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Down year at Tampa Bay Downs

Jamie Ness wins his eighth straight training title.

Jamie Ness wins his eighth straight training title.

OLDSMAR — The longest year in the history of Tampa Bay Downs has been a downer.

The 91-day meet that began July 1 wrapped up the major part of its schedule on Sunday. Live racing for the 88th season has one card left: June 30, the first of the two-day Summer Festival of Racing. Until then, poker and simulcast wagering are being offered.

It was a challenging year for the Downs, which faced increased competition, with Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens and Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach racing simultaneously.

Many of the Downs' major categories are lower from last year. After 90 programs, downward trends include: attendance, 2.5 percent with a daily average of 3,178; all-source handle on the Downs product, 7 percent at $3,722,562; intrastate wagering, 7.9 percent at $268,667; and interstate betting (outside of Florida), 6.9 percent at $3,264,179.

On-track live wagering is up 1.4 percent at $209,806.

Statistics were available through Equibase, a company that monitors track data. Downs vice president and general manager Peter Berube declined to comment on them.

The meet has had highs and lows. The Downs generated interest with a $1 million bonus to any owner whose horse could win the Sam F. Davis, Tampa Bay Derby and Kentucky Derby, and a $100,000 prize to one fan related to that scenario through a random drawing. No decision has been released on whether the track will continue that promotion.

The Downs sent two horses to the Kentucky Derby: Sam F. Davis winner Vinceremos and Harry's Holiday.

In the fall, trainers Jane Cibelli and Jorge Navarro were banned by the Downs from racing at the meet for what it said were thoroughbred medication issues. Orlando Paraliticci, a veterinarian who was involved in the Cibelli matter, was not permitted to practice at the Downs for a second consecutive meet. The Downs has not announced the future statuses of those individuals. Cibelli and Navarro ran in the winter at Calder and Gulfstream Park.

Individual titles have been settled. The winners: trainer Jamie Ness for the eighth straight year (53 victories); owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Ness' main client, for the fifth season in a row (45); jockey Antonio Gallardo with his first career crown (124); top apprentice rider Octavio Vergara Jr. (five); and top winning horse See I A (five).

Down year at Tampa Bay Downs 05/04/14 [Last modified: Sunday, May 4, 2014 9:58pm]
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