December 10, 2010

Terrific Tampa Poised for Opening Day

Play Ball! Let’s Get Ready to Rumble! Or maybe just a more dignified Call to the Post. Tomorrow is opening day number 85 at Tampa Bay Downs, and the little track in Oldsmar, Florida only seems to be getting better. Fan friendly, betting friendly, and weather friendly, the West Florida oval simply gets it. While some tracks seem to forget that the fans are the most important element in our sport, they prefer to bend over backwards to make it an enjoyable, and hopefully profitable experience had by all. I plan to make the long trip down this Winter to see some great live racing. I hope to see many of you there. Here are just a few why reasons why Tampa Bay Downs should be commended, visited, and supported.

Don’t Pay to Play - I’ve long been an advocate of racetracks not charging admission to get inside the building to spend money. Once again this year, Tampa Bay Downs offers free Grandstand admission and parking. And after you are in the building, they offer $2 pint domestic draft beer specials every weekday afternoon during live racing, and a new rotisserie chicken stand located on the first floor of the Grandstand … if you are into those sort of things.

Reduced Takeouts - When tracks lower takeouts, horse player’s notice. Despite this, it amazes me that many tracks continue to maintain or even raise already high takeouts. The 2010-2011 race meeting will see a decrease in takeout for Pick 3, Pick 4, Super Hi-5 and Pick Six wagering to 18% from last year’s 19% rate. The decrease in takeout is nothing new, but rather a pleasing trend that has been going on for the past several years.

Wagering Offerings - I love the new trend in racing where many tracks have offered lower minimums on exotic wagering. Add Tampa Bay to the list. New this season will be a 50 cent Pick Three wager, which along with 50 cent Pick Fours, 50 cent Trifectas, and 10 cent Superfectas give the little guy, like me, a chance to become more involved in the really big payouts.

Full Fields - If there is one thing I enjoy to see and bet on a race card, it is a full day of large fields. I don’t know about you, but 4 or 5 horse races don’t do it for me. Last year, Tampa Bay Downs had a fantastic average field size of 8.95 horses per race, and they have every intention on bettering that average this year.

and last but certainly not least...

Quality Racing - Once an afterthought of Winter racing, Tampa Bay Downs continues to improve the quality of horses racing there, and is moving up the landscape of major racing. This season’s 91-day meet is highlighted by March 12, with the 31st renewal of Festival Day. The track’s premiere race day features the Tampa Bay Derby, freshly awarded grade 2 status and up to a $350,000 purse for 2011. Last year‘s edition proved to be a real slobberknocker, with Odysseus, Schoolyard Dreams, and future Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver, hitting the wire together. Also on the Festival Day card are the Grade 3 Hillsborough Stakes on the grass, and the Suncoast Stakes for three-year-old fillies. Another notable race is the $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, formerly the Tampa Bay Breeders’ Cup, which was upgraded to grade 3 status for the first time for 2011, following last season’s exciting battle between grade 1 winner Karelian and the likely repeating turf champion, Gio Ponti. Tampa Bay Downs also makes life easy for those watching their quality racing from home with live video streaming of all races and free race replays on their website.


darlene said...

Gee sounds like Heaven for Horse Players So are you going soon or waiting for March

Brian Zipse said...

Possibly February, but most likely March, Darlene.

John said...

You're preaching to the choir, Brian. TB put Gulfstream to shame!!

markinsac said...

Tampa sounds like a good thing. I enjoy betting their races. Don't forget the best winter racing is still in California AND DON'T COME OUT! I'm boycotting California thoroughbreds until they restore the takeout or reduce it more.

My list of fan friendly tracks, not in any particular order:

Keeneland, Del Mar,, Santa Rosa, Canterbury, Arlington, Oaklawn, Saratoga and I'll add Tampa Bay.

Unfriendly: Aqueduct, The track formerly known as Philadelphia Park, Gulfstream (quality racing, but a county fair grandstand. Where are the people supposed to sit?)

markinsac said...

I left out Santa Anita, the epitome of race tracks. I grew up a few miles from SA and was spoiled to see some great racing. Affirmed, Seattle Slew (lose his first race at Hollywood) Spectacular Bid, John Henry, Sunday Silence, Cigar, Curlin, Goldikova and Zenyatta all raced in SoCal.

Santa Anita's location is in a perfect setting in a beautiful part of L.A. The apron is big so you can watch big races right by the finish line and the track utilizes the infield, so you can hook the kids (hopefully tomorrows horse players). I'm not a big fan of Frank Strongarm, but he did put some money into the place and it was a nice touch, while preserving the historic art deco building.

I got a question for you: I've seen videos of old races at Saratoga from the 1970's. Back then they let the fans utilize the infield. Considering the big crowds Saratoga, why did they stop that policy?

One more thing about charging admission: In Los Angeles, both Hollywood are open for sattellite betting or live racing, charging admission and parking. But the Commerce Card Casino located right in between them now also takes sattellite betting, no charge for anything. Needless to say, the book there is jammed pack.

Brian Zipse said...

Mark, I started going to Saratoga in the 70's, and I honestly do not remember the infield being open, or what the reason for closing it was. I enjoy when tracks let fans on the infield. I was actually there for this year's Preakness.

Santa Anita is one of my favorites as well. Early reports seem to be good regarding the new dirt track. Like you, I am surprised and disappointed that the CHRB raised takeouts recently.

markinsac said...

Brian I found the race: youtube search: 1973 Whitney Stakes-Onion beats Secretariat. Notice all the people watching from the infield. Also look at Secretatiat's Preakness. The fans are standing dangerously on the rail, almost petting Secretatiat as he runs by.

PS, how the hell did Secretariat lose to Onion? I'll bet a lot of horseplayers were crying after this one.

Brian Zipse said...

You are right. I am trying to find out more info about the Saratoga infield now.

Are you suggesting that Onion made people cry? LOL. Cleary it was not Big Red's day. Being pinned on the rail was unusual for him ... I wonder if he hated it.