A pair of “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points races and a Festival Day card featuring the 37th edition of the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby highlight a 2016-2017 stakes schedule that is the richest in Tampa Bay Downs history.
The lineup, which includes 24 stakes races offering almost $3-million in purses, was released today. Opening Day for the 2016-2017 meeting is Saturday, Nov. 26.
Stall applications for horsemen, which are available online at www.tampabaydowns.com , are due Sept. 30. The entire 2016-2017 stakes schedule is also available on the track Website by accessing the "Racing" tab and selecting "Horsemen" from the drop-down menu.
The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, a mile-and-a-sixteenth race on the main dirt track for 3-year-old Triple Crown candidates, and the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes will award points to the top four finishers toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 6 at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby field is limited to 20 horses.
The Sam F. Davis was recently reinstated as an official prep race on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and will award the first four 3-year-olds across the wire 10, 4, 2 and 1 points toward qualifying for the Run for the Roses starting gate. The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, which is part of the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series,” offers 50-20-10-5 qualifying points to the top four finishers.
Destin, the winner of both the Sam F. Davis and Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby last season, finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and second by a nose to Creator in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets.
Two horses have used the Tampa Bay Derby as a springboard to Kentucky Derby glory: Street Sense, winner of both races in 2007, and Super Saver, the third-place finisher in the Tampa Bay Derby before his classic score.
The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is the centerpiece of the track’s March 11 Festival Day card, which includes the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes on the turf course and the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks, also on the turf. Other Festival Day stakes are the $100,000 Challenger Stakes and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes, which is being renewed as a 1-mile turf event for 3-year-olds (it was last contested as the Chris Thomas Turf Classic in 2009 at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth).
Purse money for the April 2 Florida Cup, consisting of six races for registered Florida-bred horses, has been increased 33 percent, with each of the races now worth $100,000 thanks to a collaborative effort by track management, horsemen and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association to raise the pots.
The 2016-2017 stakes schedule begins Saturday, Dec. 3 with the Inaugural Stakes and the Sandpiper Stakes, a pair of $100,000, 6-furlong sprint races for 2-year-olds soon to turn 3 (all Thoroughbred horses celebrate their birthdays on Jan. 1).
“The increase in stakes purses for the upcoming season reflects the ongoing interest in our racing program throughout the Thoroughbred industry,” said Peter Berube, the track’s Vice President and General Manager. “While our graded stakes, especially the 3-year-old races, garner most of the attention, our stakes schedule offers tremendous value for horses in all categories.”
The second-biggest day on the Tampa Bay Downs stakes schedule is Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South on Feb. 11, featuring the Sam F. Davis. Other stakes on the Feb. 11 card are the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on the turf; the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, also on the turf; and the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes on the main track.
The Lambholm South Endeavour and the Hillsborough, both for older fillies and mares, have welcomed several of the nation’s top female turf runners in recent years. Tepin, who won the 2015 Eclipse Award as Outstanding Turf Female, won both races last season. Other Eclipse winners to flash their brilliant form on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course were 2015 Hillsborough winner Stephanie’s Kitten and Zagora, winner of both races in 2012.