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March 02, 2019


by Mike Henry
Free event to test players' handicapping acumen; Samy Camacho rides three winners; trainer Kathleen O'Connell and jockey Pablo Morales team for two victories.

It’s almost time to pit your handicapping ability against the masses (without the usual risk).

The popular “Live It Up Challenge” online handicapping contest begins on Saturday, March 9 (Festival Day 39) and runs through May 5, the final day of the traditional Tampa Bay Downs meeting. Participants must register by 10:30 a.m. on March 9 at to be eligible. There is no cost to enter and all wagers are mythical.

Prizes will be awarded based on the highest final bankroll totals as determined by pari-mutuel payouts from a $2 across-the-board wager for each player's daily selections.

The “Live It Up Challenge” grand-prize winner receives two seats at next season’s High Rollers Handicapping Contest at Tampa Bay Downs and $1,000 cash, which may be used for travel expenses. Second prize is one seat at the High Rollers Handicapping Contest and $500 cash.

“Live It Up Challenge” players are required to select a horse in one of the designated “Challenge Races” each racing day throughout the duration of the contest, with results determined from a mythical $2 win-place-show wager on their choice. If a player’s choice finishes out of the money, or the player fails to make a selection for any reason, they lose a “lifeline.”

Each player begins the “Live It Up Challenge” with one free lifeline. Up to four additional lifelines can be purchased for $5 each upon sign-up, with other opportunities to buy lifelines as the contest progresses.

Players must be 18 or older to compete. Additional rules will be available at .

Hearts Reaching Out. The public is invited to attend the 27th annual “Hearts Reaching Out Golf Tournament and Fundraiser,” which kicks off Festival Week on Monday at East Lake Woodlands Country Club and Tampa Bay Downs. The event benefits the Race Track Chaplaincy of America – Tampa Bay Downs Division.

Trainers and jockeys are among those will compete in the four-player scramble format, which begins at 11 a.m. It is followed at 5:30 p.m. by a dinner on the first floor of the Tampa Bay Downs Grandstand, with a Charity Auction and the awards ceremony at 6 p.m.

The cost to play in the tournament (spots are still available) and attend the dinner and auction is $125. Tickets for the dinner and auction only are $20. Among the items to be auctioned are photographs, paintings, whips, halters and other racing and sports memorabilia; gift certificates and gift cards for restaurants, movies, theaters, museums and sporting events; lottery tickets; gift baskets; and numerous other keepers.

This year’s Hearts Reaching Out extravaganza features the “Triple Crown” golf sponsorship package. A $2,500 donation includes a foursome with golfer packages, recognition signs at the event and the sponsor’s name on hole signs. Other sponsorship opportunities are available.

The RTCA – Tampa Bay Downs Division, under the guidance of President Sharyn Wasiluk and Chaplain Pete Crisswell, ministers to the needs of the backstretch community by providing computer lessons, English language courses, church services, Bible study, softball, volleyball and soccer events and a March fishing trip.

The chaplaincy strives to help grooms, hotwalkers, exercise riders and stable hands achieve a life balance while entrusting them with the care of the sport’s valuable equine athletes, and any public support is greatly appreciated.

The spiritual component of the RTCA – Tampa Bay Downs Division helps “to bring the word of God to everyone on the back side of the racetrack to bring as many people as possible into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, resulting in a life that is full and abundant in its nature and eternal in its scope.”

The event kicks off the track’s Festival Week, which culminates in Festival Day 39 on Saturday, March 9. Five stakes worth $1-million in purse money are scheduled, including three graded events: the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-old Triple Crown prospects on the main track; the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf; and the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.

The other Festival Day 39 stakes are the $100,000 Challenger for older horses on the main track and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf.

For additional details on the “Hearts Reaching Out Golf Tournament and Fundraiser,” call (813) 494-1870 or (813) 854-1313.

Around the oval. Two-time Tampa Bay Downs stakes winner Tiger Blood won for the fourth time at the current meeting, the most of any horse, with a four-length victory from Highland Park Hero in the seventh race. The 6-year-old Florida-bred sped the 6 furlongs in 1:10.35 for his ninth victory in 13 starts at the Oldsmar oval.

Samy Camacho rode Tiger Blood, who is owned and trained by Juan Arriagada.

The victory was one of three today for Camacho, the track’s leading jockey with 88 victories. Camacho won the first race on First Hoosier, a 4-year-old filly bred and owned by Richard Perkins and trained by David Hinsley. He also won the eighth, the Lambholm South Race of the Week on the turf, on Goiaba, a 5-year-old mare owned by Bonne Chance Farm and trained by Arnaud Delacour.

Jockey Pablo Morales and trainer Kathleen O’Connell teamed for two victories. They won the second race with The Stifler, a 4-year-old gelding bred and owned by Etarip Stables. They added the ninth race with Bluski, a Florida-bred 3-year-old filly making her career debut for owner GEM Racing.

Antonio Gallardo rode two winners. He scored in the third race on Ashlie Nicole, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned and trained by Dennis Manning. Gallardo added the 10th and final race on the turf with Crown and Sugar, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly trained by Darien Rodriguez and owned by his Sabal Racing Stable. She was the lone female in the 10-horse field and has won four races in a row.

The sky appears to be the limit, for now at least, for trainer Maria Bowersock’s 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Suzie’ssteppinout. She won the fourth race, a starter/optional claiming affair at 6 ½ furlongs, by a length from Turko Treat for her third consecutive victory and fourth in seven starts.

Scott Spieth rode Suzie’ssteppinout, who is owned by Martin Goodell.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:43 p.m. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.