FHBPA Asked to Review Gulfstream-Calder Plan

FHBPA Asked to Review Gulfstream-Calder Plan
Photo: Coglianese Photos

Gulfstream Park asked the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association on April 28 to review a plan for Gulfstream to lease the racing operations of Calder Casino & Race Course and end the head-to-head weekend racing at the Miami area tracks.

 
Both tracks have declined requests for comments since last week, when reports started circulating that they are close to an agreement. (Read that story here.)
 
A deal would require approval by the Florida HBPA, which has the purse contracts with both tracks, and from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.  
 
A spokesman for Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering said April 29 that neither track had sent it any requests regarding leasing or changes in racing dates.
 
Several sources other than the Florida HBPA said the tracks and their parent companies have an agreement for the following: 
 
—Gulfstream and its parent Stronach Group would lease part of Calder's operations from Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI);    
 
—CDI would retain ownership of Calder, including its casino; and
 
—Calder would have racing 40 days, probably in the fall, and Gulfstream would race during the other weeks. There would be no overlap.
 
On April 29, Florida HBPA president Phil Combest said, "On Monday night, (Gulfstream president) Tim Ritvo made an excellent, well-received presentation to the FHBPA board of directors, in which he outlined the plan which Gulfstream proposes going forward for South Florida racing. This plan was reached after many months of negotiations with CDI, owner of Calder Race Course.
 
"To finalize their plans, Gulfstream Park and CDI need an agreement with the FHBPA on certain key issues. 
 
"Prior to the Monday meeting, the (Florida HBPA) board had already decided not to force a vote on these issues immediately after Ritvo's presentation. There is another board meeting scheduled late next week and it's possible a vote will be taken then. In the meantime, board members will have the time to carefully consider all elements of Ritvo's proposal and its long-term implications.
 
"There are at least a couple areas of considerable concern."  
 
Combest declined to identify any of those issues.
 
If the horsemen's group and the Florida Department of Pari-Mutuel Wagering approve any changes, it likely would take several months to implement them.
 
Gulfstream and Calder began head-to-head weekend racing last July and are scheduled to continue that competition through June 2015. Until the end of this November both are scheduled to race Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  Gulfstream will add Thursdays in December and add Wednesdays for next January through March--the biggest months in its winter racing season.
 
The Stronach Group and CDI have come close several times on agreements that would have halted head-to-head racing.  Deals fell through for reasons that included pricing and splits of revenues from simulcasting and advance-deposit wagering.

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