OLDSMAR — Summertime racing is coming to Tampa Bay Downs.
The Oldsmar thoroughbred track, which traditionally races in the winter and spring, is scheduled to hold a live summer racing day for at least the next two years.
The Downs will open its 2013-14 season with a live program July 1. Another card is slated for June 30, 2014. The bulk of its 92-day meet will run Dec. 7 through May 4. The Downs' current meet wraps up May 5.
"We're looking to maximize the opportunities by running dates on a year-round fashion," Downs spokeswoman Margo Flynn said. "We're exploring different options and avenues to be able to increase the purse account for the horses that run here for the majority of the meet."
The Downs schedule from December through May is dominated by cards on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Downs will face more competition than ever with Gulfstream Park and Calder also running January through May. Gulfstream Park will race year-round for the first time in 2013-14 and also received a racing date for July 1. Hialeah Park, a quarter-horse venue, has racing dates in December, January and February as well.
"It's going to be a smaller horse population to draw from so we'll have to work a lot harder to put on a product for the betting public," Flynn said.
Flynn said many of the horses for the Downs program on July 1 would "more than likely come from the Ocala area."
Racing schedules for the area's greyhound tracks will remain the same in 2013-14. Derby Lane in St. Petersburg and Tampa Greyhound Track each were granted six-month racing permits with all racing at Derby Lane. Tampa's schedule is for 208 performances July 1 through Dec. 31. Derby Lane will host 207 performances Jan. 1 through June 30.
Each site will run eight weekly performances with doubleheaders on Wednesday and Saturday. There will be no Sunday racing. Tampa has held its meet at Derby Lane since ending live racing in 2007 in order to offer poker and simulcast wagering.
Derby Lane again will have matinees on Monday from Jan. 6 through April 14, 2014. After that it will return to racing on Monday night.
"We are very happy with the dates," Tampa Bay Greyhound Association president Cal Holland said. "On Mondays we would rather run matinees; it's just easier. And we get a lot better handle and attendance, so we make more money. We're all for that."
Derby: The $80,000 Distance Classic begins tonight at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg with first-round qualifying in Races 4, 6, 8 and 10. The finale is April 6.