The Florida legislature will end its 2011 regular session May 6, and it appears language authorizing a special Breeders’ Cup permit for Hialeah Park will have to wait a year.
Late in the week that ended April 29, several senators who supported Thoroughbred provisions were unsuccessful in getting them included in a Greyhound bill that would have become a broader pari-mutuel bill.
One proposal would have allowed Thoroughbred tracks to hold races as late as 9 p.m. rather than until 7 p.m. as under current law. Gulfstream Park had sought the change.
The other proposal would have authorized the Breeders’ Cup permit designed for Hialeah Park. Under the proposed permit, a track would be assigned a 15-day Thoroughbred meet in late October and early November provided it was awarded the two-day Breeders’ Cup meet for that year.
Florida’s other tracks with regular Thoroughbred permits also would have been eligible for the special permit.
Richard Hancock, executive vice president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, said there was a widespread view that “Hialeah would have been the most feasible” if it rebuilt its grandstand and made other improvements necessary to meet requirements, including seating, to hold the Breeders’ Cup. Hialeah is prepared to make any required changes and hopes the legislature will authorize a Breeders’ Cup permit in 2012, said John Brunetti, chairman and owner of the track.
“The senators who introduced this understand the economic impact of a Breeders’ Cup,” Hancock said. “(Breeders’ Cup) and night racing were brought up late in the session, when the committee chairman didn’t want to add things to bills. I hope we can start earlier next year.”
The Florida TBOA supported the proposals on night racing and on a Breeders’ Cup permit, Hancock said. Brunetti said he held preliminary talks with officials of the New York Racing Association about joining in sponsorship of a Breeders’ Cup at Hialeah.
“They could help provide horses for the meet, and it could be an early start for the winter racing season here,” Brunetti said.
Hialeah held its most recent Thoroughbred meet in 2001. The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering revoked its Thoroughbred permit in 2003. Hialeah’s only current racing permit is a Quarter Horse permit, which it has held since 2009.
The permit authorizes Hialeah to hold a mixed meet, with up to half its races for Thoroughbreds. It has held two Quarter Horse-only meets; its third Quarter Horse meet is scheduled for Dec.10, 2011 to Feb. 19, 2012.