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May 15, 2020


by Mike Henry
If approved, the Oldsmar oval will race on four Mondays and four Wednesdays in June, leading to the annual June 30-July 1 Summer Festival of Racing.

In an effort to bolster horsemen uncertain of their next step, Tampa Bay Downs is seeking approval from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to add eight June racing dates to its 2019-2020 season.

The dates requested are Mondays and Wednesdays: June 1, 3, 8, 10, 15, 17, 22 and 24.

Tampa Bay Downs is currently racing each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday through May 30. The meeting ends on Tuesday, June 30, which is also the first day of the track’s annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing.

The Wednesday, July 1 card counts as the official start of the 2020-2021 Thoroughbred meeting (which would then likely resume in late November).

While other tracks in the country are beginning to reopen – most notably Santa Anita, which resumes today, and Churchill Downs, which opens Saturday – the majority of spring-summer venues have pushed back their start dates or have yet to announce a revised schedule.

Tampa Bay Downs plans to continue racing without spectators, which has been the case since March 18 due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Fans by the thousands, forced indoors by the pandemic, have gravitated to online betting sites such as NYRA Bets, DRF Bets and TVG in record numbers, providing the wherewithal to keep purse money steady.

By adding the June dates, Tampa Bay Downs management hopes to help ease the financial hardship many horsemen are facing.

“The last two months have presented a challenge unlike any our sport has faced,” said Peter Berube, the track’s Vice President-General Manager. “Our trainers, jockeys, backstretch workers and security personnel have met it head-on and continued to provide racing that has brought positive recognition to Tampa Bay Downs.

“We are proud of how everyone has responded and are hopeful the additional dates, if approved, will sustain the majority of our participants until they move to their summer and fall bases of operation,” Berube added.

Tampa Bay Downs has enforced strict protocol since March 18 in an effort to keep its human and equine populations healthy and safe.

Measures include limiting person-to-person contact by designating one person from each barn to interact with veterinarians and farriers (horse-shoers); decreasing the number of people allowed in a tack room or office at one time; practicing social distancing; wearing masks; cleaning and sanitizing water and feed buckets, tack, grooming supplies and other implements often throughout the day; and taking employees’ temperatures every day.