An agreement announced May 23 by Gulfstream Park and the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has put South Florida on a path toward ending head-to-head weekend racing, perhaps as soon as this July, said Phil Combest, president of the Florida HBPA.
Combest noted that the agreement and a previous deal between Gulfstream and Calder Casino & Race Course must still gain final approvals among those parties.
Then the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering would need to agree to let Calder and neighbor Gulfstream halt their head-to-head racing on Fridays through Sundays. The two tracks are scheduled to have that same-day competition through June 2015.
Calder president John Marshall was not available for comment May 23.
In the announcement, Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo said Gulfstream is "very happy with the agreement," adding that he is "anxious to move ahead and we remain committed to building a strong Florida Thoroughbred program."
Gulfstream previously confirmed that the deal, which it presented to the horsemen April 28, has this basic framework:
--Gulfstream and its parent, The Stronach Group, would lease part of Calder's operations from Churchill Downs Inc.;
--CDI would retain ownership of Calder, including its casino;
--Calder would have racing 40 days, probably in the fall, and Gulfstream would race during the other weeks. There would be no overlap. The agreement would be for six years.
No change will occur with the 230 minimum number of days to be run during each calendar year in South Florida. Gulfstream purses are expected to show an almost immediate jump once the deal is formalized.
Combest said in the statement: "This is a great deal for the horsemen, for Gulfstream and for South Florida racing, in general. We're all very grateful to Gulfstream and Mr. Stronach for working with us to find a means to bring racing back to the level it should be on a year-round basis.
"Next step is to get the whole deal approved up in Tallahassee. Once that's done, it's full speed ahead and I'm certain that with the dedication that Tim Ritvo and his team have already exhibited, we're all looking at a much brighter future."