Gulfstream Park Awaiting Schedule Approval
by Jim Freer
Date Posted: 4/2/2013 12:50:22 PM
Last Updated: 4/3/2013 1:00:12 PM

Photo: Coglianese Photos

Gulfstream Park's request to have racing on Mondays and Tuesdays for 12 weeks this spring is being studied by two Florida regulatory agencies.

And with clocks ticking, the Hallandale Beach, Fla., track is facing the prospect of a rejection or of a lengthy review that could make its request moot.

Gulfstream will end its 2012-13 meet April 5. On March 1 it asked the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering for permission to have racing each Mondays and Tuesdays from April 8 through June 25 this year.

During March the Florida DPMW reviewed Gulfstream's request and the objections that were filed by Calder Casino & Race Coursewhich is locked in a racing dates dispute with Gulfstreamand by  two other pari-mutuel facilities in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

On April 1, the Florida DPMW sent the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings a formal proposal to review the Gulfstream request. That agency will advise the Florida DPMW on whether it should approve or reject the April to June dates for Gulfstream.

The Florida DPMW will base its decision on what it projects the impact of Gulfstream racing would be on the pari-mutuel industry in southeast Florida, and its contributions to state revenue. The two agencies have no timetable for completing their reviews. Based on precedents, the process could take at least several weeks.

Officials at Gulfstream and of Calder declined to comment April 1 on the state regulators' review process.

The two tracks are approaching the July 1 scheduled start of their highly publicized head-to-head racing on weekends. Calder is in Miami Gardens, eight miles west of Gulfstream.

Calder does not have racing scheduled any of the 24 days that Gulfstream is seeking to add this spring. Gulfstream already has released a condition book that begins with the races of April 8 should it recieve approval.

Calder will begin its 2013 season April 6 and has racing on Thursdays through Sundays until June 30. It will then begin 12 months with a Friday-through-Sunday schedule.

Gulfstream is seeking additional days this spring to enable trainers to keep running horses at its track until July 6, when it will begin year-round racing on Saturdays and Sundays, Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo said.

July 6, the first Saturday in that month, will be the start of Gulfstream and Calder racing head-to-head every Saturday and Sunday between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014.

Hialeah Park, which since 2009 has held annual Quarter Horse meets, is among the four southeast Florida pari-mutuel facilities that gave their approval to Gulfstream's request for Monday and Tuesday dates this spring. In its objection, Calder said it believes any additional Gulfstream race days could negatively impact field sizes in southeast Florida.

In its filing, Gulfstream noted that a Florida law requires a Thoroughbred track to have a minimum eight races per performance but sets no minimums for field sizes.

Gulfstream also emphasized its view that Florida would gain additional tax revenue from extra racing days at Gulfstream. It cited data, showing pari-mutuel handle numbers that are historically higher at Gulfstream than at Calder.

Gulfstream traditionally closes its stables and its affiliate Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., within several weeks after it ends its race meet.

If Gulfstream gains approval for extra Mondays and Tuesdays, it would run races with horses that trainers including Peter Walder, Ken McPeek, and Edwin Broome plan to keep at Gulfstream year-round rather than sending them back to tracks in northern states.

Gulfstream also is talking with some Calder-based trainers who would move their horses to Gulfstream by July, or sooner if Gulfstream receives approval on its April to June dates request.

Trainers David Fawkes and Jose Garoffalo have said they are ready to move from Calder to Gulfstream. Several other trainers have told The Blood-Horse they expect to relocate to Gulfstream by this July, but have asked not be identified until they move.

Bringing in trainers and their horses is essential for Gulfstream. About 40% of the horses that run in Gulfstream's meets from December through early April are stabled at Calder.

After this April 5, Calder will have a policy of not letting a horse back on its property if it is sent to run in a race at Gulfstream.

John Marshall, Calder's vice president and general manager of racing, said exceptions will be made in advance if a horse runs in a Gulfstream race under a condition that is not available several days before or after at Calder.

Palm Meadows has 1,400 stalls and Gulfstream has 900 stalls.

Gulfstream will add several hundred stalls by this summer and is preparing for more expansion there and possibly at Palm Meadows, Ritvo said.



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