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December 31, 2017


by Mike Henry
A safe, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year's celebration to all of our loyal patrons, horsemen, jockeys, employees and backstretch workers!

Although many music lovers are most familiar with the Bachman-Turner Overdrive version of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” it might have been the “Greatest Showman” himself, P.T. Barnum himself, who coined the phrase.

Regardless of its origins, the saying seems apt as Tampa Bay Downs attempts to build on a strong start to its 2017-2018 season when Thoroughbred racing returns on Wednesday.

A banner stakes schedule swings into full gear on Saturday, Jan. 20, when 3-year-olds of both sexes take their next steps toward graded-stakes competition on the track’s annual Skyway Festival Day card. On tap are the $125,000 Pasco Stakes for 3-year-olds and the $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, their 7-furlong distances designed to provide trainers insight into whether their charges might appreciate more lucrative two-turn assignments.

The Jan. 20 program could also include the return of last year’s Suncoast Stakes winner, Tapa Tapa Tapa, in the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes (she turns 4 Monday, as all Thoroughbreds celebrate their birthdays Jan. 1 for record-keeping purposes).

Tapa Tapa Tapa was a dominant winner of a mile-and-40-yard allowance/optional claiming event on Dec. 23, her first outing since May.

Meanwhile, the Sunday, January 7 card marks the return of the track’s sumptuous “Sunday Brunch” in the track’s Skye Terrace Dining Room. The cost is $29.99 a person and includes omelets, waffles, seafood, salads, a carving station, pastries and homemade desserts – not to mention a spectacular view of the racing action.

There is a dress code and reservations are suggested; call (813) 855-4401 for details.

Speaking of food, Tampa Bay Downs has unveiled a new way for patrons to order food and drinks from their seats without missing any of the on-track action.

By visiting the track’s website, , and clicking on the “Tampa Xpress Lane” (TXL) icon on the home page, fans can access a full menu of palate-pleasing offerings. After making their selections, users are prompted to provide payment information and an e-mail address, to which an electronic receipt is sent.

Upon hitting “place order,” payment is processed and the order sent to Stand 6 on the first floor of the Grandstand, across from the paddock, where the customer goes for pickup.

On Saturday, Jan. 27, fans of all ages get a chance to meet members of the track’s jockey colony “up close and personal” during Cap Giveaway Day. Many of the top riders will be available on the first floor of the Grandstand to sign autographs between races, and this year’s silver-and-black cap has already drawn positive reviews when modeled by publicity staffers.

Around the oval. Antonio Gallardo rode three winners for the third consecutive day, raising his meeting-leading total to 23 through the first 18 days. Today’s hat trick occurred back-to-back-to-back.

Gallardo captured the seventh race on Nick the Cardshark, a 3-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by Happy Tenth Stable and trained by Tony Wilson. The rider added the eighth race on the turf aboard Music Babe, a 3-year-old homebred filly owned by Thor-Bred Stable and trained by Kathleen O’Connell.

He then won the ninth on R Way to Escape, a 3-year-old filly owned by Averill Racing, Silver Oak Stable and CCF Racing Stable and trained by Gerald Bennett.

Averill Racing, in various partnerships, scored four victories this weekend, including Saturday’s $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes with Pay Any Price. The outfit also won today’s third race with 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding R Point Made, co-owned with CCF Racing Stable. Ralph Ziadie trains and Orlando Bocachica was aboard.

Ronnie Allen, Jr., rode back-to-back winners today. In the fifth race, Allen was aboard the victorious 4-year-old gelding Conquest Stormy for owners Randy Klopp and Spiess Stable, with Klopp the trainer. Allen next won the sixth race on the turf on Darcy Mae, a 3-year-old filly bred and owned by Gunpowder Farms and trained by Kelly Rubley.

Trainer Victor Carrasco, Jr., sent out two winners. In the first race, his 3-year-old Florida-bred filly, Takin It Easy, won for owner G.L.A. Stable with Pablo Morales in the irons. Carrasco next won the fourth on the turf with G.L.A. Stable’s 3-year-old colt Itsabigboy.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.