Tampa Bay Downs is proud to introduce its blog, “Racing in the Sunshine.” By giving visitors an up-close and personal look at the majestic world of Thoroughbred racing, the sport’s participants – racing officials, horsemen, backstretch workers, trainers, jockeys and track employees – hope to entertain and inform fans everywhere.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Dennis Lima, Association Steward
insider’s opinions, observations and reflections about their favorite sport
Integrity is at the essence of Dennis Lima’s involvement
with Tampa Bay Downs. With fellow Association Steward John Morrissey and State
Steward Charles Miranda, Lima
is devoted to adhering to strict standards of racetrack safety and fairness and
protecting the public, which wagers its dollars with the understanding they are
watching a clean, honest sport. “For me, the most rewarding aspect of this job
is when you finish a meet knowing you have done your part to keep it as safe as
you can for the horses and the jockeys,” Lima
said. “The most important thing is to be as fair and consistent as possible
with our rulings and our judgment calls during the races.” From the time his
older brother Eddie introduced him to the backside of the racetrack at old NarragansettPark
in Pawtucket, R.I.,
Lima was hooked
on the sport. After high school, Lima came to
Oldsmar in the winter of 1964, working under trainer Doc Canzano at what was
then SunshinePark. Lima
trained a few horses of his own in New England
with minimal success, then became an assistant to prominent trainer Ned Allard.
Lima was also a
jockey agent and later, an owner, for short stints. He next worked as a racing official on
the Massachusetts fair circuit, showing enough promise to join racing secretary
Bobby DeStasio’s team at Suffolk Downs in East Boston and Rockingham in Salem,
N.H., as a placing judge, paddock judge and entry clerk. Lima’s big break came
in 1987, when DeStasio appointed him as an alternate steward; three years
later, he became a full-time steward at Rockingham, working there until the
track closed in 2002. The late John Grady, former General Manager at Tampa Bay
Downs, hired Lima
as an Association Steward in 1993. He is also a State Steward from May through
November at DelawarePark, where he started
working in 2003. During the races, TampaBay stewards have access
to a bank of television monitors that display head-on and pan shots, as well as
action at various points of a race. If a steward views a possible infraction,
they call the camera room for a series of replays before putting their heads
together and issuing a verdict. Some of the busiest times come in the mornings,
when the stewards handle scratches, conduct hearings and summon jockeys to view
videotape from the previous day’s races. “We have an open-door policy for the
owners, trainers and jockeys,” Lima
said. “There has to be a good rapport there.” Lima has been married 17 years to Celeste,
who previously worked in Group Sales at Tampa Bay Downs. He has a son and
daughter from a previous marriage.
HOMETOWN: Pawtucket, R.I.
BEST HORSE I’VE EVER
SEEN: Singling out one is impossible, because I’ve seen so many good ones.
I watched Royal Delta win the Delaware Handicap last summer, and have been
fortunate to see Barbaro, Afleet Alex, Havre de Grace and Blind Luck. And I’ve
watched a lot of great ones here, like (Kentucky Derby winner) Street Sense. Verrazano
was very impressive winning the Tampa Bay Derby last month, and hopefully he
can continue his success.
HOW I GOT STARTED IN
RACING: I spent my summers on the racetrack with my brother Eddie when I
was in high school, starting as a hotwalker and groom. Just about all my jobs
since have been on the racetrack, starting with Narragansett and Lincoln Downs
in my home state of Rhode Island.
MY BIGGEST INFLUENCES:
Jimmy Pambianchi, who helped me get my first racing official’s job at the Massachusetts fairs, and Bobby DeStasio, the racing
secretary at Suffolk
who hired me as an alternate steward. Without those opportunities, who knows
what I’d be doing now.
ONE CHANGE I WOULD
MAKE TO RACING: Establish more uniformity in medication rules and
penalties, especially with so many trainers shipping horses from state to
MY FAVORITE SPORTS
TEAMS/ATHLETES: The New York Yankees and
Celtics. I used to go to a lot of Celtics games during the Larry Bird era. And
pound for pound, jockeys are some of the best athletes in the world.
NO. 1 ON MY BUCKET
LIST OF THINGS TO DO: Visit Portugal,
where my late parents were born.
FAVORITE TV SHOWS:
Dateline NBC, 20/20 and 48 Hours.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The
improvements throughout the track and the well-maintained racing surfaces.
(Vice President of Facilities and Track Surfaces) Tom McLaughlin and his crew
do an excellent job. Also, the enhancements in the graded-stakes program.
WHAT ELSE I’D BE
DOING IF. … My initial goal was to try to be a racing secretary, but I’ve
never had to cross that bridge (of not working at the track).
ADVICE TO SOMEONE
STARTING IN RACING: Whatever you choose to do, set your goals and work hard
to achieve them.