A Guide to Horse Racing In Tampa

Tampa Bay Downs is one of the premier horse racing venues in Florida and attracts thousands of visitors each year. The track is located in Hillsborough County, on the outskirts of Tampa, and offers regular race days for thoroughbred horses in the region. Whether you’re a seasoned horse racing enthusiast or a first-time visitor, there’s plenty to enjoy at Tampa Bay Downs.

For those new to horse racing, Tampa Bay Downs offers a range of resources to help you get started. From online guides to in-person tutorials, there are plenty of opportunities to learn the ins and outs of horse racing. The track also offers a range of betting options, so you can put your newfound knowledge to the test and potentially win big.

For experienced horse racing fans, Tampa Bay Downs is an excellent destination for high-quality racing action. The track hosts a variety of stakes races throughout the year, including the Tampa Bay Derby and the Sam F Davis. With its excellent facilities and friendly atmosphere, Tampa Bay Downs is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in horse racing in Florida.

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History of Horse Racing in Tampa

Early Years

Horse racing has a long and storied history in Tampa, dating back to the early 1900s. In 1926, the Tampa Downs racetrack opened its doors as the racetrack of the West Coast Jockey Club. The founding operation was headed by Ohio investor Harvey Myers and Kentucky Colonel Matt J. Winn. The track was located in the Tampa Bay area, which was rapidly growing in popularity as a winter resort destination for wealthy northerners.

During its early years, Tampa Downs was known for its high-quality racing and attracted some of the top horses and jockeys in the country. The track was also known for its lush, tropical setting, which provided a beautiful backdrop for the races.

Modern Era

Over the years, Tampa Downs underwent several name changes and ownership changes. In 1946, the track was renamed Sunshine Park, then renamed again in 1965 to Florida Downs and Turf Club, before setting on Tampa Bay Downs in 1980.

Today, Tampa Bay Downs is the only Thoroughbred race track on the West Coast of Florida and is known as one of America’s oldest and most well-maintained racetracks. The track hosts several major stakes races each year, including the Tampa Bay Derby and the Florida Oaks.

Despite its long history, Tampa Bay Downs continues to innovate and improve. In recent years, the track has invested heavily in its facilities, including a new turf course and a state-of-the-art video board.

Tampa Bay Downs

Track Information

Tampa Bay Downs is located in Hillsborough County, Florida, and is the only thoroughbred horse racing track on the West Coast of Florida. The track first opened its doors in 1926 under the name of Tampa Downs and has since undergone several name changes before settling on Tampa Bay Downs in 1980. The track features a one-mile dirt oval and a seven-furlong turf course, which is one of the few turf courses in Florida. The grandstand can accommodate up to 10,000 spectators, and there are several restaurants and bars on site. The track also has a golf practice facility.

Races and Events

Tampa Bay Downs hosts live racing from December to May, with the highlight of the season being the Tampa Bay Derby, a Grade II race for three-year-old thoroughbreds. The track also hosts several other stakes races throughout the season, including the Sam F. Davis Stakes, the Florida Oaks, and the Tampa Bay Stakes. In addition to live racing, Tampa Bay Downs also offers simulcast wagering on races from around the country and internationally. The track also hosts several events throughout the year, including food and wine festivals, craft beer festivals, and holiday events.

Betting and Wagering

Tampa Bay Downs offers a variety of betting options for both live and simulcast races. The track has a state-of-the-art simulcast facility with over 100 televisions and self-service betting machines. There are also several tellers available to assist with placing bets. In addition to traditional win, place, and show bets, Tampa Bay Downs offers several exotic wagering options, including exactas, trifectas, superfectas, and pick 3s, 4s, and 6s. The track also offers a variety of daily and weekly handicapping contests for both live and simulcast racing.

Other Horse Racing Venues in Tampa

Aside from Tampa Bay Downs, there are two other notable horse racing venues in Tampa: Tampa Bay Downs OTB and Derby Lane Greyhound Track.

Tampa Bay Downs OTB

Tampa Bay Downs OTB, or off-track betting, is a satellite facility of Tampa Bay Downs. It is located in St. Petersburg, Florida, and offers simulcast wagering on horse and greyhound races from around the country. The facility features over 50 flat-screen TVs and a full-service bar, making it a popular spot for sports and racing enthusiasts alike.

Additionally, Tampa Bay Downs OTB offers its own unique promotions and events, such as trivia nights and handicapping contests. It is open seven days a week, with hours varying depending on the racing schedule.

