Tampa Bay Downs is doesn’t feature the pedigreed runners of many of the the A list tracks around the country. However, thanks to a huge investment in winter turf racing, it is one of the best betting products around.
Evolution of Tampa Bay Downs
A Cut Below
If you had asked horse players 20 years ago where they spend their winter wagering dollar, Tampa Bay Downs would not have been the first place people mentioned. The all dirt racing featured mostly bottom barrel claimers that left it in the wake of other premier winter dirt meets.
The track could hardly compete with the other southwest racing venues like Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, and Gulfstream which were all just a few hours drive from the race course. Something needed to change
In 1998 Tampa Bay Downs made a change installing a 7/8ths turf course inside the main track oval. This instantly created separation from the all-dirt Oaklawn Park. The condition of the turf course which is aided by fewer racing days helped to create a more fair turf surface than the grass at Gulfstream Park. The Gulfstream turf is often mockingly call the “durf course” by many horse players because it plays more like a dirt course as it dries out from overuse.
Finding a Niche
The end result of installing turf at Tampa Bay Downs was a smashing success. It quickly became a favorite of big name turf trainers during the winter months. This led to massive fields seldom seen anywhere else in the country.
With bigger fields and the natural chaos of turf racing, payouts were astronomical. Horse players flocked to the track to take a swing at the big prizes.
No Fans, No Problem
Since 1998 the popularity of winter turf racing at Tampa Bay Downs has only continued to grow.
Despite having to limit capacity over the past two years due to the pandemic, Tampa has seen a 20 percent increase in overall handle in each of those campaigns bringing in an incredible $394 million in the 2020-2021 season. As a point of reference internal documents show the 1997-1998 season recorded a handle of just over $39 million.
The record handle has allowed the track to make some significant upgrades to their facilities which debut last week on opening day.
Wednesday Tampa Bay Analysis
Tampa Bay Downs Race 1
Post: 12:25 PM ET; Purse: $16,500 Maiden Claiming, 7 Furlongs on Dirt; Entries: 7
#3 FROLIC MAN (5-2) makes sense here given the connections & early pace numbers. #6 SUMMER BOSS (7-2) should also be competitive. #4 MINISTER QUINN (5-1) merits consideration in this spot given edges in speed & form. #5 AGENT COOPER (3-1) is worth a look here given the projected trip this one looks to get.
Tampa Bay Downs Race 2
Post: 12:55 PM ET; Purse: $15,600 Claiming, 7 Furlongs on Dirt; Entries: 6
#6 LOVIN LIVIN (9-2) is in with a big shot given the recent speed figures & class level. #2 LA CASTIGLIONE (5-2) is in with a great chance based on the horse’s foundation which may carry the extra distance in this elongated sprint. #5 BE BOP A LOLA (2-1) makes sense as well given the recent form & power rating. #4 LETS TAKE IT IZZY (4-1) will be near the lead early and could try to take them all the way around.
Tampa Bay Downs Race 3
Post: 1:25 PM ET; Purse: $13,000 Claiming, 1 mile 40 Yards on Dirt; Entries: 7
#5 MITZRAYIM (5-2) is in with a great chance based on the horse’s advantages in class & power rating. #6 AYCAPOTE (7-2) merits consideration in this spot given edges in speed & form. #4 FREE FLAYME (9-2) could get a perfect pace scenario today. #7 THREEOHTWOCASSIE (2-1) will likely have the stamina to outlast these in the final jumps of the race.
Tampa Bay Downs Race 4
Post: 1:55 PM ET; Purse: $14,500 Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 Miles on Turf; Entries: 14
#10 DECEIVER (4-1) is worth a look here given the connections & the recent form. #5 UNIQUE PATH (9-2) should be competitive based on the overall power rating which has it tops in the group. #6 SETTE STELLE (9-2) should be in the right spot early to give this horse a chance to get the job done. #8 SPIRITUAL KING (7-2) has edges in speed & stamina which should help as they turn for home.
Tampa Bay Downs Race 5
Post: 2:25 PM ET; Purse: $14,500 Waiver Maiden Claiming, 6 Furlongs on Dirt; Entries: 8
#4 CHILLIN LADY (5-2) has kept the best company of late and looks to be cycling up to a big run. #2 DARESCA (6-1) merits consideration in this spot given her early speed and overall numbers. #3 TRULY A DREAM (9-5) has the best breeding in the group and is well thought of by the morning line maker. #5 DOES SHE KNOW (20-1) has run against decent horses thus far and may get a bit of relief here. If she hits the board, it will pay.
Tampa Bay Downs Race 6
Post: 2:55 PM ET; Purse: $29,000 Allowance Optional Claiming, 5 Furlongs on Turf; Entries: 8
#4 THE CRITICAL WAY (3-5) is a stakes winner on the Tampa Bay Downs turf. It would seem like this is a paid workout for things to come later in the season. #8 BABY BOOMER (6-1) is proven as a good bet to at least hit the board under today’s distance and surface conditions. #1 CHESS MASTER (6-1) could get a perfect pace scenario today. #5 JAZZY TIMES (4-1) is a likely one to find a way into the number.
Selections: 4-8-1-5 (Best Bet: #4)
Tampa Bay Downs Race 7
Post: 3:25 PM ET; Purse: $28,000 Allowance Optional Claiming, 7 Furlongs on Dirt; Entries: 7
With a heavy favorite in race 6, I will look to link that one up with a longshot in daily doubles to increase value. #2 HANNAH DANCES (8-1) has a great shot in the race given the advantages in speed & class entering today’s event. #3 SAY MOI (7-2) looks to have to have kept good company in the previous starts and has a shot here too. #4 STRIKING CHROME (3-1) is proven at the distance and may be able to outlast this bunch late. #6 CLAY’S MOON STONE (4-1) has to be respected based on the connections.
Tampa Bay Downs Race 8
Post: 3:55 PM ET; Purse: $16,600 Claiming, 1 Mile on Turf; Entries: 10
#6 THAT QUALITY (3-1) is in with a great chance based on the horse’s advantages in stamina & power rating. #4 MYSTERY BANK (9-2) also deserves a look based class & current form. #2 STYNER (10-1) is worth a look here given the connections & record at the distance. #10 MARV’S MAGIC (6-1) should be competitive based on speed figures.
Tampa Bay Downs Race 9
Post: 4:25 PM ET; Purse: $16,600 Claiming, 1 Mile on Turf; Entries: 11
#6 DREAM LINER (5-2) has a great shot in the race given the advantages in speed & class. #1 THROWN FOR A LOUPE (4-1) is another likely horse to find the winner’s circle. #11 ROARING RIVER (2-1) is proven as a good bet to at least hit the board under today’s distance and surface conditions. #7 FARM STRONG (8-1) will likely have the stamina edge on the field which can be a vital part of turf racing at Tampa Bay Downs.
Handicapping Help this Weekend
The Tampa Bay Downs meet will roll on throughout the weekend. Although written analysis is only available for Wednesday’s card, the Betting News free handicapping tools will be available for each and every race day from Oldsmar, Florida.