by Mike Henry

Tampa Bay Downs has announced its second 6-percent purse increase of the current meet, which will take effect with Friday’s card. Horsemen will be competing for an additional $1,000 per race in all overnight races (all races except stakes). The first increase, which took effect Feb. 10, also raised purse money by $1,000 a race.

The increases continue an upward trend that saw the track hike overnight purses four times during the 2020-2021 meet.

“Several factors have contributed to our ability to raise purse money again for our horsemen,” said Peter Berube, the track’s Vice President & General Manager. “First and foremost is the quality product our horsemen continue to provide, which has led to an increase in wagering handle.

“Our Racing Office, headed by Racing Secretary Allison De Luca, works diligently to provide competitive races with large fields that attract bettors both on-track and from our simulcast outlets around the country. We have also enjoyed good weather much of the season, which has been reflected in our attendance figures,” Berube said.

Tampa Bay Downs handled in excess of $12.1-million on its Feb. 12 Festival Preview Day card, headlined by the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds. The figure was the seventh-largest in track history.

Track officials are optimistic the March 12 Festival Day card, which includes the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-old Triple Crown prospects and three other graded stakes, could exceed the track record of $15,229,366 set on Festival Day last season.

Around the oval. Fernando De La Cruz rode three winners today and two runners-up from five mounts. In the first race, De La Cruz triumphed aboard End All Get All, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Alejandro Mendieta and Diamond Hands Racing and trained by Bobby Raymond.

De La Cruz next won the third on Jim’s Bronze Star, a 5-year-old mare owned by Pat Cundiff and Gerald Cundiff and trained by Rob O’Connor, II. De La Cruz completed the hat trick in the sixth with Imperial Brew, a 7-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned and trained by Anthony Granitz. Imperial Brew was claimed from the race for $5,000 by new owner-trainer Anthony Rini.

De La Cruz is 11-for-23 on Granitz-trained horses at the meet, with six seconds and three thirds.

Jockey Daniel Centeno and trainer Arnaud Delacour combined to win two races today, both on the turf. They captured the fifth race with Commence, a 5-year-old gelding bred by Stella F. Thayer and owned by Thayer and her daughter, Susannah Thayer. Centeno and Delacour added the seventh, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, with Barberini, a 3-year-old gelding bred and owned by Rhianon Farms.

Leading Oldsmar jockey Samy Camacho swept the late daily double, marking his third consecutive two-win day. Camacho won the eighth race on Let’s Be Honest, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Stud Locos Y Viciosos Corp. and trained by Enrique Torres. Camacho added the ninth race on the turf on Kitten With a Whip, a 4-year-old filly owned by Mad Dog Racing Stable and Kent Sweezey and trained by Sweezey.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:15 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 17, when the track is closed.

Otherwise, the Oldsmar oval 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.

“Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament upcoming. The 30th annual “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament, which raises funds for Tampa Bay Downs backside workers, will be played Monday, March 7 beginning at noon at Eagles Golf Club in Odessa.

The tournament format is a 4-person scramble. The entry fee is $110 a player, which includes range balls, on-course contests, a boxed lunch, on-course beverages and a goody bag.

Sponsorships and donations are also encouraged. “The “Triple Crown” Golf Sponsorship, which covers foursome golf packages, a recognition sign and company or individual name on every hole sign, costs $2,500. Individual hole sponsorships are available for $125.

Suitable donations include gift certificates, retail gift cards, golf-themed and racing-themed baskets, etc. Monetary donations may be mailed to RTCA/Tampa Bay Downs, Post Office Box 2211, Oldsmar, Fla., with a check payable to Race Track Chaplaincy of America.

Backside workers are the lifeblood of every Thoroughbred racetrack, and the “Hearts Reaching Out” event helps to meet the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of these unsung participants. For details or to enter, call Chaplain Pete Crisswell at (304) 433-6808 or Dr. Bill Owens at (813) 240-1340.