OLDSMAR — It is time to do the wave at Tampa Bay Downs — a wave goodbye to the track's 84th year of thoroughbred racing.
The Downs' 2009-10 season ends this weekend, and the final two days should be special. An 11-race card, on-track benefit walk and simulcast of the 136th Kentucky Derby highlight today's schedule. The 91-day meet concludes Sunday with Fan Appreciation Day, featuring a showdown between Kathleen O'Connell and three-time defending champion Jamie Ness for the trainer title. O'Connell has a 50-49 lead. She has 12 entries in nine races the next two days, while Ness has three horses entered.
"It's a little sad (to leave Oldsmar)," O'Connell said. "Everybody loves this place, and it is great for horses. We're usually the last people out of Tampa Bay, and they put the lock on the gate behind us." O'Connell will move her stable this summer to Calder in Miami Gardens and Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va. Daniel Centeno has clinched the jockey crown for the fourth consecutive year and joins Ness next week at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa.
The Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa benefit walk kicks off the Downs' activity this morning at 11. For details, call (813) 298-6165. The Kentucky Derby (Race 11, 6:24 p.m.) caps the day. Tampa Bay Derby third-place finisher Super Saver is the Downs' lone representative, the 19th Oldsmar graduate since 2004 to race in the 1 1/4-mile classic. Two former Oldsmar riding champions have mounts: Jose Lezcano (2005-06) on Ice Box, and Willie Martinez (1991-92) aboard Noble's Promise.
This is the first time in seven years that neither winner of the Tampa Bay Derby or Sam F. Davis is in the Kentucky Derby. Tampa Bay Derby winner Odysseus has a leg injury and lacked sufficient graded earnings. Sam F. Davis winner Rule was pulled from consideration Monday after two substandard workouts. The only Oldsmar colt to capture the Run for the Roses has been 2007 Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense.
The Grade I $2 million Kentucky Derby is one of six graded stakes on the Churchill Downs card in Louisville, Ky. Oldsmar connections in the other stakes: 2009 Sam F. Davis winner General Quarters (Grade I $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic), 2009 Tampa Bay Derby winner Musket Man and Warrior's Reward (Grade II $250,000 Churchill Downs), 2008 Sandpiper winner Dr. Zic (Grade I $300,000 Humana Distaff), 2010 Hillsborough winner Phola, Cure for Sale and Hooh Why (Grade II $200,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile), and Buckleupbuttercup (Grade III $100,000 Eight Belles). General Quarters and Musket Man can reach $1 million in career earnings today. The races also will be simulcast at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg and Tampa Greyhound Track.
GREYHOUNDS: The $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile Stakes begins tonight at Derby Lane with qualifying in Races 4, 6, 8 and 10.