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Summer Festival to boost Tampa Bay Downs

OLDSMAR — Tampa Bay Downs is moving forward by taking a page from the past.

When its inaugural Summer Festival of Racing is held June 30-July 1, there will be only one way to watch and wager on the two live eight-race cards: in person at the thoroughbred track.

The races will not be simulcast elsewhere, including Derby Lane in St. Petersburg and Tampa Greyhound Track. Wagering pools will include on-track handle only, with no simulcast monies or account wagering. Simulcast wagering on other tracks will be available.

"Live racing back to yesteryear," Downs spokeswoman Margo Flynn said.

The schedule, approved by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, serves several purposes for the Downs, which last raced live May 5. The June 30 card will end the track's 87th season. The July 1 program will be the first day of the 2013-14 season, with live action resuming Dec. 7.

The move allows the Downs to be classified as a year-round live horse-racing facility, making it a host track. As a host, the Downs can purchase simulcast signals from other host sites and, most important, retain all revenue from that form of wagering. Previously, the Downs had to give Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens and its track horsemen an undisclosed portion of its simulcast revenue because Calder served as the host track and the Downs was a guest site when it didn't run live. Calder also controlled the simulcast schedule.

The additional revenue will boost purses at the Downs. Derby Lane and Tampa Greyhound Track (which runs its meet at Derby Lane) also will gain more purse money through a local market agreement.

"The end result of higher purses will bring in higher quality horses for the future seasons," Flynn said.

The Downs website says the track is classified as a year-round live thoroughbred racing facility under state regulations. But the state declined to discuss the Downs as a host track. "We are unable to comment because of pending litigation," Department of Business and Professional Regulation spokeswoman Samantha Stratton wrote in an email. The state did not comment about what the litigation was.

Gulfstream Park is following the Downs lead. The Hallandale Beach track will end its year June 25 and begin its 2013-14 season July 1.

The Summer Festival of Racing will feature a $5,000 Jockeys' Challenge. Using a cumulative point system based on order of finish, the first-place rider will earn $2,500, the runnerup $1,500 and the third-place jockey $1,000.

Races will be limited to eight horses, with the last four finishers ensured $500 each. Post time each day will be 12:35 p.m.

Summer Festival to boost Tampa Bay Downs 06/14/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 9:30pm]
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