by Mike Henry

A power-packed stakes lineup will greet fans attending Tampa Bay Downs on March 12 for Festival Day XLII, which is headlined by the 42nd running of the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-old Triple Crown prospects.

The mile-and-a-sixteenth Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, which propelled 2007 winner Street Sense and 2010 third-place finisher Super Saver to Kentucky Derby glory, awards 50, 20, 10 and 5 points to the first four finishers on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.” The field for the May 7 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs is limited to 20 horses. Last year’s final two qualifiers got into the field with 18 and 10 points, respectively.

Admission for Festival Day XLII is $15, which includes a “Mystery Mutuel Voucher” worth between $5-$1,000. Tickets may be purchased on the track website at . Grandstand stadium and bench seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Four other stakes, three of them graded, are also on tap. The Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes, run at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf course, is for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward. Winners include Tepin (2016), a two-time Eclipse Award Champion Turf Female; and Zagora, who won the Hillsborough in 2012 en route to earning the Eclipse.

Three-year-old fillies will vie in the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf. The list of trainers who have won the race since it was switched from the main track for the 2011 edition – H. Graham Motion, Mark Casse, Bill Mott (twice), Chad Brown (twice), Brian Lynch, Rusty Arnold and Tom Albertrani – speaks to the importance of the Florida Oaks among horsemen.

Festival Day XLII’s other graded stakes is the Grade III, $100,000 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes  for horses 4-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track. Rounding out the stakes menu is the $75,000 Columbia Stakes, for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf.

Around the oval. John Bisono rode three winners today, with one second, from four mounts. Bisono captured the third race on the turf on 18-1 shot High Vibes, a 3-year-old filly owned by Suncoast Thoroughbred Racing and trained by Christopher Seale.

Bisono grabbed the fourth race via disqualification on Monaasib, who was moved from second to first after apparent winner Loved Again was taken down for interference. Monaasib is owned by Tres Potrillos Ranch and trained by Alison Escobar. Bisono added the seventh on the turf on 49-1 shot Fast Payday, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding bred, owned and trained by Dennis Manning.

Wilmer Garcia rode two winners. His victory in the first race aboard Tee Up, a 7-year-old mare owned by Jack Cannon and trained by Steven Dye, was merely an appetizer for his ninth-race shocker on the turf: a triumph on 3-year-old filly Blaze Away N Hide, who paid $133.40 to win. Blaze Away N Hide is owned by NBS Stable and trained by Jon Arnett.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday 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.