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HRN Original Blog:
From Coast to Coast

Tuning Up at Tampa Bay Downs

Tampa Bay Downs has long been known as the only Thoroughbred racetrack on the Gulf Coast and has had a rather colorful history. It features a one mile dirt oval and a seven furlong turf course. The track first opened in 1926 under the name Tampa Downs. In 1943, the United States Army took over the track and used it as a training facility. Three years later, the track was renamed Sunshine Park and had added an electric starting gate, photo finish, and electric tote board. The track was renamed again in 1965 and became known as Florida Downs, but fifteen years later, the track reverted back to its original name of Tampa Downs. The track tried running Arabian horse races, and that program lasted twenty years before being shut down in 2003. U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee Julie Krone earned her first career victory in Tampa Bay on February 12, 1981. But enough trivia. Let’s move on to the racing. 

Today the track is known as Tampa Bay Downs, the name assumed in 1986 when present owner Stella F. Thayer took over the track. With Thayer at the reins, Tampa Bay Downs’ reputation grew rapidly. Though Tampa Bay Downs only features 5 graded stakes races, two of those races have become official prep races for the Kentucky Derby. 

The first of the two races is the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. It is contested at a mile and a sixteenth, and, this year, it will be run on February 4, 2012. The race was inaugurated in 1981, but the speed and winning margin records were both set within the last eleven years. Fierce Wind set the speed record in 2008, stopping the clock at 1:44.13. In 1999, San Gennaro set the winning margin record, rolling across the wire 6 ¾ lengths in front of his nearest rival. As of the 2011 running of the race, no horse has completed the Sam F. Davis/Kentucky Derby double, but Bluegrass Cat finished 2nd to Barbaro in the 2006 Kentucky Derby after winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes. The Storm Cat colt is the only Sam F. Davis winner to even hit the board of the premier race for 3-year olds.
The G2 Tampa Bay Derby is typically seen as the more important of the two races. Though the Sam F. Davis is considered a Kentucky Derby prep race, its primary use is as a prep race for the Tampa Bay Derby. The Derby was also inaugurated in 1981 and is run at 1 1/16 mile. It will be run on March 10, 2012 for this upcoming year’s edition. Street Sense set the speed record in 2007, completing the mile and a sixteenth race in 1:43.11. The time set a new stakes and track record for the distance. The Street Cry colt went on to win the Kentucky Derby and is the only colt to complete the Tampa Bay/Kentucky Derby double. Aside from Street Sense, Reinvested (3rd, 1982) and Musket Man (3rd, 2009) are the only other Tampa Bay Derby winners to even hit the board in the Kentucky Derby. No trainer has won the race more than once, but owner Eric Fein (2008 and 2009) and jockeys Richard Migliore (2000 and 2001) and Eibar Coa (2003 and 2008) have all won the race twice. 

Tampa Bay Downs will also host four additional stakes races restricted to three-year olds. The Pasco Stakes, a 7 furlong sprint with a purse of $100,000, will be run on January 14, 2012. In 2010, Uptowncharlybrown used the race as a prep for the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, in which he finished 3rd. The Limehouse colt went on to run 5th in the Tampa Bay Derby and 3rd in the Lexington Stakes but did not make it to the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby. The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, a 7 furlong sprint with a purse of $75,000, will be run on April 7, 2012. Turf races have become legitimate prep options for the Kentucky Derby is recent years, and Tampa Bay Downs will run two such races restricted to three-year olds during this winter’s meet. The Turf Dash at 5 furlongs, worth $75,000, will be run on February 18, 2012; and the Dayton Andrews Dodge Sophomore Turf at a mile and a sixteenth, worth $75,000, will be run on April 7, 2012. Unfortunately, winning none of these four races would really help a horse get to the Kentucky Derby since none of them are graded. Kentucky Derby starters are determined by the amount of graded stakes earnings accumulated by all eligible 3-year old colts, geldings, and fillies nominated to the Triple Crown. 


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Older Comments about Tuning Up at Tampa Bay Downs...

The old announcer is terrible - especially his call of "and the last horse away is...". I'll mute him.
Ask and thou shall recieve. Happy travels, Vic:) http://www.drf.com/news/tampa-bay-announcer-richard-grunder-returns-booth
want a slow track? visit Laurel or on some days at the synthetics
slow? not really
......And it seems to be a deep, sandy, slow dirt track.
new announcer sux. you must enjoy pizza w/out beer too!
the only thing that the former announcer had GROW on me was cringes, belly laughs and WHAT DID HE SAY?
Thanks for the holiday card, Ashley!
Please bring back Richard Grunder, former announcer. He had that old school tone that grew on you. Unless he retired???
gulfstream park Frank S. trying toi run Quater Horse racing ...this is bad...Magna is bad for racing...look what has happend to Gulfstream park BAD
Great track, one of the best atmospheres in American racing
and they have MahGO too
Great preview, Ashley ... I visited Tampa Bay Downs for the first time for Tampa Bay Derby week, and I absolutely loved the place!
new announcer is much better than his predicessor.

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Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, and it was her love of reading and horses that led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few short years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and get to personally meet and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.


Before joining Horse Racing Nation, Ashley created her own blog Wired with Ashley Paige. The idea to venture into the world of blogging came to her when she realized that she had much to say about horse racing and no one to say it to at the time. Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation blogging as The Florida Filly. Using that moniker, she mainly covered racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues, and from time to time offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry as a whole. A move north to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the new From Coast to Coast blog for HRN, which is simply a revamped version of The Florida Filly. Don't let the new look and name change fool you, though. Ashley still brings to the table the same great coverage as From Coast to Coast as she did for The Florida Filly. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.


An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband Chris and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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