Ten Things to Know Before You Go: Tampa Bay Derby

Events / Travel
Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

The biggest race on Florida’s West Coast is this Saturday! If you’re planning a trip to Tampa Bay Downs for the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, we have 10 things to know before you go.

1. There are 85 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve qualifying points on the line.

To get into the Kentucky Derby, horses have to earn points in designated prep races. The Tampa Bay Derby is one of those, and the winner gets 50 points, which is more than enough to earn a place in the Churchill Downs starting gate on the first Saturday in May. The other 35 points are divided among the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers.

2. Some of the biggest names in horse racing will be at Tampa Bay Downs this weekend.

With a major Kentucky Derby prep race as well as four other big races, the racing world is converging on Oldsmar, Fla., this weekend. Head to Tampa Bay Downs this Saturday, because you never know who you might meet!

3. Tampa Bay Downs is fun and affordable, so you can bring the whole group.

Looking for the perfect Saturday activity with your friends? You can score reserved seats at the Tampa Bay Derby for as little as $15, or just pay grandstand general admission for $3 each and score a seat at one of the free picnic tables scattered around the track.

4. Bring your own treats!

I’m always going to advocate for the Cuban sandwich at Tampa Bay Downs – seriously: try it – but if you want to bring your own snacks and beverages, go for it! Just make sure that you head to the backyard picnic area, as coolers aren’t allowed in the main part of the track. Check out the list of what you can and cannot bring, and plan accordingly.

5. If you’re spending the weekend in Tampa, hit up the track’s golf practice facility.

What’s a weekend in Florida without a little golf? Head on over to the Downs Golf Practice Facility to work on your swing before heading to the track for an afternoon of racing. It’s the ultimate Daily Double!

6. It’s a great place to make a bet!

Whether you’re an expert horseplayer or new to the scene, Tampa Bay Downs is a good place to play – that’s because the track has really full fields, which means that there are more horses to choose from. In fact, the most recent ratings from the Horseplayers Association of North America puts Tampa Bay Downs in the top 10 tracks to bet in the continent!

7. Hit up the Gasparilla Music Festival.

Looking for something to do after the races? Check out the Gasparilla Music Festival on Sunday! From blues to rock, it looks like there’s something for every taste in music.

8. Plan a fabulous dinner.

Looking for a great meal to go with your Tampa Bay Derby weekend? The city is home to some great food! Some personal favorites of mine are CW’s Gin Joint, Bern’s Steakhouse, and the Rusty Pelican, but there are so many great places. Head over to Ybor City for some authentic Cuban cuisine, or head downtown to one of the great local restaurants – you won’t regret it!

9. Be an ace at poker.

Do you have aspirations of joining the World Poker Tour? If you love playing cards, Tampa Bay Downs has the Silks Poker Room, which offers tables for serious players and newbies alike. The best part (at least, to me)? They offer massages right at the tables!

10. If you stay until Sunday, you might meet the most important horse in the world.

If you haven’t met Mouse the Tampa Bay Downs mascot yet, you’re in for a treat. The miniature horse has been with the track since 2009, when Tampa Bay Downs adopted her from a local horse rescue. Since then, mighty mini Mouse spends her weekends greeting fans in the backyard area; and if you’re lucky, she may come out on the Sunday after the Tampa Bay Derby!

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