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Tampa Bay Downs' Festival Day weekend promises packed lineup

OLDSMAR — Sitting in her office at Tampa Bay Downs, Race Track Chaplaincy of America-Downs Division president Sharyn Wasiluk held a poster-sized caricature of Street Sense, simulating the Tampa Bay Derby as a steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby.

Street Sense, the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby and Kentucky Derby winner who is wearing a black derby with a red rose in his teeth, peers through binoculars from a track rooftop at the 3-year-olds who may follow his lead. It is the product of Daily Racing Form art director Pierre "Peb" Bellocq, whose work will be highlighted on the publication's front page on Festival Day on March  15.

With undefeated War Pass among 20 nominations for the Grade III $300,000 race, another high-profile event is anticipated. St. Patrick's Day weekend also will be an eventful one for fans.

Festival in the Skye, featuring a preview of the documentary The First Saturday In May, is Friday at the Downs, benefitting the Gold Shield Foundation. The film, scheduled for release in April, profiles six 2006 Kentucky Derby hopefuls, including Barbaro. Producer John Hennegan and Bellocq will be in attendance. On March 15, Bellocq will be trackside, and his caricature posters will be available to patrons.

The 16th annual Hearts Reaching Out fundraiser, which benefits the Downs' RTCA, is March 17. There is a golf tournament at Crescent Oaks Country Club in Tarpon Springs, followed by live and silent auctions and dinner at the track's tent pavilion.

RTCA provides services to backside workers. Programs include church services, English classes, onsite medical examinations, individual counseling and hardship issues. Auction items include an Indianapolis 500 package for four, paintings, racing and sports memorabilia, and tickets to major horse races. For information, call (813) 855-4401, (813) 494-1870 or (813) 298-1576. The public is welcome to all events.

MORE DOWNS: Defending champ Jamie Ness saddles four horses today in an attempt to set a track meet win record for trainers. Ness tied the late Don Rice with his 44th victory Friday as La Celeste won Race 2 under leading rider Daniel Centeno. … Grade III stakes winner Birdbirdistheword tries to add to his $718,487 bankroll this afternoon in the $65,000 Budweiser Challenger Stakes (Race 10, 4:36 p.m.), a 11/16-mile event for horses 4 years and older.

DERBY LANE: Mick D'Arcy and Malcolm McAllister have combined for seven decades of greyhound involvement. But the St. Petersburg kennel operators would rate this week among their favorite times.

D'Arcy's highlight came March 1, when Kinloch Brae upset a talented field in the $85,000 Sprint Classic. It was the fourth Sprint title for D'Arcy, but first with a dog owned by his kennel.

"I'm a little bit emotional," D'Arcy told track spokesperson Vera Filipelli after the race. "Three weeks ago, I would have said he would have had a good chance."

Kinloch Brae, a 19-1 shot, entered with a six-race losing streak. The only finalist without a qualifying win, Kinloch Brae won in box-to-wire fashion. His 550-yard time of 30.35 seconds was third-best in a 67-race career (28 wins), and third fastest in the event's 33-year history.

On Monday, McAllister collected his first two National Greyhound Association awards with Flying Stanley (Rural Rube, top sprinter) and Flyin Bridgeport (Flashy Sir, best in distance), both owned by Vince Berland.

"This makes my life complete, and I've been in the industry for 28 years," McAllister said.

Flying Stanley won four stakes, including the Derby Lane Million. McAllister and wife Barbara, the kennel's trainer, moved Flyin Bridgeport to 660 yards from 550 after he arrived from Kansas. He won two stakes.

Tampa Bay Downs' Festival Day weekend promises packed lineup 03/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:31am]
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