09/25/2013 1:14PM

Tampa Bay Downs moves Florida Oaks to Tampa Bay Derby card


The biggest day at Tampa Bay Downs will get even bigger next winter with the addition of the Grade 3 Florida Oaks to the traditional Festival Day program, which features the meet’s marquee race, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. The 2013-2014 Tampa Bay Downs meeting opens Dec. 4.

The 2014 Festival Day card, to be run on March 8, will now offer three graded stakes events topped by the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, which will again be one of the races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby point series. Verrazano remained undefeated with his easy victory in the 2013 Tampa Derby.

The Florida Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies, was awarded Grade 3 status for 2014 and has had its purse raised from $150,000 to $200,000. The Oaks will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough, for older fillies and mares on the grass, will also be decided on Festival day.

“Moving the Florida Oaks to Festival Day enables us to showcase many of the country’s best 3-year-olds of both sexes, as well as some of the sport’s top older female turf stars in the Hillsborough, on a single afternoon,” said Peter Berube, the general manager of Tampa Bay Downs. “This will generate a heightened level of excitement for our longtime fans, simulcast bettors, and individuals who are new to the sport. With three graded stakes alone offering $700,000 in purses, we can confidently say March 8 will be one of our best days ever.”

Other highlights on the 2013-14 stakes schedule include the Grade 3 Endeavour for fillies and mares on the turf on Jan. 25 and a pair of Grade 3 races, the $250,000 Sam F. Davis and the $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, on the Festival Preview card to be held on Feb. 1.