Hialeah Park has filed applications for Quarter Horse racing dates, telling the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering it plans to run a 20-day meet late this year and another 20-day meet early in 2010.
In its filing Sept. 21, Hialeah Park requested to hold daytime races Saturdays through Tuesdays Nov. 28-Dec. 29, and Saturdays through Tuesdays Jan. 2-Feb. 2, 2010. The Florida DPMW has 90 days from the application date to review and then approve or reject the applications.
Hialeah Park last held a meet in 2001 when it had it offered Thoroughbred racing.
Hialeah Park president and owner John Brunetti said the track applied to run two consecutive meets with a goal of complying with current Florida law or with a new gaming law that could become effective late this year. The pending law includes a provision that would allow Hialeah Park to have a casino, with Class III Las Vegas-style slot machines, if it holds Quarter Horse meets of 20 or more days in two consecutive calendar years.
The Florida DPMW March 16 issued a Quarter Horse permit to Hialeah Park. Florida racing laws require it to begin Quarter Horse racing within 12 months of receiving a permit.
The requirement is to hold a minimum 40 race days with a minimum eight races per day. Hialeah Park’s combined applications fulfill that requirement.
A law passed by the Florida legislature in May and signed by Gov. Charlie Crist the following month would require Quarter Horse meets to be a minimum 20 days. A separate provision would make Hialeah Park eligible for a casino if it holds 20-day Quarter Horse meets for two consecutive calendar years. However, terms of that law will not become effective unless the legislature also agrees to a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Brunetti believes there is a good chance the legislature in November or December will hold a special session and pass a gaming bill that would have the May bill’s provisions that help Hialeah Park and some other pari-mutuel facilities, and leave Seminole issues until next year.
“There is a growing feeling that something has to be done to give pari-mutuels some financial relief and new opportunities,” Brunetti said.
In its Sept. 21 applications, Hialeah Park said it will soon apply with the Florida DPMW to operate a card room. Beginning on its first racing date, it could have a card room with poker and dominoes open year-round for 12 hours a day.
Hialeah Park would be the first racetrack to offer Quarter Horse racing in Florida since harness track Pompano Park in 1991.