Best Horse Races At Tampa Bay Downs
Tampa Bay Downs is one of the most famous racetracks in the United States. It was opened in 1926, and is now home to a number of the most illustrious races on the stakes calendar.
Located in the area of Oldsmar, Florida, fans can see racing action on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between November and May. You can check a more complete Tampa Bay Downs 2021-2022 Stakes Schedule here.
Still, what are the standout meetings on the calendar for fans looking to go to Tampa Bay Downs?
Tampa Bay Derby
There are two Grade 2s that take place annually at Tampa Bay Downs, and the most popular of those is the Tampa Bay Derby. The main reason for its popularity is due to its increased profile of importance as a prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. It is run over a distance of 1 1/16 miles on the dirt, and horses aged three are able to enter.
The race has offered a purse of $400,000 since 2018. It wasn’t until 2011 when the race was upgraded to Grade 2 status, before that it was a Grade 3 between 1984 and 2010. Tactius for trainer William Mott holds the record for the fastest time, as his win in 2019 clocked a finishing time of 1:41.90. Helium won the race in 2021 for trainer Mark Casse.
The other Grade 2 on the Tampa Bay Downs calendar is the Hillsborough Stakes, which is run in March. Unlike the Tampa Bay Derby, this race is run over a distance of 1 1/8 miles on turf, and fillies and mares aged four and older are eligible to enter. It is also slightly less lucrative, as the race offers a purse of $225,000. The first renewal of the race took place in March 1999 and was won by odds-on favorite Pleasant Temper.
However, the inaugural running was staged over 1 1/16 miles, and was increased in 2004 to the current distance. In 2004, it was also run as a Grade 3 for the first time, before it was upgraded to Grade 2 status in 2016. One of the most famous winners of the race was Zagora.
The filly won the race in 2012, before winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf later in the season and capturing the Eclipse Award. Tepin holds the speed record over the current distance, as she clocked 1:46.26 when winning in 2016.
Sam F. Davis Stakes
One of the first big battles on the Road to the Kentucky Derby takes place at Tampa Bay Downs, as the Sam F. Davis takes place annually in February. The race is run over a distance of 1 1/16 miles, and three-year-olds can enter the race with a purse of $250,000 available to winning connections. It is the logical prep race for the Tampa Bay Derby, which means we often see many runners involved in the Grade 3 return a month later to run in the featured race on the Tampa Bay Downs calendar.
The Sam F. Davis has been a Grade 3 since being upgraded in 2009. Flameaway won the race in a record time of 1:42.44 in 2018, while the biggest winning margin was set in 1999 by San Gennaro, as he finished 6 ¾ lengths clear of the field.
John Velazquez has ridden the most winners in this race, as he has been onboard the winner on four occasions. Todd Pletcher is the most successful trainer, having recorded six winners. The most recent horse to have won the Sam F. Davis was Classic Causeway, who now looks to be a leading player for the Tampa Bay Derby, as well as the Kentucky Derby.
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