Acclaimed as a premier winter racing destination, Tampa Bay Downs welcomes the horses back Tuesday and Wednesday for its third annual Summer Festival of Racing, two days of Thoroughbred competition signaling both an end and a beginning.
Parking and admission are free both days and the track will offer a variety of food and beverage options, with the Riders Up! pub, Metro Deli, Legends Bar, Sports Gallery and Clubhouse carrels all in operation.
Post time for Tuesday’s first race is 12:20 p.m. Wednesday’s first post time is 12:45 p.m. The track will offer all of its customary wagering options and there will be mandatory payouts both days for the Pick-5 and the Super High-5.
For the third successive year, Tampa Bay Downs will sponsor the $5,000 Jockeys’ Challenge for riders participating in the Summer Festival of Racing. The first-place jockey at the conclusion of Wednesday’s card earns $2,500, the runner-up receives $1,500 and the third-place finisher collects $1,000.
Among the jockeys expected to compete are fan favorite Rosemary Homeister, Jr., the sport’s winningest active female jockey; last year’s Jockeys’ Challenge winner, Ademar Santos, and the 2013 winner, Augusto A. Marin; Eddie Martin, Jr., and Christopher Emigh, both of whom have ridden more than 3,500 winners; past Tampa Bay Downs leading jockeys Jorge Guerra and Manoel Cruz; and the two top apprentice jockeys for the 2014-2015 Oldsmar meeting, Luis Figueroa and Janelle Campbell.
Homeister is named to ride in six of Tuesday’s eight races.
Points will be awarded from first through eighth place in each of the 16 races on an 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. In case of dead heats, the jockeys involved will split the point total (a dead heat for win would be worth 7.5 points to both riders).
In case of a tie in total points, the winner will be the jockey with the most victories.
Tuesday’s eight-race card, featuring five races on the pristine Oldsmar turf course, marks the official conclusion of the 2014-2015 meeting. The following day, the 2015-2016 season begins with another eight-race program.
The stable area will then be empty for about four months before trainers and their charges return en masse for the resumption of the 91-day, 90th anniversary meeting on Saturday, Nov. 28.
The annual chase for top jockey, trainer and owner awards wraps up Tuesday. Two-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo, who set a track record during the current season by riding 147 winners and currently leads the standings at Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania, wrapped up the leading jockey title a long time ago.
In the top trainer category, Jamie Ness – currently among the leading conditioners at Presque Isle, Delaware Park and Monmouth Park – has sewn up his track-record ninth consecutive Oldsmar title with 46 victories, three more than Gerald Bennett, who has two horses entered Tuesday.
Figueroa has a 17-12 advantage from Campbell in the competition for leading apprentice jockey and will receive his trophy during the races.
Suspense still reigns in the owners’ race, where five-time defending Oldsmar champion Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., leads Amaty Racing Stables, 23-22.
Amaty has entered two horses Tuesday – 4-year-old gelding Bennie Y Benny in the seventh race and 6-year-old mare Turnout in the eighth. Turnout is a “main track only” alternate entrant for that 1-mile turf event, so a tie may be the best possible outcome for Amaty, depending on the always-fickle summer weather in south Florida.
Beginning with Wednesday’s card, the anti-bleeding medication furosemide, commonly known as Salix or Lasix, will be the only therapeutic agent that can be administered on race days at Florida Thoroughbred tracks. The new restrictions are a result of legislation bringing the state’s racing industry in line with National Uniform Medication Program guidelines, which are adhered to by a majority of racing states.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and Three Card Poker in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.