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October 29, 2018


by Mike Henry
The 17th annual, six-race Florida Cup has a full roster of race sponsors; with Opening Day on horizon, Thoroughbreds set to arrive; Tampa Bay Downs to simulcast 35th Breeders' Cup on Friday and Saturday.

Crisp fall weather arrived on cue for Thoroughbreds that will begin to arrive Tuesday morning at the Tampa Bay Downs barn area for the 2018-2019 meeting.

Final preparations are being made for the Saturday, Nov. 24 Opening Day card as Tampa Bay Downs resumes its 93rd anniversary season, which began July 1 during the track’s Summer Festival of Racing.

Meanwhile, Peter Berube, the Vice President-General Manager of Tampa Bay Downs, announced the addition of two new race sponsors for the 17th annual Florida Cup, which will be contested Sunday, March 31.

Touch Vodka, a Tampa-based company which offers an Artisan vodka distilled from Florida wildflower honey and three citrus-infused selections, will sponsor the $115,000 Touch Vodka Turf Classic. Touch Vodka is distilled by Fat Dog Spirits, LLC in Ybor City.

Zaxby’s, a chain of fast-food restaurants offering chicken wings, chicken fingers, sandwiches and salads, will sponsor the $115,000 Zaxby’s Sprint. Now in 18 states, Zaxby’s has numerous locations throughout Tampa, Hillsborough County and the greater Tampa Bay area.

The 2018-2019 Tampa Bay Downs stakes schedule consists of 28 races worth a track-record $3.74-million in purse money.

“We are delighted to add Touch Vodka and Zaxby’s to our group of sponsors for the upcoming season,” Berube said. “We are grateful for their support and look forward to long, rewarding partnerships.”

Horses will ship into Tampa Bay Downs on a daily basis throughout the next few weeks, including those from many of the track’s perennial top stables. The top 11 trainers (by number of winners) from 2017-2018 are returning: Gerald Bennett; Kathleen O’Connell; Arnaud Delacour; Keith Nations; Michael Stidham; Dennis Ward; Victor Carrasco, Jr.; Derek Ryan; Monte Thomas; Anthony Granitz; and Darien Rodriguez.

The main track will open for training on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Tampa Bay Downs will simulcast the 35th Breeders’ Cup from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Friday and Saturday. Five Breeders’ Cup races for 2-year-olds will be run Friday beginning at 3:21 p.m. The first of nine Breeders’ Cup races Saturday goes off at noon, with the event culminating with the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at 5:44 p.m.