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December 23, 2018


by Mike Henry
How should horse racing be marketed to the next generation of sports fans and consumers? Tampa Bay Downs goes to the source for answers; veteran Ronnie Allen, Jr., scores a hat trick.

Tampa Bay Downs is set to reach out to “Generation Z” through its inaugural “College Day” promotion, to be held Saturday, Jan. 12.

Current college students and high school seniors pursuing a post-secondary education are eligible to compete for one of five $2,000 scholarships to be awarded through the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation.

Entrants will be eligible to win prizes and poker chips (usable in The Silks Poker Room) by spinning a prize wheel. Wagering seminars will be provided by track personnel throughout the day.

All students enrolled in four-year U.S. colleges and universities and two-year colleges and technical schools, as well as high school seniors, are eligible. There is no charge to enter.

Here, in a nutshell, is how the contest works:

To enter, eligible students must complete an entry form that will be available at the Customer Service Desk on the day of the contest. Upon the completion of that day’s racing, 25 names will be drawn at random and designated finalists.

After notification from track officials, the finalists will be required to submit an essay of fewer than 500 words on the following subject: “Marketing Horse Racing To a New Generation of Fans,” with emphasis on initiatives and proposals aimed at attracting and retaining new followers.

The deadline to submit essays is Feb. 2. They may be typed, hand-written or printed from a computer or personal device and should be submitted to the General Office or the Publicity Office.

A panel of judges will rank each essay, with criteria including feasibility of the marketing plan presented; originality; understanding of the horse racing industry; clarity; and grammar and spelling.

All non-winners will receive two passes good for free admission on any racing day. Track employees and their family members are not eligible.

“We think this is a fun and exciting way to introduce the younger generation to our sport, as well as tap into their creativity and new ways of thinking,” said Margo Flynn, the track’s Vice President of Marketing and Publicity. “The winners will receive aid toward furthering their education, and we hope to get ideas that can be implemented in upcoming seasons.”

Around the oval. Four-time Oldsmar riding champion Ronnie Allen, Jr., rode three winners today. Allen captured the first race aboard My Solitude, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Mark Hoffman and trained by Justin Johns. The jockey next won the seventh on American Deluxe, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Robson Thoroughbreds and trained by Gerald Bennett.

Allen wrapped up his big day by winning the ninth race on first-time starter They Call Me Lucky, a 2-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Martin Goodell and trained by Maria Bowersock.

Samy Camacho rode two winners today. Camacho, who leads the jockey colony with 23 victories, won the sixth race on Ballston, a 3-year-old filly owned by Brushy Hill Enterprises and trained by Danny Gargan.

Camacho added the eight, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, with Killybegs Captain, a 4-year-old colt owned by Curragh Racing, II and trained by John P. Terranova, II.

Racing continues Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:17 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs will be closed Tuesday, Christmas Day. The Silks Poker Room will be open Monday from 10 a.m.-1 a.m., while The Downs Golf Practice Facility will open at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, selling the last bucket of driving range balls at 4 p.m.

The annual Calendar Giveaway begins Wednesday. The 2019 edition of the commemorative keepsake will be distributed throughout the week to the first 10,000 patrons, with paid admission. Included are photographs by some of the area’s top equine photojournalists.

Morning Glory Club returns. Thoroughbred racing fans can gain valuable insights about the sport by attending track announcer Richard Grunder’s popular “Morning Glory Club,” which makes its return at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29 on the first floor of the Grandstand.

Grunder, who is in his 35th season as track announcer, will interview a different guest each Saturday through March 9, including trainers, jockeys and track personalities. Admission is free, along with coffee and donuts.

Military Appreciation Day. Tampa Bay Downs will admit active and retired military personnel with proper identification free of charge on Military Appreciation Day, Jan. 5. Servicemen and women will be recognized during the day’s action.

The track is privileged to stage a day in recognition of these heroes who contribute so much to the American way of life.