OLDSMAR — Racing secretary Allison De Luca has drawn her last racing card of the Tampa Bay Downs meet. Finally, she can take a breather.
With the track's 82nd season of live thoroughbred action ending Sunday on fan appreciation day, De Luca's job is nearly over as suspense surrounding the sport's top 3-year-olds begins.
The Downs is expected to have its largest attendance of the 94-day meet this afternoon, highlighted by the simulcast of the 134th Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs in Louisville. Last year, a record 11,014 fans turned out as Street Sense became the first Tampa Bay Derby winner to capture the Run for the Roses.
This year's Kentucky Derby (6:04 p.m.) has similar ties with three Downs' runners in the Grade I $2.2-million event: Big Truck (Tampa Bay Derby winner and Sam F. Davis runnerup), Smooth Air (Sam F. Davis third-place finisher) and Z Humor (fifth in Sam F. Davis). Former TBD riding champion Jose Lezcano also has a mount on Visionaire, and Tampa Bay banker and philanthropist Donald Adam is represented by Adriano.
The Downs has a presence in another Churchill Downs stakes that can be seen via simulcast, the Grade III $150,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (3:03 p.m.). Dreaming of Anna, winner of Grade III's Hillsborough Stakes and Endeavour Breeders' Cup, is entered along with Turf Distaff winner Bayou's Lassie and You Go West Girl, trained by Downs' conditioner Tom Proctor.
"We've had some really great horses here and were so blessed to have Dreaming of Anna twice," De Luca said. "Our track is sandy — totally different from others — and horses really leg up here, preparing them for races down the road."
The $75,000 Chris Thomas Turf Classic, featuring Live Oak Plantation's Revved Up, headlines the Downs' 12-race card. Trained by Christophe Clement, Revved Up will be making his first start at age 10 in the 11/8-mile event. His victory in the 2006 race pushed him past $1-million in career earnings. Revved Up faces 11 challengers in Race 7 (3:20 p.m.) with Daniel Centeno in the saddle.
It has been a record-setting season for trainer Jamie Ness and Centeno. Both have clinched consecutive individual titles with meet-record numbers: Ness with 66 victories and Centeno with 141. Centeno also became the first Downs' rider to surpass $2-million in purse earnings. Balkrisna Sukharan has a two-win lead over Web's Gem Stable and Jagger, Inc. for leading owner. Both are clients of Ness.
After the meet, De Luca will head to Churchill Downs, where she will serve as a placing and patrol judge. She will then go to Keeneland Racetrack in Lexington, Ky. This is her second year at Oldsmar. She plans to return next season.
De Luca said one of her accomplishments was increasing fields (average 9.4 horses a race).
"It's always easier with a year under your belt to figure out what kind of races go," De Luca said. "We have a great group of horsemen; they come to run and work with you. I wouldn't trade them for anyone.
"You're only as good as the people you work with, and the staff worked hard all year."
GREYHOUNDS: Derby Lane will be represented in two stakes races today at Mardi Gras Racetrack in Hallandale Beach and Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach. Flying Chain, Flying Fabian, Kay Buffalo Bill and Lazy K Newsman compete in 660-yard semifinal races tonight in the $30,000 Hollywoodian at Mardi Gras. The final is May 10. The $85,000 Palm Beach Grand Classic begins this afternoon with Ballet Lady, Bold Visa, Diligent and Van's Escalade among the entries. The 545-yard event concludes May 26. All action can be seen at Derby Lane. … The National Greyhound Association sprint meet ended Sunday in Abilene, Kan., with auction sales topping $1.3-million.