulcast signals on a year-round basis without going through a hub. The change becomes official Monday, when Tampa Bay Downs launches its 2013-14 meet with another eight-race program, which begins at 12:25 p.m.
By conducting two days of racing June 30 and July 1 (the fiscal year in Florida begins July 1), Tampa Bay Downs qualifies as a year-round racetrack under Florida statute, enabling it to import its own signals, sell them to other in-state facilities and retain a larger slice of the revenue that will be directed toward horsemen’s purses.
Such technicalities meant little to a Thoroughbred-loving crowd which braved high humidity and overcast skies Sunday to enjoy the first live racing card at Tampa Bay Downs since Kentucky Derby weekend.
Eight races attracted 49 horses, certainly a decent turnout given the circumstances. A brief but heavy summer downpour minutes after the first race caused the rest of the day’s carded turf events to be switched to the main surface, which was rated sloppy for the last six races – hardly an upset in Florida this time of year.
Jockey Augusto A. Marin swept the early daily double with a pair of maiden-breaking rides, elevating the native of Panama into a tie for 9th place in the final Tampa Bay Downs jockey standings with 36 victories.
In the first race – the lone event contested on the turf – Marin piloted 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Scorpion Boy to victory for owner Santa Cruz Ranch, Inc., and trainer Horacio Barbaran.
Marin rallied 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Bold Shadow to victory in the second race sprinting six furlongs for breeder-owner Michael Bogdue and trainer Robert Boileau.
Marin, who also recorded a second and a third, is second in the two-day, $5,000 Jockeys’ Challenge point standings with 41 points, one behind Chris Landeros, who posted a victory and three seconds.
Malcolm Franklin sits third with 38 points; he rode three winners but also sat out two races (points are awarded on an 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis). The winner of the two-day contest receives $2,500, the runner-up $1,500 and the third-place rider $1,000.
Franklin is the runaway leader in the jockey standings at Indiana Downs with 64 victories, almost double the total of the second-place jockey, and showed why Sunday.
Franklin captured the fifth race with 5-year-old gelding Royalsaintjames; the sixth with 3-year-old filly Brass Rail; and the eighth race with 4-year-old gelding It Takes Heart.
Brass Rail and It Takes Heart both were trained by Chad Stewart, who also posted a second-place finish in the first race with Enduring Cause. Both Brass Rail and It Takes Heart were claimed from their respective races by trainer Robert Raymond for new owner Kathy Raymond.