Updated on 01/11/2011 2:41PM

Tampa cuts back on races to keep quality up

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OLDSMAR, Fla. – Tampa Bay Downs has been carding smaller racing programs since the meet began Dec. 11.

“Tampa is no different than the rest of the country in that the poor economy has affected our racing program in several different ways,” said Allison Deluca, racing secretary at Tampa Bay Downs. “For starters, more and more owners of cheaper claiming horses are either getting out of the business or cutting back drastically, and that hurts us because claiming horses are the backbone of most racing programs, ours included.

“Then there are stables who used to ship south who are staying up north because tracks where they race in the summer have added slot machines or other forms of gambling, and the purses are such that it makes more sense to save on the expense of shipping and stay up north. That has impacted us as well”

Deluca said the quality of racing has been better than in past years.

“We’re not running 11-race cards on Saturdays for one, but we are trying to give the fans 10 good, competitive fields instead of an 11-race card with mediocre runners.” Deluca said. “We’re trying to keep the quality up, and hopefully with Calder closing, we’ll get a boost in our horse population and the racing can get even better.”

Little Nick eyes Turf Dash after win

Little Nick may have earned himself a spot in the $75,000 Turf Dash here Feb. 19 with his decisive front-running win over allowance rivals going five furlongs on the turf last Friday.

Trained by Anthony Quartarolo, Little Nick led throughout under Deshawn Parker and came home in 11.84 seconds for the final furlong while posting a final time of 57.50. Winner of the $150,000 Calder Turf Sprint in 2009, Little Nick has now won four of his last five outings.

Parker, the rider who led the country in races won with 377 victories in 2010, is riding here regularly for the first time while Mountaineer Park is dark during January and February.

◗ There’s nothing more satisfying than breeding a horse, raising and developing it, bringing it to the races, and watching her win. That was the case when K. David Schwartz sent out Annabel Lee to an impressive win over turf maidens going 1 1/16 miles Friday. Schwartz trains Annabel Lee and bred the J Town filly with Sarah G. Schwartz.

◗ Jockey David McFadden is riding here regularly for the first time. McFadden may move to Indiana Downs when this meet concludes. Jockey Irwin Rosendo, who won 87 races last year and finished fourth last season at Delaware Park while riding primarily for trainer Scott Lake, also is here this meeting.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the average number of starters per race at the meet that started Dec. 10. The article reported that field size at the Tampa meet for the first 16 race days, through Jan. 10, 2011, was down when compared with similar dates – the first 17 days – of the 2009-2010 meeting. In fact, field size at the current Tampa meet has increased, averaging 9.43 starters per race compared with 8.96 starters a year ago – a 5.2 percent gain. Although the article intended to address the horse shortage that has affected any number of tracks, it was flawed and inaccurate in its premise, lacking the statistics necessary to support its contention and failing to meet DRF’s standard of reporting.