South Florida Dates Altered; Overlap Avoided
by Jim Freer
Date Posted: 3/1/2011 1:21:38 PM
Last Updated: 3/2/2011 11:03:44 AM

Gulfstream Park
Photo: Coglianese Photos

In regulatory filings that apparently are final, Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course selected schedules that will have Gulfstream rather than Calder holding races through most of December 2011, and with no head-to-head racing during the 12 months beginning July 1, 2011.

Another change, settling a dispute between the tracks, shows Calder running in two mid-April weeks when Gulfstream has traditionally held racing.

The two South Florida tracks submitted date filings to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel wagering prior to the 5 p.m. deadline Feb. 28. The regulatory body gives automatic approval to Thoroughbred tracks’ date filings.

One important issue is whether Gulfstream and parent company MI Developments gave any financial incentives to Calder and parent company Churchill Downs Inc. for the apparent dates swap in which Gulfstream is getting more lucrative December dates.

In its Feb. 28 filing, Gulfstream said it will start its next racing season  Dec.3, 2011, and have live racing for 87 days through April 8, 2012. Calder’s filing, for its Calder and Tropical meets, shows it ending its 2011  season Dec. 2—one day before Gulfstream starts its meet. Calder will start its 2012 season April 9, a day after Gulfstream ends its meet.

Gulfstream’s Feb. 28 filing, with December dates, is almost identical to its preliminary filing of last Dec. 31 that ignited the dates dispute in South Florida. For more than two decades, Calder has been the only area Thoroughbred track with December racing.

Amid their now-resolved dispute, each track had made an updated filing in which it said it would have racing each month in the 12-month period—including head-to-head on some weekend days.

“We are planning a racing schedule for the upcoming season that will position Calder to continue leading South Florida and the nation in the training and development of juvenile racehorses as they begin their careers, while providing year-round stabling and training facilities for horsemen and horsewomen who call Florida home,” Calder vice president and general manager John Marshall said in a statement released late in the afternoon of Feb. 28. “Calder and its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., are deeply committed to Thoroughbred racing in South Florida and to the local horsemen who stable with us year round and form the backbone of the entire region’s racing product.

"We are also deeply committed to the fans and customers of Thoroughbred racing both in Florida and around the country. In late 2011 and into 2012, we are trying something different. We think this schedule gives the local South Florida horsemen the best opportunity to generate a competitive product while maximizing regional racing opportunities."

Marshall said an overlap of racing dates, which seemed a certainty before the deadline for dates, would have led to a "compromised racing product that would be of little interest to horseplayers across the country. While South Florida racing may one day face this outcome, Calder and CDI would view that approach as a tragedy for the tens of thousands of families that depend on Florida’s horse racing industry to make a living."

“We’re excited to add December to Gulfstream’s existing schedule,” Gulfstream vice president of racing Tim Ritvo said in a statement. “We know this will enhance our stakes schedule and the overall quality of our product. Gulfstream has a history of developing champion 3-year-olds who excel in the Triple Crown. Racing in December will only add to the excitement of racing at Gulfstream Park.

"We also know it is in the best interest of South Florida racing. We want to thank the horsemen for their continued support of our racing product.”

Sam Gordon, president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said he was not aware of any financial arrangements that may have eliminated the plans for overlapping dates.

“Maybe they both realized how costly it would be, and maybe someone blinked,” Gordon said. “We’re glad that both sides took our recommendations and will not race head-to-head.”



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