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High hopes for upcoming Tampa Bay meet

Over the past decade Tampa Bay Downs has emerged as a major player on the winter racing scene with the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby developing into a legitimate Kentucky Derby prep. On the business side, the operation has almost doubled its all-sources average daily handle.

But last season the track suffered declines in both handle and average field size, with all-sources handle down almost 11 percent from the previous year and field size dropping from 9.11 to 8.54 horses per race. Contributing factors included problems with the turf course late in the season and a disagreement that kept Tampa’s races from being broadcast on Television Games Network.

As the track begins a 91-day meeting Saturday, management is cautiously optimistic that a revised racing schedule, a vigorous slate of turf racing, and a return to TVG will help the operation bounce back.

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