by Mike Henry

The “Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series” makes a beeline to Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, March 12 for the 42nd running of the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.

A total of 85 qualifying points will be available for 3-year-olds seeking to make it to Louisville on May 7 for the first leg of the Triple Crown, with the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner earning 50 points and the next three finishers earning 20, 10 and 5.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, run at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track, is part of the Oldsmar oval’s annual Festival Day card, which consists of five stakes races worth a combined $1-million in purse money.

The remaining March 12 stakes include the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes, for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; the Grade III, $100,000 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes, for horses 4-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track; and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes, for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf.

The full list of nominations and the past performances for each of the five stakes can be accessed at by clicking on “Horsemen,” then “Stakes Nominations,” then “Tampa Bay Downs.” Entries will be taken on Wednesday, March 9.

Fans wishing to be part of the festivities can purchase General Admission tickets on the racetrack website at . Tickets may also be purchased the day of the event. The cost is $15. The first 5,000 fans through the gate will receive A “Mystery Mutuel Voucher,” worth anywhere between $5-$1,000.

Gates will open at 11 a.m. and first post time will be noon. Grandstand stadium and bench seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The week begins with the 30th annual “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament, which will be played Monday beginning at noon at Eagles Golf Club in nearby Odessa. The tournament, which is open to the public, raises funds for Tampa Bay Downs backside workers.

The 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 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., 34677, 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.

Around the oval. Six-time Oldsmar jockey champion Daniel Centeno and reigning champion Samy Camacho each rode two winners today. Centeno won the first race on Aycapote, a 5-year-old gelding owned and trained by Tim Glyshaw. Aycapote was claimed from the race for $5,000 by new owner-trainer Anthony Granitz.

Centeno added the sixth race with Bastien Le Brown, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Vicente Stella Stables and trained by Victor Barboza, Jr.

Camacho won the third race aboard 10-1 shot Foxy Austin, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Gene Austin and trained by Scott Acker. Camacho also won the seventh on the turf on China Beach, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned and trained by Donald L. Brown.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:13 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.