OLDSMAR — Sixteen races. Two days. One major change.
Tampa Bay Downs will hold its second Summer Festival of Racing on Monday and Tuesday with an eight-race card each afternoon, beginning at 12:30.
The Downs traditionally had not offered live thoroughbred racing after Kentucky Derby weekend in May, but the track uses the two dates to meet state requirements allowing it to be classified as a year-round facility. The live-track status gives the Downs total control on the importing of simulcast racing and provides a boost in its inter-track wagering revenue.
Oldsmar horsemen saw the immediate impact this season with a 15 percent raise in purses.
"(The Festival) was a lot of fun last year, and we intend to have a lot of turf action," Downs spokeswoman Margo Flynn said.
Entries were drawn Thursday with many horses from the Ocala area.
Downs vice president and general manager Peter Berube has made one significant change this year that will be a considerable boost to handle. The track's product will be simulcast to outlets outside the Downs, unlike last season when wagering was limited solely to track side fans.
"It gives all of the bettors and racing enthusiasts an opportunity to wager into much larger pools, which is more conducive," Flynn said. "The pools will be larger, because they'll be nationwide."
Total attendance at last year's event was 1,989 with combined wagering of $124,054. That handle is expected to be surpassed this year after one or two races.
Purses will be 25 percent higher than last year's Festival. Each race is limited to eight horses with every starter receiving at least $500 in purses. The Festival includes a $5,000 jockey challenge with points earned based on order of race finish. The top three riders will collect bonuses of $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000.
Monday's program will close the Downs' 91-day meet for 2013-14. The track will kick off its 89th season Tuesday, but then will take a hiatus from live racing until Nov. 29 for the majority of its schedule.
All individual titles have been decided: rider Antonio Gallardo, trainer Jamie Ness, and owner Midwest Thoroughbreds. There will be free admission and parking each day.
GREYHOUNDS: The 88th annual St. Petersburg Derby is tonight at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. The field for the $30,000 Derby in Race 10 (10:11 p.m.): Golden Waltz, Jacks Lil Bigman, Kiowa Jordan Doc, Kiowa Zabia, Odd Charlie, Odd Grayson, Penrose Kyle and Tmc's Roxslide. First place pays $13,000. Odd Grayson of Abernathy kennel is the heavy favorite. The $10,000 Consolation Derby is in Race 8 (9:33). Starters in that event are: Budz Crosby, Crowned Supreme, Flying Thor, Kulprit, Lk's Instigator, Se's High Onlife, Scott Wheeler and Ws's Miracle. First place is worth $4,400. Both races are on the 660-yard course.