Tampa Bay Downs has been an integral part of Tampa Bay’s history since its opening in 1926. The Downs is the only Thoroughbred race track on the west coast of Florida and is the premier multi-entertainment facility on Florida's west coast. The Downs features The Silks Poker Room and The Downs Golf Practice Facility in addition to hosting several special events and family-friendly activities throughout the racing season. The Downs will celebrate its 94th anniversary season this year!
Off to the races!
The racetrack originally opened under the name Tampa Downs and was also known as Sunshine Park and as Florida Downs and Turf Club. The main track is a 1-mile dirt oval with a 7-furlong chute, and Tampa Bay Downs also boasts a 7-furlong turf course with a quarter-mile chute. During the season, there are races most Wednesdays, Fridays, and weekends from the end of November to the beginning of May. The biggest racing day of the season is the annual Festival Day celebration, to be held on Saturday, March 7. It is headlined by the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-olds, and includes five stakes races worth a combined $1-million. Other major racing days include Florida Cup Day on Sunday, March 29 and the May 2 card, highlighted by the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby.
Tampa Bay Downs has played a major role in some key horses' journey to the Kentucky Derby. Three Kentucky Derby winners have competed at Tampa Bay Downs. That select group includes the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby winner, Street Sense; 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, who finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby; and 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.
The turf course, which opened in 1998, is considered one of the best in the country and attracts numerous horses from top stables. Major turf stakes include the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks; the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes; and the Grade III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes.
Silks Poker Room opened in 2003 and hosts a variety of high-stake poker games and tournaments. Since its opening, Silks has become a very popular place for visitors to gather and play.
The Downs Golf Practice Facility
The 22-acre, fully-lighted facility consists of a 270-yard driving range for full-swing shots, plus putting, short-game and bunker areas. You'll find a fully-stocked pro shop, snack bar, and wagering terminals. The range opened in 2003 and also has teaching pros for anyone interested in perfecting their game. Golfest, Tampa Bay's largest golf expo of equipment, guest speakers and entertainment is scheduled February 22-23, 2020. Weather permitting, the range is open from 8:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. daily.
Throughout the November - May racing season, Tampa Bay Downs hosts at least 20 different events, including some fan favorites like Festival Day, Florida Cup Day, and the Kentucky Derby Day. Four Kids & Family Days are held on Sundays throughout the year and feature pony rides, face painting and bounce houses.
The track's College Day Contest is open to high school seniors who compete for five $2,000 scholarships. Participants write essays on how they’d market the horse racing industry to their generation. The Downs partners with the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation in awarding scholarships to the winners.
Another annual event that has become a fan favorite is the staging of the Corgi Races, to be held on April 18 after the horse racing action.
Whether you want to watch or bet on premier horse racing at the track, enjoy a good poker game, practice your golf game, or attend a family-friendly event, there is always something for everyone at Tampa Bay Downs!
For more news on the racing calendar, dining options, or frequently asked questions, contact Tampa Bay Downs at 813.855.4401 or toll-free at 866.TBDOWNS. They're located at 11225 Race Track Road in Tampa. More information can also be found on www.tampabaydowns.com.
Photos courtesy of 813area and Tampa Bay Downs