For the fourth time in less than a year, a hurricane has disrupted Calder Race Course's racing schedule and track president Ken Dunn says he has seen enough.
"Making plans for a storm is an expertise I wish I didn't have," Dunn said after Hurricane Katrina blew through South Florida as a category one storm on Aug. 25, causing cancellation of the Aug. 26 racing card and disrupting the prior day's simulcast only program.
After blowing through Florida, Katrina went into the Gulf of Mexico, picked up momentum and hit Louisiana Aug. 29 as a Category four storm.
Earlier this year power outages from Hurricane Dennis caused postponement of the July 9 "Summit of Speed" card while last year storms caused the entire loss of three racing days and impact to numerous others.
And once again the loss of power was the prime culprit: Calder, like much of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, lost power from late in the afternoon on Aug. 25 through the following morning. Dunn said that although arrangements had been made for the track to be serviced by a secondary power substation, representatives from Florida Power and Light advised him that both were malfunctioning.
Katrina, though, struck South Florida with far more power than her recent predecessors. Numerous trees were felled, barn roofs were "peeled back like sardines," and the racing surfaces were littered with debris. "This caused more physical damage than any other storm I can remember," said Dunn.
Additionally, a fallen tree completely crushed a backside trailer used by outriders to store equipment. There were no injuries reported to humans or horses.
The $100,000 Aspidistra Handicap, scheduled for the turf on Aug. 27, was postponed until Sept. 5. It is one of three additional races Calder will run on Labor Day weekend to help compensate for the revenue lost from the missed program.
Across town at Gulfstream, located near where Katrina's center made landfall in Hallandale Beach, the primary damage was to roof trusses used in the building of the track's new clubhouse. President Scott Savin said the damage will cause a five to seven day setback in construction but would not affect the scheduled Jan. 4, 2006 opening.
As crews worked to restore power and services to South Florida, both Calder and Gulfstream Park served as staging areas for Florida Power and Light vehicles and personnel.