Beginning next fall, horsemen will have more reason than ever to “Live It Up at the Downs.”
Tampa Bay Downs will allocate $5.5-million from the state of Florida for overnight Thoroughbred purses during the 2023-2024 meet, track Vice President-General Manager Peter Berube announced. The money will boost purses for all non-stakes races, from lower-level claiming events through allowance races.
Purses for all maiden special weight races will jump to $35,000 (including $3,000 in Florida Owners’ Awards funds) from last season’s figure of $27,000. Purses for higher-level allowance events will rise to $36,500 from $28,500. The average daily overnight purses are projected to be $200,000 per day, with the bottom purse $17,000.
The funds are part of a $55-million tax package that cleared both chambers of the Florida Legislature in May and was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The bill is designed to enhance and grow the state’s horse racing industry and includes money for Gulfstream Park and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, as well as tax credits to the tracks to cover costs of Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) assessments.
Under the provisions of the bill, the increases will remain intact for the 2024-2025 meet. The impact will be felt immediately when the track’s 98th anniversary season, which officially began July 1 with the second day of the Summer Festival of Racing, resumes on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
“We’re thankful for the support of lawmakers who recognize the importance of Tampa Bay Downs to the Florida economy,” Berube said. “The purse increases should enable us to retain all of our top stables and bring in some exciting new players for our fans and bettors to follow, which will increase wagering and lead to more opportunities for expansion.”
Beginning this season, Florida-bred horses will also compete for $500,000 in additional purse money from the Florida-Bred Incentive Fund in open maiden special weight and allowance races. Florida-breds would race for an extra $12,500 offered to the top three finishers in maiden special weight races, boosting the total purse for such races to start at $47,500.
The stakes schedule will remain unchanged from last season, with 26 stakes (highlighted by the 44th edition of the Grade III, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 9) worth a total of $3.46-million in purse money. The first condition book for the 2023-2024 season will be available online Saturday at www.equibase.com