By Jim Freer
Calder Race Course announced April 21 that due to the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association’s refusal to approve the distribution of Calder races to out-of-state wagering outlets, including advance deposit wagering companies, the racetrack has been forced to cut purses by 30%, effective April 27. The purse reductions will affect a variety of race conditions, including stakes races.
“The Florida horsemen’s refusal to allow out-of-state wagering on Calder’s races has left us with no option but to cut purses now in order to offset the amount of handle both Florida horsemen and Calder will lose every day that Florida horsemen refuse to send Calder’s signal out of state,” said Steve Sexton, executive vice president of Churchill Downs Inc., in a news release.
“Florida horsemen have chosen to single out and penalize Calder, as well as customers around the country who enjoy wagering on Calder’s races," Sexton continued. "We find that hard to understand when TrackNet Media Group, which negotiates simulcast sales for both (tracks owned by) Churchill Downs and (Magna Entertainment Corp.) racetracks, has nearly doubled the ADW host fee rate paid to horsemen in Florida compared to last year.”
Prior to the start of its meet, Calder told The Blood-Horse it was entering 2008 without a purse overpayment, and that for its first condition book, average overnight and breeders’ awards would be about $215,000.
Early in the afternoon of April 22, the FHBPA began hearing reports that Calder would announce a purse cut, said FHBPA executive director Kent Stirling.
“They are taking money out of the pockets of local horsemen starting Sunday, but not cutting the purses for the out-of-town trainers who will be here Saturday,” said FHBPA president Sam Gordon.
On April 26, Calder will hold its inaugural Turf Million, with four turf stakes with total purses of $1.15 million. In the Calder release, Sexton acknowledged purses will be held in check for the event.
“Several stables have already shipped in horses to compete in Saturday’s Turf Million, and we don’t want to inconvenience those horsemen by reducing purses for Saturday’s card so close to the event,” Sexton said. “We hope for the sake of our customers that Florida horsemen will revisit their position on this matter.”
Gordon and Stirling said the FHBPA does not have contract talks scheduled with Calder and CDI for April 23.
Both said the two sides are close on contracts for purses and on any revenues from future slot machines at Calder. The major issue is the split of ADW revenues, FHBPA officials said. Calder needs a purse agreement with the FHPBA to send its signal to tracks outside Florida.
Gordon said several trainers, whom he would not identify, said they are hearing reports that CDI is considering a halt of racing at Calder if contracts are not signed.
“They think we will fold up on our position,” Stirling said. “We have no intention of doing that.”
Currently, the only wagering outlets permitted to accept wagers on Calder races are simulcast outlets within the state of Florida and New York Off-Track Betting Corp. facilities. On April 21, Florida horsemen gave their consent to allow NYOTB to accept wagers on Calder races. The Isle Casino & Racing at Pompano Park, a casino and harness racetrack in Pompano Beach, Fla., is not receiving Calder’s signal because no cross-simulcasting agreement exists between Calder and that facility.