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National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame announces Tampa Bay Downs as Industry Partner of the Month for March

Throughout the month of March, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will be showcasing the history of Tampa Bay Downs as its Industry Partner of the Month, a new initiative to recognize and promote key thoroughbred racing organizations.


During March, the Museum will display memorabilia from Tampa Bay Downs, as well as share key moments and milestones from the track’s history through social media outreach and on-site events. On March 10, coinciding with Tampa Bay Downs Festival Day 38, presented by Lambholm South, the Museum will host a Saturday Social in the Hall of Fame from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Museum visitors will be treated to coffee and doughnuts and receive a historical stakes history of the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, as well as past performances for the 2018 edition of the race.


The Tampa Bay Downs Saturday Social event will also feature race replays of past runnings of the Tampa Bay Derby and a brief discussion of the 2018 race with Brien Bouyea, the Museum’s director of communications. On Thursday, March 15, the Museum’s Horse Explorers program for children will feature Tampa Bay Downs, its geographic location and introduce its mascot, Mouse, to those in attendance from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.


Tampa Bay Downs opened in 1926 under the name of the West Coast Jockey Club and was founded by investor Harvey Myers and Col. Matt J. Winn, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017 as a Pillar of the Turf.


The track was renamed Sunshine Park in 1946 and entered the modern era with the installation of an electric starting gate, electric tote board and photo-finish camera. The track became prominent in the 1950s as a popular attraction to many sportswriters, who came to the Tampa Bay area to cover baseball spring training. Renowned writers such as Grantland Rice, Red Smith and Arthur Daley became regulars covering the races and Rice dubbed the track the “Santa Anita of the South.”


In 1965, the track’s name changed again and became the Florida Downs and Turf Club. It was named Tampa Bay Downs in 1980. Tampa Bay Downs was the site of 17-year-old apprentice Julie Krone winning her first career race on Feb. 12, 1981. Krone went on to become one of the top riders of all time and the first woman elected to the Hall of Fame.


The track was purchased by Stella F. Thayer and her brother, Howell Ferguson, in 1986. The Tampa Bay Derby has emerged as one of the most popular and important prep races for the Kentucky Derby. In 2007, juvenile champion Street Sense won the Tampa Bay Derby en route to winning the Kentucky Derby. Tapwrit, winner of the 2017 Tampa Bay Derby in stakes-record time, went on to win the Belmont Stakes.


“We’re very excited to showcase the wonderful history of Tampa Bay Downs as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s Industry Partner of the Month for March,” said Cathy Marino, the Museum’s director. “Stella Thayer and Peter Berube, Vice President and General manager, and her staff at Tampa Bay Downs deliver fabulous racing in an outstanding environment and the Museum is looking forward to sharing some of that history with our visitors in March both at the Museum and on social media.


“We are delighted to support the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame as Industry Partner of the Month and to celebrate the thoroughbred horse and thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs,” Thayer said. “Hopefully this new outreach on the part of the Museum will provide the public with new awareness of racetracks across America.”