by Mike Henry

Tampa Bay Downs has reached agreements with spirit companies EG Vodka and 14 Hands Winery to sponsor $100,000 stakes races on the track’s 15th annual Florida Cup Day program on April 2, 2017.

The EG Vodka Turf Classic and the 14 Hands Winery Sophomore Turf are two of the six races for Florida-bred horses scheduled to be contested on one of the track’s most lucrative days of the 2016-2017 meeting. The involvement of the two spirit manufacturing and distribution companies completes a roster of six title sponsors for the first time in Florida Cup history.

The purse money for each of the Florida Cup races was increased to $100,000 from $75,000 prior to the two recent sponsorships being finalized.

 “We are delighted to be joined by EG Vodka and 14 Hands Winery in presenting what promises to be a tremendous day of Thoroughbred racing,” said Margo Flynn, the track’s Vice President of Marketing and Publicity. “We look forward to long and rewarding partnerships with both companies, as well as to introducing their quality products to our customers.”

EG Vodka, a subsidiary of EGV Holdings with headquarters in Orlando, is making its first foray into Thoroughbred racing sponsorship. EG Vodka is an organic, unfiltered American vodka made at a small-batch artisan distillery in the United States using organic wheat, water from one of the nation’s most pure natural water sources and the finest American botanicals.

Sustainably grown and responsibly harvested herbs are basket and vapor-infused into EG Origin, a one-time-distilled base spirit, and then gravity-fed through coconut husk to create the company’s standalone expressions: EG Inspiration Rosemary & Lavender Vodka and EG Windsor Earl Grey Tea & Sage Vodka.

"We're thrilled to partner with the Florida Cup Turf Classic," said Marty Krytus, CEO of EG Vodka. "It gives us an opportunity to promote EG Vodka in an industry that aligns perfectly with the essence of our brand; one known for its class and sophistication.

"We look forward to making the relationship a great success for us both and are excited to be a part of the sport of kings," Krytus added.

The EG Vodka Turf Classic is for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth on the grass. Its impressive list of winners includes 2014 and 2015 victor Old Time Hockey, a Grade II winner previously conditioned by Tampa Bay Downs trainer Tom Proctor.

14 Hands Winery, which derives its name from the height of wild horses that have roamed the Horse Heaven Hills area of eastern Washington near company headquarters, is also a sponsor of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the title sponsor of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

A terrain consisting of loamy sand and gravel soils helps 14 Hands to produce fruit-forward reds and crisp, juicy whites that honor the legend of the region.

 “As our name indicates, our brand has a very natural tie to horses and horse events,” said Rebekah Gunderson, Marketing Manager of 14 Hands Winery. “The partnership with the Florida Cup Sophomore Turf Stakes is a good way to extend the association with horse racing that we’ve already established through our sponsorship of the Kentucky Derby.”

The 14 Hands Winery Sophomore Turf is for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the Tampa Bay Downs grass course. Recent winners include 2015 victor World Approval, the Live Oak Plantation-owned runner who won the Grade I United Nation Stakes at Monmouth in July and has amassed career earnings of almost $900,000.

The other Florida Cup Day stakes are the Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Sprint; the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore; the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies; and the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf.