01/10/2004 1:00AM

And now - a better view


OLDSMAR, FLA. - The face of racing has changed dramatically since the advent of full-card simulcasting. It used to be most customers were at the track watching races live, but these days the majority of money bet at any given track comes from bettors at outlets around the country.

That's why the quality of a track's video package is critical.

Tampa Bay Downs management and SportView T.V., the track's video provider, have been working for several years to upgrade and modernize the video presentation of the races here. Last season, the viewing experience of ontrack fans was enhanced with the addition of the Dackboard, a large video screen above the tote board that provides a big-screen view of the races as well as special sporting events.

This season, one improvement is a new video graphics package that shows probable payoffs along with an eye-catching color scheme. Fans also get to view the horses from the time they arrive in the paddock until they go into the gate.

Once the race starts, players gets a split-screen view, with one half showing the leaders up close and the other half showing a wide-angle pan shot of the field. Unlike at many other tracks, the close-up picture here is tight enough for horseplayers to identify the horses by the color-coded saddle cloths and jockeys' caps.

"We try very hard to give several shots of each horse at different points from the post parade to the gate," said Bob Lapp, who has run the SportView operation here since 1990. "The fans have told us it is important to see the horses warm up, so that's what we try to give them.

"Of course, we still try to take care of our ontrack fans, and have over 700 TV's in service throughout the facility. We know the racing fan is constantly searching for information of some sort or another, and we try to make as much of that information available to them in as simple a format as possible."

Good-looking maiden winners

There have been several sparkling efforts by horses leaving the maiden ranks here this meeting, but two performances, one on the dirt and another on the turf, were particularly stunning. On Jan. 3, Andiamo rumbled down the lane like a train in his debut, winning by more than 11 lengths and covering the seven furlongs over a fast but dull racing strip in 1:25.08.

Trainer Mike Zwiesler, who had told friends before the race he didn't know what to expect from the colt because he was so "lackadaisical" in morning drills, was forced to rethink his plans.

"We usually like to take horses through their conditions, but this one showed me so much we're going to nominate him to some 3-year-old stakes, like the Pasco on January 17th," said Zwiesler of Andiamo, owned by Sarah Farish.

Another stylish maiden winner was Cullen, who was shuffled back to last, had to swing six wide, and still blew the doors off his competition on the turf here New Year's Day. He could see action in the Budweiser Challenger Stakes on the turf here March 6.