When it comes to the most exciting two minutes in sports, Tampa Bay Downs is pulling out all the stops to ensure horse racing fans of all ages have the time of their lives on Saturday, May 3.
The connection between the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the Oldsmar oval dates to 1926, when Churchill Downs executive Matt J. Winn and Ohio investor Harvey Mayers headed a group that brought Thoroughbred racing to the west coast of Florida for a 39-day season under the moniker “Tampa Downs.”
Winn, who attended every Kentucky Derby from the inaugural running in 1875 (won by Aristides) through his death in 1949 (Ponder), is credited with persuading multimillionaire owner Harry Payne Whitney to enter his filly Regret in the 1915 Run for the Roses.
Her victory against the boys was a turning point in elevating the race’s popularity nationwide, and since then the Kentucky Derby has enjoyed a prestige equal to any global sporting event.
Area fans who can’t make it to Louisville for the 140th renewal can experience the next-best thing at The Trackside Pavilion adjacent to the Tampa Bay Downs walking ring. The annual Tampa Bay Downs Kentucky Derby party gives Thoroughbred lovers, bettors and newcomers to the sport an entire afternoon to savor the excitement and tradition of an American sporting institution.
The fun begins with the simulcast of the first race from Churchill Downs that morning and lasts until a blanket of 554 red roses are draped across the Kentucky Derby winner’s withers.
And if the champion happens to be Grade II Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend, Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Vinceremos or another 3-year-old that competed here, expect the tremors to reverberate throughout the Tampa Bay area. Indeed, Tampa Bay Downs has produced two of the last seven Kentucky Derby winners: 2007 Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense and 2010 Tampa Bay Derby third-place finisher Super Saver.
The cost to attend the Tampa Bay Downs Kentucky Derby Party is $45.95, which includes reserved seating; a full buffet luncheon; a Tampa Bay Downs racing program; a mint julep in a commemorative souvenir Kentucky Derby glass, with the names of all 139 winners; and entry into the Derby hat contest.
The gates open at 10:30 a.m. The buffet will be served from noon-2 p.m., with a deluxe menu featuring sliced roast beef with Kentucky bourbon and mushroom sauce, grilled chicken breast with Chive Mornay sauce, honey-glazed ham with pineapple mustard sauce and a selection of desserts including Kentucky Derby pie.
Fans will also have the opportunity to enjoy a full card of Tampa Bay Downs races and the entire simulcast programs from Churchill Downs and other major tracks across the country.
Simply put, the Tampa Bay Downs Kentucky Derby party is an annual highlight you won’t Regret attending. Much more than a Foolish Pleasure (1975), the event brings together a Pleasant Colony (1981) of equine aficionados not afraid to Spend a Buck (1985) or make a Spectacular Bid (1979) at legendary handicapping status.
For more details, don’t be Real Quiet (1998). Telephone the track’s Charismatic (1999) Group Sales Department at (813) 855-4401, extension 1386 and make plans to show off your Winning Colors (1988)!
Odds and ends. Saturday’s 11-race Tampa Bay Downs card begins with a first-race post time of 12:40 p.m. There is a Super High-5 carryover of $9,753.10. The feature event is the eighth race, an allowance/$32,000 optional claiming affair at five-and-one-half furlongs for horses 4-years-old-and-upward.
The 2-1 morning-line favorite is Guam Typhoon, an 8-year-old gelding owned by leading Tampa Bay Downs owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., and conditioned by top trainer Jamie Ness. He will carry top weight of 120 pounds and be ridden by Daniel Centeno.
Guam Typhoon is 15-for-31 lifetime, with career earnings of $483,461. He won three consecutive stakes for Midwest and Ness in 2012.
His challengers include Joe Tess, a 4-year-old gelding trained by Derek Ryan and to be ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr. Joe Tess is 2-for-4 lifetime, including an 11 ½-length score here on Feb. 1 in a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming race.
Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Allen extended his edge in the standings to 96-92 from Antonio Gallardo today by riding back-to-back winners in the seventh and eighth races.
The 49-year-old Allen won the seventh on 4-year-old filly Help the Children, a first-time starter, for owner Swifty Farms Inc., and trainer Tom Proctor. Allen scored in the eighth with a well-timed move on the turf aboard 4-year-old filly Heated Exchange for owner The Posse and trainer Anthony Pecoraro.
In the ninth race, a starter/optional claiming event at six furlongs for older fillies and mares, 9-year-old Kitty City just missed in her bid to improve to 10-for-10 lifetime at Tampa Bay Downs. She yielded grudgingly by a half-length to 7-year-old Miss Gigi after a stretch-long duel. Miss Gigi, who was ridden by Brian Pedroza, is owned by Walter T. Bates and trained by Mike Norris.
Familiar faces in Lexington. Five horses that competed earlier this season at Tampa Bay Downs, including the above-mentioned Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Vinceremos, are entered Saturday at Keeneland in the Grade I, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, one of the final major preps for the May 3 running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. The Toyota Blue Grass is the 11th race on the Keeneland program.
Vinceremos – who is trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux – turned in a solid runner-up performance to Ring Weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 8. Vinceremos is an 8-1 morning-line proposition in the 14-horse field, but it is another colt that won on the Tampa Bay Downs Festival Day program, Bobby’s Kitten, who wears the 3-1 favorite’s role for the mile-and-an-eighth event on Keeneland’s synthetic surface.
Trained by Chad Brown and to be ridden by Javier Castellano, Bobby’s Kitten captured a 1-mile turf allowance for 3-year-olds in wire-to-wire fashion here in his 2014 debut. His 2-year-old credentials include a victory in the Grade III Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont and a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
Three 3-year-olds seek to improve on their Oldsmar showings in the Blue Grass, including Asserting Bear, who was fifth in the Sam F. Davis; Coltimus Prime, who was ninth in the Tampa Bay Derby; and Harry's Holiday, who finished fifth in the Pasco Stakes. Asserting Bear is trained by Reade Baker and will be ridden by Emma-Jayne Wilson, while Coltimus Prime is trained by Justin Nixon and will be ridden by Alan Garcia. Harry's Holiday is trained by Michael Maker and will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik.
Saturday’s lucrative Keeneland stakes card drew three additional 2013-14 Tampa Bay Downs stakes winners. The H. Graham Motion-trained 5-year-old mare Cloud Scapes, who won the Grade III Endeavour Stakes and Grade III Hillsborough, tackles nine foes in the $300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf. Alan Garcia has the riding assignment. The Jenny Wiley is the 10th.
The eighth race, the five-and-a-half furlong Shakertown Stakes on turf, boasts two Oldsmar stakes winners among its 13 participants: 5-year-old gelding Ancil, who set a five-furlong turf track record of 54.88 seconds in winning the Turf Dash Stakes, and 4-year-old filly Shrinking Violet, who won the Lightning City Stakes.
Ancil is trained by Joan Scott and will be ridden by Joseph Rocco, Jr., and Shrinking Violet is trained by Wesley Ward and will be ridden by John Velazquez. Ancil, who is owned by Kathy Thompson of Brooksville, Fla., and Scott Farmer of Lexington, Ky., has been invited to compete at the Royal Ascot meeting in Berkshire, England, the week of June 17-21.
Bettors seeking still another Tampa Bay Downs connection to Louisville on the first Saturday in May can train their sights on the $1-million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Conquest Titan, who was fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby, is part of a nine-horse field. Mark Casse is the trainer and Calvin Borel will ride. The Arkansas Derby is the 11th race.
All the above-mentioned major stakes will be simulcast at Tampa Bay Downs, which is open every day except Easter Sunday, April 20 for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.