Calder Believes Dates Overlap Will Be Avoided

Calder Believes Dates Overlap Will Be Avoided
Photo: Coady Photography
Calder Race Course

Calder Casino & Race Course is optimistic it will strike a deal with Gulfstream Park to call off the head-to-head weekend racing they are scheduled to begin in July, Calder vice president and general manager John Marshall said June 2.

Marshall also said any agreement on the two southeast Florida tracks' racing dates for the July 2013-June 2014 period will not include a sale or lease of any of Calder's racing operations or property.

In late May there were expectations Gulfstream and its parent company, The Stronach Group, would soon announce an agreement to lease Calder's racing operations, including its stable area. Under such an arrangement, some Calder dates would have moved to Gulfstream starting this July.

Gulfstream officials said June 3 they won't comment on the issue until there is an agreement or a failure to reach an agreement to stop head-to-head racing.

When asked if Calder could transfer some racing dates to Gulfstream without a sale or lease, Marshall said there are "several options." He would not provide details, including the amount of money Calder might receive for relinquishing some dates.

Marshall said it is possible Gulfstream might take over administration of the 1,800-stall Calder barn area without leasing it.

"We are hopeful and we believe (Gulfstream) is hopeful that we will have an agreement that will allow both tracks to have racing and co-exist, and it will be beneficial to the horsemen," Marshall said.

Gulfstream, in Hallandale Beach, and Calder, in Miami Gardens, are located about eight miles apart.

Following a breakdown in negotiations on selecting dates earlier this year, both tracks are scheduled to have racing each Saturday and Sunday between July 2013 and June 2014. Marshall said Calder and parent company Churchill Downs Inc. believe it is most likely there will be an agreement that does not include head-to-head racing. It also is possible there could be some weekends with head-to-head racing, he said.

Marshall said the least likely outcome of recent talks is "no agreement" and head-to-head racing as now scheduled.

Marshall said Calder believes the two racetracks have to reach an agreement "probably around June 20" to have time to gain regulatory approvals to call off the early July weekends of head-to-head racing. Gulfstream, which is determined to expand its schedule, and Calder are in effect using their year-round racing plans as negotiating tactics.

There is a consensus view that there are not enough horses and not enough patron interest for either track to be profitable with head-to-head racing–except for Gulfstream during its regular December-through-early April meet.

Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo and Marshall have scheduled a meeting June 5 with the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board of directors. Marshall said he hopes he and Ritvo will be able to present an overview of a racing dates agreement, and talk about "how the horsemen can work with us to make sure it is beneficial to everyone in Florida racing."

That indicates Calder and Gulfstream could announce an agreement June 6 or June 7.

Florida HBPA president Phil Combest said discussion on a 2013 Calder-Florida HBPA purse contract also will be part of the June 5 meeting.

Calder season opened its 2013 season April 6.Through June 2, Calder and the Florida HBPA operated under an extension of their 2012 contract.

The Florida HBPA has not signed a contract because Calder has not agreed to what the horsemen call "open access" if it runs head-to-head with Gulfstream. Under open access, if a Calder trainer vans a horse to race at Gulfstream, Calder would agree to let the horse return to its stable. Gulfstream has agreed to provide the open access the Florida HBPA is seeking.

As part of the federal Interstate Horse Racing Act, a horsemen's association that does not have a contract can prevent a track from sending its simulcast signal to tracks and other wagering outlets in other states. From May 2-5, the Florida HBPA withdrew its permission for Calder to export its signal, but on May 9 the contract was extended through June 2.

Calder's next race day is June 6. If a racing dates agreement is not reached by then, Combest and Marshall anticipate the Florida HBPA and Calder will sign another extension of the 2012 purse contract.

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