Derby Lane Greyhound Track

While not strictly a horse racing venue, Derby Lane Greyhound Track is a popular destination for racing fans in the Tampa area. Located in St. Petersburg, Florida, the track has been in operation since 1925 and is one of the oldest continuously operating greyhound tracks in the country.

In addition to greyhound racing, Derby Lane also offers simulcast wagering on horse and greyhound races from around the country. The facility features a variety of dining options, including a sports bar and grill and a fine dining restaurant. It is open seven days a week, with hours varying depending on the racing schedule.

Overall, Tampa Bay Downs OTB and Derby Lane Greyhound Track offer unique and exciting racing experiences for fans in the Tampa area. Whether you prefer horse or greyhound racing, or simply enjoy the thrill of wagering on live events, these venues are sure to provide plenty of excitement and entertainment.

Getting Involved in Horse Racing in Tampa

Attending Races

Attending races at Tampa Bay Downs is a great way to experience the excitement of horse racing. The track hosts live racing from November to May, and offers a variety of seating options, from general admission to VIP suites. Visitors can also enjoy dining options, including the Skye Terrace Dining Room, which offers a panoramic view of the track.

Before attending a race, visitors should check the track’s website for the schedule and any special events. They should also familiarize themselves with the different types of bets that can be placed, such as win, place, and show bets.

Joining a Syndicate

Joining a syndicate is a way for horse racing enthusiasts to become part owners of a racehorse. Syndicates allow individuals to share the cost of buying and training a horse, as well as share in any winnings. Several syndicates operate in the Tampa Bay area, including the Tampa Bay Downs Racing Club.

Before joining a syndicate, individuals should research the syndicate’s track record and reputation. They should also be prepared to pay their share of the costs, which can include purchase price, training fees, and veterinary expenses.

Becoming an Owner or Trainer

Becoming an owner or trainer of a racehorse is a more involved process than joining a syndicate. Owners are responsible for purchasing and maintaining their horses, as well as hiring trainers and jockeys. Trainers are responsible for conditioning the horses and preparing them for races.

Individuals who are interested in becoming owners or trainers should research the requirements and regulations for owning and training racehorses in Florida. They should also be prepared to invest a significant amount of time and money into their horses, as well as have a strong understanding of the industry.


Tampa Bay Downs is a great destination for horse racing enthusiasts. With its friendly atmosphere, beautiful surroundings, and exciting races, it is a must-visit for anyone interested in the sport. Whether you are a seasoned horse racing fan or just starting out, there is something for everyone at Tampa Bay Downs.

From the Tampa Bay Derby to the Florida Cup, there are plenty of high-profile races to enjoy. The track also offers a range of amenities, including restaurants, bars, and betting facilities. With its convenient location just outside Tampa, it is easy to get to and a great place to spend a day out with friends or family.

If you are new to horse racing, Tampa Bay Downs is a great place to start. The track offers a range of resources to help you learn about the sport, including free handicapping tips, racing programs, and seminars. Whether you are interested in betting or just watching the races, there is plenty to learn and enjoy at Tampa Bay Downs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the racing season schedule for Tampa horse racing?

The live racing season at Tampa Bay Downs typically runs from late November through May. The 2023-2024 racing season, for instance, started on November 22, 2023, and includes live racing on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. General admission is free on Wednesdays and $3.00 on the other live racing days.

How can I watch Tampa Bay live racing if I’m not at the track?

If you’re unable to attend the races in person at Tampa Downs racetrack, you can still enjoy the live racing action through their official website, which offers live streaming services. This allows fans to watch races remotely and keep up with the excitement of live event.

What types of races are held at Tampa Downs racetrack?

Tampa Bay Downs hosts a variety of thoroughbred horse races, including notable stakes like the Tampa Bay Derby and other events throughout its November to May racing season. This track is renowned for its mix of competitive racing that attracts enthusiasts and bettors alike.

Are there special events at Tampa Bay Downs during the racing season?

Yes, Tampa Bay Downs not only hosts a variety of horse racing events but also organizes special events such as the Kentucky Derby Party. These events often feature themed celebrations and additional entertainment, providing a festive atmosphere on race days.

What betting options are available at Tampa Bay Downs?

Tampa Bay Downs offers a comprehensive range of betting options, including traditional wagers like win, place, and show, as well as more complex bets such as exactas, trifectas, and superfectas. The track is equipped with modern betting facilities, ensuring a seamless betting experience for attendees and remote bettors alike.

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