For the first time in the 87-year history of the track, a card will feature three graded stakes, worth a combined $550,000 in purse money.
Also on the Festival Preview Day card are the 30th renewal of the Grade III, $150,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf and the 14th annual Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward on the turf.
Both the Florida Oaks and the Endeavour Stakes are run at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
Nominations for the three races closed Saturday in the track racing office. The Florida Oaks drew 37 nominees and the Endeavour attracted 28.
Owners and trainers of horses not nominated by the deadline have the option of entering by paying a $3,000 supplemental fee.
Shanghai Bobby – owned in partnership by Starlight Racing, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor and Derrick Smith – is one of three Todd Pletcher-trained horses nominated to the Davis. Pletcher has won four of the past seven editions of the Davis, most recently with Brethren in 2011.
A Kentucky-bred son of Harlan’s Holiday-Steelin,’ by Orientate, Shanghai Bobby forged a perfect 5-for-5 record while being ridden in all five starts by Rosie Napravnik. He showed exceptional courage in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, staving off He’s Had Enough by a head while running without Lasix for the first time.
Shanghai Bobby, who also won the Grade I Champagne at Belmont and the Grade II Hopeful at Saratoga, received 253 of 254 Eclipse Award votes in the 2-Year-Old Male category.
Hall of Fame conditioner Nick Zito leads the Davis list with seven nominees, including two apiece from the stables of Marylou Whitney and Robert LaPenta. Trainers Mark Casse and Kenneth McPeek have nominated five each.
Casse’s nominees include the first two finishers in the $100,000 Pasco Stakes on Jan. 12 at Tampa Bay Downs, Dynamic Sky and Sky Commander, both owned by John C. Oxley. The Casse-trained Prospective, now a 4-year-old, ran second in last year’s Davis after winning the Pasco, then won the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby.
Other stakes winners nominated to the Davis include the Jane Cibelli-trained Purple Egg, winner of the Dec. 1 Inaugural at Tampa Bay Downs; Display Stakes winner Avie’s Quality, trained by Josie Carroll; Gulfstream Park Derby winner Itsmyluckyday, trained by Edward Plesa, Jr.; Plesa’s Speak Logistics, winner of the In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes; and Seacliff Stakes winner Sr. Quisqueyano, from the barn of Luis Olivares.
The Florida Oaks, first run in 1984, carried Grade III status from 1996-2003 and again from 2008-2010. The American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association restored the graded designation at its annual meeting, a direct reflection of the track’s decision to move the race to the turf course in 2011.
Casse, who won the 2012 Florida Oaks with the Oxley-owned Dixie Strike, has nominated three fillies to this year’s renewal, headed by Gary Barber and Stoneway Farm LLC’s Spring Venture. She won two graded stakes at Woodbine as a 2-year-old, one on turf and the other on the synthetic surface.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has nominated Bluegrass Hall LLC’s Broken Spell, who finished second in the Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland. Other top nominees include Ireland-bred stakes winner Tuttipaesi, from the barn of H. Graham Motion; multiple-stakes winner Martha’s Moon, trained by John Servis; and Glorious Song stakes winner Leinan, trained by Josie Carroll.
Last year’s Endeavour Stakes winner, Zagora, capped her marvelous career by winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita. She was honored Saturday night with an Eclipse Award as Champion Female Turf Horse.
Zagora has been retired, but her trainer, Chad Brown, has nominated three horses to the 2013 Endeavour. Included in Brown’s arsenal is Ireland-bred 5-year-old Dealbata, owned by Zagora’s former owner, Martin Schwartz.
Other top Endeavour nominees include the Stanley I. Gold-trained Florida-bred Awesome Belle, who has won four consecutive starts; 2011 Queen’s Plate winner Inglorious, trained by Josie Carroll; and Brazilian Group I winner Old Tune, from the Todd Pletcher barn.
When the 2012 Eclipse Awards were announced Saturday night, Tampa Bay Downs fans celebrated Trinniberg capturing the Male Sprinter category and commiserated with Midwest Thoroughbreds finishing second in the Owner category.
Trinniberg’s regular jockey, Willie Martinez, gained his first career victory in 1989 at Tampa Bay Downs and won the 1991-92 season title with a then-record 123 victories. Martinez, who still calls Tampa Bay Downs home, won the Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on now-4-year-old Trinniberg last year, in addition to three other graded stakes.
Trinniberg received 233 votes, winning in a landslide over Shackleford (11).
Midwest Thoroughbreds, operated by Rich Papiese, received 50 votes to finish second to Godolphin Racing (138). It marked the second consecutive runner-up finish for Midwest, which set a national record in 2012 with 542 victories.
Midwest’s main trainer, Jamie Ness, received two votes in the Outstanding Trainer category, won by Dale Romans.
Daniel Centeno, Ronnie Allen, Jr., and Scott Spieth each rode two winners on Sunday’s card. Centeno leads the track standings with 32 winners and Allen is fourth with 16 winners. Spieth is fifth with 13.
In the eighth race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf, Centeno piloted the H. Graham Motion-trained 3-year-old filly Rusty Slipper to her second triumph at Tampa Bay Downs in as many starts.
The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid-Classic Approval, by With Approval, completed the distance in 1:43.65 for owner Zamin Meahjohn. Another Motion runner, Sea of Laughter, finished second.
Beginning this week, Tampa Bay Downs will offer live racing five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, through March 3. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.