Exciting Thoroughbred racing returns to Tampa Bay Downs on Thursday and Friday as horsemen, jockeys, track officials and area fans celebrate the fourth annual Summer Festival of Racing.
Eight races are scheduled each day, with six on the turf course Thursday and seven on the grass Friday. Action begins at 12:35 p.m. on Thursday and 12:28 Friday. Tampa Bay Downs will offer all of its customary wagering options, with mandatory payouts both days on the Pick-5 and the Super High-5.
The two-day event will be simulcast throughout the Tampa Bay Downs network.
Parking and admission are free both days and the track will offer a variety of food and beverage options, with the Riders Up! pub, Legends Bar, Sports Gallery and Clubhouse carrels all in operation.
Following Friday’s racing, Tampa Bay Downs – in conjunction with the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce – offers musical entertainment in the form of a concert featuring area bands The Black Honkeys and the Soul Circus Cowboys.
The cost for the concert is $5 general admission, $10 VIP Grandstand seating. The concert is scheduled for 6-11 p.m., helping patrons and horsemen launch their Fourth of July weekend.
On the track, Tampa Bay Downs will again sponsor the $5,000 Jockeys’ Challenge. The first-place jockey at the conclusion of Friday’s card earns $2,500, the runner-up receives $1,500 and the third-place finisher collects $1,000.
Ademar Santos, who has won the last two Jockeys’ Challenge titles, is expected back from Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania to defend his title. Other jockeys named to ride include Jose Ferrer; Mike Allen; Pedro Monterrey, Jr.; Brian Theriot; Samy Camacho; and Jorge Calderon.
In each of the 16 races, points are awarded from first through eighth place on an 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. In case of dead heats for any position, 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.
The Summer Festival of Racing was started in 2013 to provide Tampa Bay Downs with status as a year-round meeting, enabling the track to control its simulcasting revenue. Thursday’s card marks the official conclusion of the 2015-2016 meeting. Friday’s card is the outset of the 2016-2017 meeting.
The stable area will then be empty for about four months before trainers and their horses return for the resumption of the new meeting on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.