Gulfstream-Calder Overlap to Continue for Now

Gulfstream-Calder Overlap to Continue for Now
Photo: Coglianese Photos
The first day of the Gulfstream summer meet is July 1.

Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course are heading into the June 27-29 weekend they hoped would be their last with head-to-head racing.

But any schedule changes in South Florida will have to wait at least a week and possibly longer. As of June 26 state regulators were still reviewing the tracks' agreement that would have Calder racing in October and November and Gulfstream racing the remainder of each year through 2020. There would be no overlap.

Gulfstream and Calder are making schedule changes in anticipation that regulators by early July will approve their agreement. Meanwhile they are getting word out to horsemen and fans that Calder will have racing the July 4-6 weekend.

As of June 26 Calder had not released a condition book beyond June 29. It is anticipated that Calder will announce June 27 that it will have racing the holiday weekend. Within several days, Calder expects to release a condition book for July, according to track officials.

Gulfstream has been scheduled to race Fridays through Sundays from July through September. Track president Tim Ritvo said Gulfstream would like to add Thursdays for those months if Calder goes dark; the first day of the Gulfstream summer meet is July 1.

The Calder-Gulfstream agreement needs approval by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. There have been reports that the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the parent of the Florida DPMW, is seeking additional information.

Officials at Gulfstream, Calder, and the Florida DPMW declined to comment on the negotiations.

A Thoroughbred industry official, who asked not to be identified, said he has learned that because of the significance of the Calder-Gulfstream deal, some Florida DBPR lawyers and other officials are spending more time than usual on an issue involving pari-mutuel racing.

The official said the focus of the expanded regulatory review includes the tracks' unprecedented plan for Gulfstream to lease Calder's racing operation and for Calder's parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., to own Calder and continue to operate its slot-machine casino. CDI announced May 28 that it and The Stronach Group, Gulfstream's owner, have a binding agreement for the lease, for which they have not yet disclosed a price.

If Florida regulators approve the Gulfstream-Calder deal, it likely would take at least a week for other steps that would be necessary for Calder to cancel racing dates. The two tracks, located just eight miles apart, would need to sign a contract and then send the Florida DPMW notices that they intend to change some racing dates.

The six other pari-mutuel operations within a 50-mile radius of the two tracks would need to give approvals. The Florida DPMW could override any objections if it believes the change would produce economic benefits for Florida.

It is expected the regulator will take that step based on expectations that Gulfstream's pari-mutuel handle and tax payments would grow if it did not have Calder running the same days. The two tracks have been racing head-to-head on weekends since July 2013. Both have schedules that include racing Fridays through Sundays until the end of June 2015.

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