Among the first trainers to set up their stable was Robert Jeffries, President of the Tampa Bay Downs National Horsemen’s Benevolence & Protective Association, who escorted Pitchnicholas into stall 50 in Barn 22. “He was in this stall last year, and he loves it. He’s a really curious horse, and he can watch all the comings and goings from here,” said Jeffries. He went on to express his pleasure at returning to Tampa Bay Downs.
Other returning trainers such as Lloyd Lockhart and Ron Allen, Sr. also came in this morning, and were busy setting up their stables in anticipation of their trainees’ arrivals. Lloyd Lockhart finished in the top 20 trainers in the recent Suffolk Downs meet, and Allen enjoyed finishing the Pinnacle Race Course meet as the third leading trainer overall as well as a top-20 finish at Presque Isle Downs.
Training over the main track begins tomorrow, November 14, and the first day of the live racing season is December 13, 2008; the meet will continue with 94 days of live action through May 3, 2009. Tampa Bay Downs’s daily purse structure mirrors that of last season; and the stakes schedule includes a $25,000 increase to February 14, 2009’s Sam F. Davis Stakes, a race rapidly gaining importance to three-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail. Tampa Bay Downs Vice President and General Manager Peter Berube said of the purse increase to the $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, “Each year, where it’s warranted, we try to increase the value of key stakes races to help us maintain or receive Graded status on deserving races. This year we are cautiously optimistic that the Sam F. Davis will be favorably evaluated.”
Condition books and the stakes and racing schedules are available online at http://www.tampabaydowns.com. Opening Day’s festivities will include the track’s annual Breakfast at the Downs from 8:00 AM through 10:00 AM. The morning includes a full hot breakfast buffet, Grandstand admission as well as a handicapping seminar as the horses take their morning workouts. Jockeys and trainers will be on hand throughout the breakfast to talk to fans and share stories. Opening Day also features the $65,000 Lightning City Stakes, a 5 furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares three years old and upward.