Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino will assist horsemen stabled at Calder Casino & Race Course by paying the stall rent of horses who participate at its meet during the month of December.
Calder, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., informed trainers in October they would be charged rent of $10 per day per stall for any horse stabled at the South Florida track once the meet ended Nov. 30.
"There are no strings attached," said Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo. "We simply want to help the horsemen and work with them through a very difficult time. We understand how much they contribute to our program and also how much some of them are struggling through Calder's unprecedented decision. We will continue working with the horsemen on solutions for the future."
According to a release from Gulfstream, Calder-based horses account for more than 40% of the entries at Gulfstream. Had Gulfstream known Calder planned to charge stall rent, Gulfstream could have figured out a way to accommodate more Calder horsemen.
"Like our horsemen, we wish we knew about Calder's decision before we allocated our stalls at Gulfstream and Palm Meadows," Ritvo said in the release. "If we knew of Calder's intentions before our stalls were allocated, we would have assigned our stalls differently and even constructed new barns. We're concerned for the Calder horsemen. We don't want them to run their horses at Gulfstream and then not be allowed back at Calder because they can't pay the stall rent or are behind on their payment. We want the horsemen and their horses to be safe."
Gulfstream Park is part of the racetrack-operating company The Stronach Group, chaired by prominent Thoroughbred breeder/owner Frank Stronach.
"The Stronach Group and our chairman, Mr. Frank Stronach, do not believe in holding the horsemen hostages," Ritvo added. "They should be allowed to stable where they want and run where they want."
Gulfstream's announcement provides welcome "breathing room" on the stall rent issue, Phil Combest, president of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said in a statement Dec. 4.
"The FHBPA and all South Florida horsemen are extremely grateful to Gulfstream Park and Tim Ritvo for stepping up and providing this monetary assistance," Combest said. "This onerous and completely unprecedented stall fee was dropped on the horsemen at the last minute by Calder management."
Combest added: "Many Calder horsemen were on the brink of going out of business because they simply cannot afford the fee. At the minimum, this move provides some breathing room. Again, many thanks to Gulfstream."
Calder announced the stall rent plan Sept. 28, saying it would charge the rent from Dec. 1 through April 5, 2013. Those are the days of Gulfstream's 2012-2013 meet.
It has since decided to charge the rent from Dec. 7 through March 17, 2013. Calder will begin its 2013 meet April 6.
It will stop the stall rents March 17 because by then Calder trainers will be working out horses for races at Calder, John Marshall, the track's vice president and general manager for racing said Nov. 30.
That would be the first stall rent in Calder's 42-year history. It will continue to not charge stall rent during its racing season, Marshall said.
Calder said Sept. 28 that it is charging non-racing season rent to add revenues amid ongoing declines in handle.
Calder has accepted applications for 1,500 stalls during its non-racing months, Marshall said.
He said Calder cannot speculate how many trainers will not pay rent until after Dec. 7, when first bills are due.
Ritvo said Dec. 2 that paying rent for Calder-stabled horses that race at Gulfstream was one option it was considering to help Calder horsemen. Gulfstream also might consider building some temporary stalls, he said.
Gulfstream charges various stall rents, but waives them for a horse during a month when it races.
Officials of the Florida HBPA and of Calder, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., have held several meetings on stall rent. That has coincided with negotiations on Florida HBPA-Calder contracts that will expire Dec. 31 on purses, simulcasting, and ADWs.
Neither party would comment on the fact Calder has sought contract concessions in return for reductions in stall rent.