A group of trainers with horses on the backstretch at Calder Casino & Race Course were told Jan. 2 they have to relocate their stock.
"It's over, and everyone seems to be admitting that it's over," one trainer said the morning of Jan. 2 after Calder officials gave trainers one day to take the remaining 200 horses out of a controversial fenced-in section of its barn area. "We don't have anywhere to go, except maybe the temporary stalls Gulfstream is building on a parking lot here."
The trainer asked to not be identified because of concern about possible retribution from Calder and its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc.
Calder officials had not returned phone calls as of 10:45 a.m. EST. Members of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association were scheduled to meet late in the morning to discuss the situation.
Florida HBPA president Phil Combest and several other horsemen said they expected some trainers will keep horses at Calder even in the face of a final order to leave the premises. That raises the specter of horses being trapped in stalls, possibly without water or electric power, and the question of whether law enforcement might be called on by any of the parties.
Calder early in the morning of Jan. 2 closed all but one of the gates to the fenced-in area. Amid the darkness, that made it difficult for some trainers to find their way to Calder's track for training, and led some to mistakenly believe that the track was closed to them.
CDI has designated the fenced-in area for the start of a commercial redevelopment of certain parts of the property. CDI hasn't released any details on its redevelopment plans.
Early in December Calder told trainers in the fenced-in area they would need to relocate their 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 has built on a parking lot it has leased at Calder.
Jorge Navarro, Steve Klesaris, Edwin Broome, Rosemary Homeister Sr., Pedro Maestre, and Walter Rosas-Canessa are among the trainers with horses in the fenced-in area. Gulfstream July 1 leased 430 Calder stalls through 2020; those horses aren't in the fenced-in area and were permitted to train at Calder Jan. 2.
"I have a lot of empathy for those who are across the road and inside the fence," said trainer Kathleen O'Connell, whose horses are in the Gulfstream-leased permanent stalls. "It's like watching your neighbor's house burn down without being able to do anything about it."
As part of a July 1, 2014, agreement on racing dates, Gulfstream leased 430 stalls at Calder for six years. Calder agreed to keep the remainder of its stalls available for horses through Dec. 31, 2014.
Gulfstream officials told the Florida HBPA Calder had said it would keep those stalls available at least until the spring of 2015. Instead, Calder began putting up the fence Dec.1.