Gulfstream, Calder Close to Resolution?

Gulfstream, Calder Close to Resolution?
Photo: Coglianese Photos

Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course could be headed for a resolution to their dispute over southeast Florida’s December 2011 racing dates.

They are facing a Feb. 28 deadline for amending their preliminary plans—in which both have told Florida racing regulators that they intend to have live racing throughout that month. Talks on that issue are continuing between the two tracks’ parent companies, Mike Rogers, vice president of racing and gaming operations for Gulfstream’s parent MI Developments, said Feb. 17.
“We are sorting through some of these issues and trying to come up with a schedule that works for both of us,” he said.
Rogers said that he met with two senior officials of Calder’s parent Churchill Downs Inc. in Chicago on Feb.10. Officials of the two companies also talked about issues concerning simulcast signals of their tracks and operations of their jointly owned HRTV racing channel, Rogers added.
On Feb. 18, a Calder official said: “Calder and CDI do not have any comment on racing dates today.”
The official said that Calder will hold a general meeting with horsemen at 10 a.m. EST on Feb. 22 on the second floor of its grandstand building. Calder expects to cover these topics: 2011 racing dates, 2011 stakes schedule, stall application process, and renovations that are underway in the stable area.
Rogers said Gulfstream “definitely plans to race in December.”
Gulfstream is in Hallandale Beach, Fla., eight miles east of Calder in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Rogers said he understands the concerns of owners, trainers and employees of both tracks about the almost certain financial and operational problems if the tracks race head-to-head.
“We want to avoid running head-to-head,” he said. “Maybe we can have something where we run two or three days and they run two or three days.”
He would not discuss any details of that possible plan, or of other MID proposals in discussions with CDI.
Each track has told the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering that it plans to run throughout December 2011. For the past two decades Calder has been the only southeast Florida Thoroughbred to hold racing in December.
They have until Feb. 28 to submit final dates, with automatic Florida DPMW approval, for the 12 months beginning July 1, 2011. They will be required to run dates they list in final filings.
Since 2002, Gulfstream has traditionally run from early January through late April with Calder running the remainder of the year. But in its initial date filing with the Florida DPMW, Gulfstream on Dec. 31 said it plans to have its next live season from Dec.2, 2011 through April 8, 2012. That would include racing Thursdays through Sundays in December.
On Jan. 6, Calder submitted a filing in which it said it plans to race every Friday through Sunday from July 1, 2011 until June 30, 2012. On Jan. 13, it submitted an amended filing in which it excluded January and February from its planned schedule.
Under its latest plan, Calder would not race head-to-head against Gulfstream during two of that track’s strongest months.
Rogers would not say whether MID is offering any financial incentives to CDI if Calder does not race in December or reduces its schedule during that month. But he said: “maybe they might want to race in April.
If Gulfstream and Calder race head-to-head for even several weeks, many horsemen are concerned that neither track would not have enough horses for full fields—even though the two tracks and other southeast Florida training centers have stalls for about 4,000 horses.
Gulfstream’s nine-race card on Feb. 17 provided an indication. It had 110 entrants, including also eligibles, with 43 that had recent published workouts at Calder.
Gulfstream’s filing to run in December was widely expected because Frank Stronach, chairman of MID and of Gulfstream, has said numerous times that he would like to expand Gulfstream’s racing season.
“Frank believes that racing in December makes economic sense for Gulfstream,” Rogers said. “The horses and trainers (from northern states) are already here.”
The last time two Thoroughbred tracks raced head-to-head in the Miami area was in November 1989, with Hialeah Park and Calder both running. Hialeah, citing financial reasons, was able to get regulators’ approval to halt its meet.
Current laws are strict, including the stipulation that “financial hardship to the permitholder shall not, in and of itself, constitute just cause for failure to operate all performances on the dates and at the times specified.”
Hialeah’s current permit is only for Quarter Horse racing. Under that permit, it can run a mixed meet with up to half its races as Thoroughbred races. In its preliminary filing to the Florida DPMW, Hialeah said it will run from Dec. 3, 2011 through Feb. 26, 2012 with racing Fridays through Sundays.
Hialeah has not determined whether it will run any Thoroughbred races in 2011-2012, said Randy Soth, the track’s general manager. It has flexibility until the start of a Quarter Horse meet to decide if it will include Thoroughbred races.
Hialeah hopes to have a casino with Las Vegas-style slot machines open by the start of its 2011-2012. Demolition and renovations, in the north side of the Hialeah grandstand, should begin within several weeks, Soth said.

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