Gulfstream Park announced Feb. 16 that it has signed a contract with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association that will run from March 1 of this year through December 2012.
The two parties reached the agreement on Feb. 15, said Tim Ritvo, vice president of racing for Gulfstream and for its parent MI Developments.
Gulfstream began its 2011 race meet on Jan. 5 and will end its season on April 24. In an unusual arrangement the Hallandale Beach, Fla., track and the Florida HBPA signed a contract for race purses and other financial and operational matters only through Feb. 28, 2011.
Last December, Ritvo said Gulfstream did not want a contract for the full 2011 meet and calendar year until it reached agreement with the Florida HPBA on several non-purse issues
On Feb. 16, he said negotiations went smoothly” and that Gulfstream and the Florida HBPA have a new contract through the end of 2012 that includes several significant items.
Perhaps the most important is that if Florida changes a law that prohibits night-time Thoroughbred racing, the Florida HPBA will allow Gulfstream to hold races up until 9 p.m. on two weekdays each week. Under the contract, racing after 7 p.m. would not be permitted on weekends at Gulfstream.
Florida prohibits Thoroughbred tracks from starting races after 7 p.m. Gulfstream is hoping that the Florida Legislature will change that law during its 2011 session between March 8 and May 6. Gulfstream does not have a detailed plan on when it might begin night racing during its next meet, Ritvo said.
Gulfstream for more than a decade has started its racing season in early January. But in a preliminary filing with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, Gulfstream said it plans to begin its next race meet on Dec. 2, 2011.
For more than a decade, Calder Casino & Race Course has been the only southeast Florida track with live racing in December. In its preliminary filing with the Florida DPMW, Calder said it intends to race throughout the entire month of December 2011.
The filings have raised the prospect of the two tracks, eight miles apart, racing head-to-head throughout that month. They have until Feb. 28 to submit final date filings to the Florida DPMW for the 12 months beginning July 1, 2011.
Since 2002, Florida Thoroughbred tracks have picked their dates with basically rubber stamp approval from the Florida HBPA.
Ritvo said that officials of MID and of Churchill Downs Inc., Calder’s parent, met during the week that ended on Feb. 11 to discuss several issues, including southeast Florida racing dates.
Mike Rogers, MID’s vice president of racing operations, is the MID official designated to comment on the racing dates issue. Rogers could not be reached for comment. CDI officials could not be reached on the evening of Feb. 16.
The agreement Gulfstream reached with the Florida HBPA on Feb. 16 will give Gulfstream additional flexibility in determining the number of races on weekdays, takeouts and race sponsorships.
In a matter where Gulfstream did not need Florida HPBA approval but worked with it to arrange details, Ritvo said the track will have later first post times, likely 3 p.m., on its last four Fridays this year. The last race on those days would end shortly before 7 p.m.
The purse portion of the contract is the same as in 2010 and for the first two months of 2011, Ritvo said. That includes a 50-50 division of takeout on wagering on live racing.
“There was never a doubt that we would sign this contract before the end of this month,” said Sam Gordon, president of the Florida HBPA.
“There was no issue about purses,” Gordon said. “The horsemen always have had a good relationship with Gulfstream. We decided to make the contract two years so that rather than talking about this again, we can devote our efforts toward working on the problems within the industry.”