by Mike Henry

Excitement-packed Thoroughbred competition and musical entertainment – along with fun-filled races featuring cute Corgis and teams of stretcher-bearers – are among the attractions on tap for the fifth annual Summer Festival of Racing and Music, which will be held June 30 and July 1 at Tampa Bay Downs.

An eight-race card on Friday, June 30 will officially conclude the 2016-2017 horse racing meeting, which boasts two Oldsmar competitors, Always Dreaming and Tapwrit, who captured Triple Crown races – a first in track history.

Always Dreaming, who broke his maiden here on Jan. 25, won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. Tapwrit, the Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner and Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes runner-up, captured the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRABets.

Always Dreaming and Tapwrit are trained by Todd Pletcher.

The Summer Festival of Racing and Music schedule for June 30 includes a presentation by Tampa Bay Downs of $71,290 to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, a non-profit organization which accredits, inspects and awards grants to approved after-care groups to retire, re-train and re-home Thoroughbreds after their racing careers.

Post time for the first race on June 30 is 12:35 p.m. After the races, fans will be treated to music by the groups The Superstars featuring Ronnie D and Jeriko Turnpike.

Southern-style barbecue lunches and margaritas will be available throughout the day on the Grandstand apron.

The Saturday, July 1 card includes a race for American Quarter Horses, a breed known for achieving speeds of 55 miles per hour over short distances. Post time for the Quarter Horse race is 11:45 a.m.

The July 1 program is the first day of Tampa Bay Downs’ 2017-2018 meeting, which is expected to resume on Nov. 25.

After the final Thoroughbred race on July 1, there will be a concert featuring the Soul Circus Cowboys and the Johnny G. Lyon Band. Barbecue lunches and margaritas again will be on sale throughout the afternoon.

“The Summer Festival has grown in popularity every year, and the addition last year of a concert after the races enhances its appeal to families and a younger crowd, many of whom will be exposed to racing for the first time,” said Margo Flynn, the track’s Vice President of Marketing and Publicity.

“With the entertainment lineup assembled by our partners, the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, we expect this year’s event to be the most successful Summer Festival yet,” Flynn added.

The $5,000 Jockeys’ Challenge returns, with riders awarded points based on their performance in each race over the two days (eight points to the winner, seven for second, six for third, etc.). First place overall is worth $2,500, with $1,500 to the runner-up and $1,000 to the third-place finisher.

Samy Camacho is the defending Jockeys’ Challenge champion.

The fun isn’t limited to the horses and the concert stage. Following the races on June 30, five-person teams of stretcher-bearers (and their “patients”) will race over the main Tampa Bay Downs dirt track. The entry fee for the MASH Stretcher Race is $100 per team, with part of the proceeds going to Oldsmar Cares, which provides financial and social services to individuals in need in the greater Oldsmar area. The person being carried must weigh more than 100 pounds.

After the eighth Thoroughbred race on July 1, and before the concert, members of the Tampa Bay Corgi Meetup Group, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in April, will introduce their competitive canines to Oldsmar fans.

Six heats comprised of eight Corgis each will race over a distance of about 25 yards to advance to the championship final (pari-mutuel wagering will not be offered on the Corgi races).

The event will feature Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Cardigan Welsh Corgis and Corgi mixes. The winner will receive a trophy and bragging rights.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.