Florida is known for its fun in the sunny beaches, great fishing, boating, theme parks, spectacular seafood, and racing. I’m not talking about racing that requires engines revved up with lots of horsepower, I’m talking about the real four-legged kind.
Tampa Bay Downs, located in Oldsmar, Florida, begins its 95th season on December 11, 2020.
The track originally opened in 1926 and has had quite a history including operating under several different names and owners. In 1943, the Army used the track as a jungle warfare training facility and in 1983 the track became the first in the nation to offer a regular program for Arabian horse racing.
A 22-acre golf facility opened offering a full-service pro shop and wagering facilities at the Downs Golf Clubhouse. So you have the best of both worlds. You can play a little golf, take a break, and enjoy the racing action from the clubhouse on one of the many monitors.
You don’t have to be a hardcore racing fan in order to enjoy a day at the races. Just going out to the track to see these beautiful animals decked out in their stable’s colors with legs banded in multiple colors to match their blankets, their heads held high, their silky manes brushed to a sheen, their muscular bodies taunt as they prance around the viewing center, is quite an eyeful. They are gorgeous and when they step out onto the main track making their way to the starting gate, you can’t help but be impressed by the sheer power and beauty of each one.
Grey dapples, chestnut browns, solid blacks, golden palominos, pure whites, and, of course, the Arabians. Some tall and muscular, others smaller and more dainty, but all with sturdy yet delicate legs that are reminiscent of a ballet dancer with their graceful movements as they trot by. So graceful and confident in their place. You can tell they like the attention and they know they are the center of it!
I can watch them for hours and when I go, that’s what happens. Same for my mom! From the time they’re brought out on the track on their way to their stalls, to the viewing track where they’re paraded around the circle, then out onto the main track rearing to go, my eyes are transfixed on these lovely creatures.
The track offers not only betting, but it also has a really nice clubhouse with a full restaurant where you can watch the races while dining. TV monitors are dispersed throughout the facility, so you can sit inside, have a hotdog and a coke, and watch the action in complete comfort.
The grandstand area is covered and you have a nice view of the track no matter where you sit and you’re protected from those afternoon Florida showers. There’s also outside open-air seating near the track itself for an up-close view.
There’s plenty of parking, easy access from both Tampa and St. Petersburg and Clearwater and surrounding areas.
The season runs from December through May as those are cooler months for the horses to be running. The facility is opened during May for simulcast racing of the Kentucky Derby. It’s great fun to be at the track anytime but on that day, it’s extra exciting!
So, if you’re planning a trip this way and you’d like to enjoy one of the other activities Florida has to offer, check the calendar and plan to spend the day just horsin’ around.