04/28/2004 11:00PM

Tampa Bay: Restage heads Thomas


OLDSMAR, Fla. - The live racing season at Tampa Bay Downs moves into its final weekend Saturday with a 13-race card that is highlighted by the first running of the $60,000 Chris Thomas Memorial Turf Stakes.

The headliner, renamed from the Columbia Stakes in honor of the late local sportscaster and racing enthusiast Chris Thomas, will be run at nine furlongs on the infield course and has drawn a field of 11 locally based grass specialists.

Heading the field will be Restage, a Repriced gelding who led from start to finish to post a nose victory in a strong field in the $75,000 Cherokee Farm Turf Classic on Florida Cup Day.

Jesus Castanon, who is locked up in a battle for leading rider honors with T.D. Houghton, will ride Restage again at 123 pounds under the allowance conditions of the feature.

Among the challengers is the Tom Proctor-trained Guardianofthegate, winner of last year's Columbia Stakes. Guardianofthegate, who was in the thick of things to the final furlong of the Cherokee Farm Turf Classic, will be ridden by Houghton at 117 pounds. Guardianofthegate will be going for his 11th turf win from 25 starts.

First-race post time is 12 noon.