When looking for winners at Tampa Bay Downs start with the two top riders
US expert Tom Collins with the lowdown for punters on the west Florida racetrack
The first thing that comes to mind when Tampa Bay Downs is mentioned is the mile-round dirt oval on which riders Samy Camacho and Antonio Gallardo have made hay in recent years.
Often first and second in the jockeys' standings at the course, Camacho and Gallardo's strike-rate is frequently more than 20 per cent, so they are the two players to keep an eye on when studying races at the Florida venue.
The trainers' table is also dominated by two barns: Gerald Bennett, who has finished top for the last three years, and Kathleen O'Connell. It is also worth looking at stables such as those of Chad Brown and Christophe Clement, who have a phenomenal record when shipping runners to Tampa.
Most of their successes come on the turf track, a 7f-round course with a two-furlong inner chute. The draw is not as important at Tampa as it is at other venues, although being drawn close to the rail is always a bonus.
Opened in 1926, the Downs is the only thoroughbred track on the west coast of Florida and charms racing fans with its distinctive, country fair style. On February 21, 2014 it was the stage for what is believed to be a first in the sport when brothers Juan, Fernando and Walter De La Cruz of Huancavelica, Peru, all rode winners on the same card.
The course does offer lucrative prizes, with the Tampa Bay Derby worthy of its ten-year-long Grade 2 status and now cemented as a major stop on the Triple Crown trail.
The race was won this year by King Guillermo, a son of Uncle Mo who defied odds of 49-1 and now has the Kentucky Derby as his target.
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