Horses are back on the track for training at Tampa Bay Downs, where racing will resume on Saturday Nov. 25.
Tampa Bay Downs will have racing at least three days a week through next May 6. Most weeks, it will have racing four days—usually Wednesdays and then Fridays through Sundays.
The 2017-2018 meet will have the richest stakes schedule in the Oldsmar, Fla., track’s 92-year history. It will have 28 stakes races, with total purses of $3.65 million. The previous record was in 2016-2017, with 24 stakes and just under $3.0 million in purses.
In an article later this week, we will have additional details on the Tampa Bay Downs 2017-2018 stakes schedule.
A busy four weeks of preparing for the meet began on Oct. 30, when management opened the stable gates to arriving horses. It is expected that all 1,250 stalls will be filled by the end of this month.
Last Monday, Nov. 6, was the first day that horses were allowed on the track for training.
The first trainer to arrive, shortly after 6:00 a.m. on Oct. 30, was Bobby Raymond.
He came in with a van carrying eleven horses from Delaware Park in Stanton, Del. About an hour after Raymond’s arrival at Barn 5, huge vans began pulling up to the stable gate entrance to join the cast of competitors.
While the turf course at Tampa Bay Downs has garnered widespread acclaim, Raymond is equally impressed with the main dirt track.
“Those guys do great work,” Raymond said of Tom McLaughlin, vice president of facilities and track surfaces, his top assistant Scott Moore and their team.
“When you tell them the track is too hard or too fast, they do something to fix it,” added Raymond, who is entering his 15th season as a trainer at Tampa Bay Downs.
Last season, Raymond had 90 starters at Tampa Bay Downs. He had eight wins, four second place finishes and twelve third place finishes.
Most of the trainers who topped last season’s list also will be back at Tampa By Downs in 2017-2018.
That includes Gerald Bennett who led with 50 wins and Kathleen O’Connell who was second with 35 wins in 2016-2017.
O’Connell said she plans to have about 40 horses stabled at Tampa Bay Downs, similar to 2016-2017.
As in previous winters, O’Connell also will keep a string of horses at Calder in Miami Gardens. Those horses will compete in the 2017-2018 Gulfstream Park championship meet in Hallandale Beach. That meet will open Dec. 2.
Gulfstream Park runs the Gulfstream Park West meet, held at Calder, which will end Nov. 26.