The Florida Cup, a series of six $110,000 stakes races for registered Florida-breds and Tampa Bay Downs's annual showcase for the state's Thoroughbred breeding and racing industries, has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis. The event, which was first run in 2003, had been scheduled for Sunday, March 29.
Peter Berube, the track's Vice President-General Manager, said a portion of the $660,000 in Florida Cup purse money will be allocated to the track's overnight purse account, enabling Tampa Bay Downs to continue its 2019-2020 meeting beyond next week, as circumstances allow.
Tampa Bay Downs began racing without fans Wednesday as public health officials urge citizens to adhere to social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
“It's a huge blow to everyone to have to cancel one of the biggest days on our racing calendar,” said Berube. “At the same time, we are committed to keeping the track free of spectators at least through that date, and the social aspect of Florida Cup Day, which includes a buffet luncheon for horsemen and their families under the Picnic Pavilion Tent, has always been an important part of the day.
“We are dedicated to helping ensure to the best of our ability the health and well-being of everyone associated with Tampa Bay Downs, and the logistics of putting on a multi-stakes event in the midst of a national health crisis made this the only decision possible,” Berube said. “The silver lining is this gives us an opportunity to help our horsemen continue racing. We will work closely with them, the breeders and owners and our stakes sponsors to make the 2021 Florida Cup memorable and exciting for all.”
The cancelled races include the DRF Bets Sprint (4yos/up, 6f), the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf (3yo/up, f/m, 1 1/16mT), the Equistaff Sophomore Turf (3yo, 1 1/16mT), the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies (3yo, f, 7f), the Ocala Breeders' Sales Sophomore (3yo, 7f), and the Touch Vodka Turf Classic (4yo/up, 1 1/8mT).