Corporate Name: Tampa Bay Downs, Inc.
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 2007, Oldsmar, Florida 34677
Street Address: 11225 Racetrack Road, Tampa, Florida 33626 (click for map)
Telephone: (813) 855-4401
Fax: (813) 854-3539
Web Site: www.tampabaydowns.com
When Tampa Bay Downs President and Treasurer Stella F. Thayer announced plans to construct a turf course inside the main oval in the spring of 1997, skeptics questioned if it was money well-spent.
The answer is a resounding “YES.” Since staging its first race on the grass on Kentucky Derby Day, May 2, 1998, the 7/8-mile grass track, complete with a ¼-mile chute, is one of the most popular turf courses in North America. On any given racing day, a turf event at Tampa Bay Downs may feature several horses from the most prominent stables in the country.
In 2010, Christophe Clement sent Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti to Tampa Bay Downs to prepare for the Dubai World Cup. Two years later, the Chad Brown-trained mare Zagora won both the Grade III Endeavour and Grade III Hillsborough Stakes on the Tampa Bay Downs lawn, springboards to her 2012 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf victory and subsequent Eclipse Champion Grass Mare trophy. The Lambholn South Tampa Bay Derby, now a Grade II $350,000 race, has produced two of the last nine Kentucky Derby winners: Street Sense in 2007 and Super Saver in 2010.
Previously known far and wide as the only Thoroughbred track on the west coast of Florida, Tampa Bay Downs has grown by leaps and bounds since opening in 1926. No longer is it a sleepy stopover for horsemen preparing for Northern meets or a pleasant off-day diversion for sportswriters covering spring training baseball.
Entering its 90th anniversary season of racing, which runs from July 1–June 30, Tampa Bay Downs continues its pattern of progress and innovation. Among numerous recent upgrades, one of the most noticeable to fans and horsemen is the introduction of Trakus, the electronic system which displays the positions of each horse during a race on the television monitors.
On the structural front, Tampa Bay Downs is in the early stages of a “green initiative” that could lead to a net-zero environmental impact in future years. Improvements include a CREE LED lighting system in the clubhouse, the addition of a Gaco Sil S-20 “Cool Roof” coating system and a state-of-the-art geothermal HVAC system designed to save energy and costs while requiring virtually no maintenance.
After Thayer took full control of the track in 1986, six years after the name was changed from Florida Downs to Tampa Bay Downs to reflect the rapid growth of the tri-county area and beyond, change started coming quickly.
In 1988, when late Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens brought his Triple Crown candidate, Cefis, to contest the Tampa Bay Derby, rival horsemen took notice. The sand-based Tampa Bay Downs dirt track has a well-deserved reputation for getting runners fit, and the proof is in the upgrades in the track’s extensive stakes program.
In 1990, Tampa Bay Downs was the first track in Florida to conduct inter-track wagering (ITW) when it accepted the simulcast signal from Calder Race Course in Miami.
Tampa Bay Downs opened the Downs Golf Practice Facility in the spring of 2003, and it has blossomed into a favorite destination for both local players and visitors seeking to lower their handicaps. Area poker fans enjoyed the debut of the Silks Poker Room in 2004. It is open for no-limit games daily from 10 a.m.–4 a.m.
Prior to the 2009–10 meeting, Tampa Bay Downs affiliated itself with the Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa (TROT), a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to repurposing Tampa Bay Downs Thoroughbreds into show and pleasure horses, after their racetrack careers end.
The 2009-10 season also saw the arrival of Mouse, a rescued Miniature Horse who serves as the Tampa Bay Downs mascot and interacts splendidly with patrons of all ages. The track also has an active social media following, with profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
In addition to the Grade II $350,000 Lambholn South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, the 2015-16 stakes schedule included another Grade II and four Grade III events. The Grade II $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares and the Grade III $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, both on the turf were also contested on March 12.
The $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds and the $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf were run on February 3, as was the $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for horses 4 years and older.
Tampa Bay Downs stages its lucrative Florida Cup Day on April 9, with six races for registered Florida-bred horses offering a total of $450,000.
Officers: Stella F. Thayer, President and Treasurer; Peter N. Berube, Vice President and General Manager; Howell Ferguson, Vice President and Secretary; Greg Gelyon, Vice President of Finance; Margo Flynn, Vice President of Marketing & Publicity; Tom McLaughlin, Vice President of Facilities and Track Surfaces
Legal Counsel: Macfarlane, Ferguson & McMullen
Director of Racing: Allison De Luca
Mutuels Manager: Frank White
Director of Admissions: Melissa Wirth
Director of Group Sales: Nicole McGill
Security: Deanna Nicol
Track Announcer: Richard Grunder
Association Veterinarians: Robert Calley, D.V.M; Kristen Pastir, D.V.M.; Nancy Davis, D.V.M.
Track Photographer: Stephanie Valenti
Director of Food Services: Andy York
Nearest Cities: Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater; Total Population, 3,000,000
Nearest Airport: Tampa International Airport, 8 miles from track
Track Data: 1-mile track, 3/8-mile and 7/8-mile chutes; homestretch 976 feet; loam and sand soil composition; turf course: 7/8 mile with a ¼-mile chute located inside main track; stable accommodations for 1,400 horses
Seating Accommodations: Grandstand, 4,300; Clubhouse, 1,700
Price of Admission: Grandstand, $2; Clubhouse, $3; free grandstand admission on weekdays
Parking: Capacity, 5,000; free general parking, valet, $5
Dress Requirements: Gentlemen, collared shirts required in Skye Terrace Dining Room; no shorts permitted for gentlemen or ladies
Simulcast Information: Open year-round; full-card simulcasting of Thoroughbred, harness, greyhound and jai-alai signals day and evening seven days a week except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday