09/24/2004 12:00AM

Festival Day shifted


The Grade 3, $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby is the highlight of a $2.1 million stakes schedule for the 2004-2005 Tampa Bay Downs meeting, which begins on Dec. 11.

The derby is the focal point of the track's signature event, Festival Day, which also includes the $150,000 Florida Oaks, the Grade 3, $125,000 Hillsborough Stakes, and the $75,000 Holiday Inn Express Turf Dash. Traditionally run on the third Sunday in March, the day after Gulfstream Park's Grade 1 Florida Derby, Festival Day has been moved forward one day and will be held on Saturday, March 19.

Due to its graded status, the Tampa Bay Derby has taken on added importance among Kentucky Derby prep races over the past several winters and this year will avoid direct conflict with the Florida Derby, which has been moved to April 2.

Other noteworthy events are the $450,000 Florida Cup Day, six races for Florida-breds on April 9; the Grade 3, $100,000 Endeavour Stakes on Feb. 12; and the $100,000 Sam Davis Stakes on Feb. 26.

Noteworthy improvements geared toward horsemen include a new winner's circle, new receiving barn, and a new entrance to the stable gate.