Gulfstream Park plans to build an additional 200 temporary stalls for horses that are facing eviction from the stables at neighboring Calder Casino & Race Course, officials of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said Jan. 2.
Construction could begin Jan. 4 on stalls at Calder--on vacant land in the area between the backstretch of its track and its northern boundary of Countyline Road.
Gulfstream leased that land last July 1, said Florida HBPA president Phil Combest. The lease is part of an agreement that the two tracks signed primarily to end the head-to-head weekend racing they held from July 2013 to June 2014.
Because of the lease there are expectations that Calder and its parent company Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) will not be able to prevent construction of the stalls, said Gulfstream-based trainer Carlo Vaccarezza, a Florida HPBA board member.
Gulfstream's decision to build the additional temporary stalls came late in the afternoon of a day that began with what some trainers regarded as a final order to take the remaining horses out of a recently fenced-in area of Calder's backside.
"They (Calder) said we have one more day," said a trainer who has several horses in the fenced-in area. "We don't have anywhere to go, except maybe the temporary stalls Gulfstream is building on a parking lot here."
The trainer spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Calder officials did not return phone calls and Gulfstream officials declined to comment on the Calder stall situation.
CDI has designated the fenced-in area for the start of a commercial redevelopment of certain parts of the property in Miami Gardens, Fla. Louisville, Ky.-based CDI has not released any details on its redevelopment plans.
Early last month, Calder told trainers in the fenced-in area that they would need to take horses out of Calder by Jan. 1.
There were approximately 700 horses in the area when Calder began putting up the fence. About 200 horses have been moved to temporary stalls that Gulfstream Park has built on a parking lot it has leased at Calder. There also have been some sales of horses to owners in other states and moves to other training centers in Florida.
Jorge Navarro, Steve Klesaris, Edwin Broome, Rosemary Homeister Sr., Pedro Maestre, and Walter Rosas-Canessa are among trainers with horses in the fenced-in area.
Gulfstream has economic incentive for making sure that horses remain in South Florida.
Again this season, horses training at Calder make up more than one third of the fields in many races at Gulfstream--in Hallandale Beach, Fla., and eight miles east of Calder.
Gulfstream last July 1 leased 430 Calder stalls through 2020. The horses in those stalls are not fenced in.
In the deal, Calder said it would keep the remainder of its stalls available for horses through Dec. 31, 2014.
During the late months of 2014, Gulfstream told the Florida HBPA that Calder was saying it would keep those stalls open at least until the spring of 2015.
Instead, Calder began putting up the fence. The result is that about 400 Thoroughbreds probably will spend the winter in stalls with wood sidings and canvas tops.
Trainers are concerned about the safety of horses, especially in the parking lot, but also realize that the temporary stalls might be the only alternative to being stall-less.