by Mike Henry

Bobby Raymond has been training Thoroughbreds almost 40 years – long enough to know how quickly circumstances change around the racetrack.

But he wasn’t expecting wintry weather to make an appearance when he arrived at the Tampa Bay Downs stable gate with 11 horses shortly after 6 a.m. today.

“It was 62 degrees (Sunday) at my house in Rhode Island, and it was 36 degrees as we were coming through Florida this morning,” Raymond said. “How do you figure that?”

Over the last 14 years, Raymond has learned the cold spells in this neck of the woods don’t last long. That is only one reason he looks forward every season to returning.


Bobby Raymond feeds his 4-year-old geld-
ing, Jockey Jills Dream, after arrival at Barn 5

“You can compete here a little more. You’ve got a good turf course that has a better surface than most tracks,” said Raymond, the first arrival when Tampa Bay Downs opened its backside today for the continuation of its 2017-2018 meeting on Nov. 25.

While the turf course at Tampa Bay Downs has garnered widespread acclaim, Raymond is equally impressed with the main dirt track.

“(Vice President of Facilities and Track Surfaces) Tommy (McLaughlin), (assistant) Scott (Moore) and those guys do excellent work,” Raymond added. “When you tell them the track is too hard or too fast, they do something to fix it.”

The racetrack opens for training on Nov. 6. About an hour after Raymond’s arrival at Barn 5, huge vans began pulling up to the stable gate entrance to join the cast of competitors. About 1,250 Thoroughbreds are expected to be here by Opening Day.

Raymond lauded the family atmosphere at Tampa Bay Downs, which opened in 1926 and keeps delighting horsemen, bettors and fans with its laid-back charms and an ever-improving racing product. The 69-year-old conditioner is looking forward to renewing acquaintances and making new friends.

“At my age, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends here at Tampa, and like every track, the people on the backside are like your family. You might have an occasional argument, but if someone has trouble, we’re all here to help our neighbor.”


   The Raymond horses are in town!

Raymond, who moved his stable from Delaware Park, has high hopes for several of his horses; with others, such as recent stable addition Mission Awareness, a good-looking gray gelding, breaking his maiden (winning a race) is the main objective, for now.

“Usually you’ve got one real good horse in your barn, and after that, they are horses you race,” Raymond said. “I’ve got real good owners, super people with big hearts who will call me every day asking how I’m doing. I’ve been with Paul Devincentis (Touchdown Stable) I don’t know how long, 20, 25 years.

“I guess it’s the excitement that keeps me going – getting upset at not winning and getting happy when they do win,” Raymond said.