05/10/2017 1:16PM

Tampa Bay adds two Florida Sire Stakes to schedule

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OLDSMAR, Fla. – Gulfstream Park’s loss is a gain for Tampa Bay Downs.

Tampa Bay Downs will host a pair of Florida Sire Stakes for the first time at its 2017-18 meet, with each seven-furlong race worth $125,000 and open to 3-year-olds sired by eligible Florida stallions. The FTBOA City of Ocala, for fillies, and the FTBOA Marion County, for colts and geldings, will be run Dec. 16. They will share a card with Tampa’s two $100,000, six-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds, the Inaugural, for males, and the Sandpiper, for fillies.

The two new stakes races were formed by the partnership of Tampa Bay Downs, its local Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association. They will take the place of the six Florida Sire Stakes for 3-year-olds that were run at Gulfstream Park in 2016 but are not being renewed this year. Gulfstream still will host the six FSS races for 2-year-olds this summer and fall.

The eight-race FSS series in 2017 will be worth $1.75 million, while the 12-race series in 2016 was worth $2.9 million. The races for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream were scrapped this year because the FTBOA, Gulfstream Park, and the Florida HBPA couldn’t reach an agreement to fund them.

“We hope that they happen again in the future,” FTBOA chief executive Lonny Powell said of the discontinued races for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream. “The Gulfstream program started out for 2-year-olds, and it remains the most lucrative 2-year-old program for statebreds in the country. My dream would be that we could eventually expand the 3-year-old program almost to a year-round basis, with summers at Gulfstream and then winters at Tampa. I also would like to see it expand into older-horse divisions or things like marathon distances and turf.”

The FSS series, inaugurated in 1982, originally featured just the six stakes for juveniles at Calder Race Course, now Gulfstream Park West. Since 2014, the races have been held exclusively at Gulfstream, with the six stakes for 3-year-olds added to the schedule in 2015. The races are open to horses bred in any state as long as they are sired by eligible Florida stallions.

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Peter Berube, the vice president and general manager of Tampa Bay Downs, said the two FSS races are “a welcome addition to our stakes schedule.”

“By running the FSS races on our Cotillion Festival Day, which will include both the Inaugural Stakes and the Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-olds, we believe we can provide maximum exposure for many of the leading Florida-sired horses in training and make more people aware of the benefits of breeding in Florida and racing at Tampa Bay Downs,” he said in a statement.