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January 04, 2020


by Mike Henry
Tampa Bay Downs seeks youthful input on creative ways to market Thoroughbred racing; Jose Ferrer rides two winners.

Attracting new generations of fans to the majesty and excitement of Thoroughbred racing is a goal of every racetrack operator.

Tampa Bay Downs has made steady strides in that area in recent years. The track’s “Kids & Family Days” gatherings on Sundays in February and March – featuring pony rides, games and bounce houses – are always well-attended. The Picnic Pavilion Area is a popular gathering spot for families with young children throughout the meeting, suitable for packing a picnic lunch and basking in the sunshine.

Last season, Tampa Bay Downs introduced a series of “Generation Z” races, inviting youngsters to the winner’s circle to meet members of the jockey colony and join a group photograph. The races were a big hit with the public, and return with Sunday’s fifth race.

And children gather like honeybees when track mascot Mouse the Miniature Horse makes an appearance.

Such promotions create feel-good moments, but getting a decent percentage of those kids to return as adults – with discretionary income suitable for wagering – is vital if the sport is to thrive.

That’s why Tampa Bay Downs is turning to “Millennials” and members of “Generation Z,” if we must affix labels, to keep the ideas flowing.

On Saturday, Jan. 18, the track will conduct its second annual “College Day” essay contest, giving current U.S. junior, sophomore and freshmen college students, as well as U.S. high school seniors planning to enroll in college, a chance to win one of five $2,000 scholarships.

Students of four-year colleges, two-year colleges, technical schools and high school seniors are eligible.

To enter, students must complete an entry form that will be available on Jan. 18 at the Customer Service Desk and complete it by the end of that day’s racing. From those entries, 25 finalists will be drawn at random and given an opportunity to submit an essay of 300-to-500 words on “Marketing Horse Racing To a New Generation of Fans.”

Essays should emphasize initiatives aimed at attracting and keeping new followers of racing. The deadline for entries is Feb. 8, with students submitting their essays to the General Office or the Publicity Office on the second floor.

Judges will rank the essays based on the feasibility of the plan, originality, an understanding of the horse racing industry, clarity and grammar and spelling. Past winners are eligible to compete, but all essays must be original and cannot present previous themes and/or approaches.

The scholarships will be awarded through the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation. For details, call (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.

Around the oval. No one hit the late Pick-5 today, creating a carryover pool of $25,013.88 into Sunday’s card. That wager will be conducted on the fifth-through-ninth races.

Both of today’s Tampa Turf Test starter handicap races were switched from the turf course to the main track because of heavy morning rain. In the eighth race, for older fillies and mares, 5-year-old Luna staged a determined rally to nip favored Lady Alida. Owned by Mike Trent and D. B. A. D. Racing Stable and trained by Stacy Hendry, Luna was ridden by Angel Suarez.

In the ninth race, for males, 9-year-old gelding Sycamore Lane and jockey Samy Camacho made a bold inside move on the far turn and powered home to victory. Sycamore Lane is owned by Terry Bruner and trained by Mike Dini.

Jose Ferrer rode two winners today. He captured the first race on Singanothersong, a 10-year-old gelding owned by Diane Olson and trained by Dale Bennett. Now 17-for-56 lifetime, Singanothersong has won four races in a row.

Ferrer added the third race aboard first-time starter Conquest Day, a 3-year-old colt owned by Sonata Stable and trained by Jorge Navarro.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. Due to today’s downpour, the seventh and ninth races have been switched from the turf to the main track.

Set to return Sunday is the track’s popular (and revitalizing) Sunday Brunch in the Skye Terrace Dining Room. The cost is $29.99, with children 12-and-under costing $16.99. Fans can savor a full day of racing along with breakfast, traditional Sunday dinner fare and scrumptious desserts. The full buffet is served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., with dessert served until 4 p.m.

Reservations are strongly suggested. There is also a dress code; shorts are not permitted and men must wear a collared shirt.

The view is one of the best in the house, and there is a mutuel window and full-service bar in the dining room.

For additional information or to make reservations, call (813) 855-4401, extension 1315.

Chance to win big. The second annual High Rollers Handicapping Contest, featuring a potential first-place prize of $20,000, will be held Saturday, Jan. 11 in the VIP Room at Tampa Bay Downs.

Players are required to deposit $1,000, of which $500 serves as the player’s wagering bankroll and $500 goes to the prize pool. Any dollar amount remaining in their bankroll at the conclusion of the contest goes directly to the player, meaning all of the prize money is returned to the entrants.

Wagers will be limited to win, place and/or show, with each player required to bet $100 on five separate races on the card. Anyone wagering on less or more than five races will be disqualified. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top five finishers, with $20,000 to the winner, or 50 percent of the prize pool if there are fewer than 100 entrants; $8,000/20 percent to the second-place finisher; $6,000/15 percent to third; $4,000/10 percent to fourth; and $2,000/5 percent to fifth.

Only races at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 11 will be included in the contest, and players must wager at the contest site to be eligible. The first and second-place finishers will also claim a seat in either of the next two National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championships in Las Vegas (this year’s event is Feb. 7-9 at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino).

Players can enter online at . The entry deadline is noon on Jan. 11. For additional details, call (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.