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HBPA Weighs In on Gulfstream-Calder Plan

Horsemen submitted recommendations to Gulfstream Park, but are awaiting word.

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said May 9 it has given Gulfstream Park recommendations regarding a Gulfstream plan for ending head-to-head weekend racing with neighboring Calder Casino & Race Course.

Gulfstream and Calder, along with their parent companies, reached a tentative agreement on the plan in late April. It reportedly would halt head-to-head racing by this fall.

On April 28 Gulfstream presented the plan to the Florida HPBA board of directors. The Florida HBPA said the resolution it sent to Gulfstream includes its views on a Gulfstream-Calder proposal that would cut from 12% to 10% the amount of Calder's pre-tax slot machine revenue earmarked for race purses at Calder. A review of Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel data indicates the change would reduce the annual purse contribution from about $8 million to $6.5 million.

Gulfstream officials were not readily available for comment May 9.

Gulfstream, however, earlier confirmed this framework for the proposal: Gulfstream and its parent company, The Stronach Group, would lease part of Calder's operations from Churchill Downs Inc.; CDI would retain ownership of Calder, including its casino; and Calder would have racing 40 days, probably in the fall, with Gulfstream racing the other weeks. There would be no overlap.

The two South Florida tracks began head-to-head weekend racing in July 2013 and are scheduled to continue it through June 2015.

The Gulfstream-Calder agreement and changes in dates also would require approval from the Florida DPMW.

In a May 9 statement Phil Combest, president of the Florida HBPA, said the group's board of directors met the preceding evening in a "lively three-hour session" that ended at about 8 p.m. EDT.

"Near the end, a vote was taken and passed unanimously on a formal resolution which addressed all the points of contention between the Florida HBPA and Gulfstream Park," Combest said. "During the meeting, all points were considered and some compromises were agreed to. In the end, that resulted in a document which should bring a conclusion to the logjam between the horsemen and Gulfstream.

"The resolution was enthusiastically endorsed by the entire board as being a document which takes into consideration all of Gulfstream's stated concerns. This includes the controversial 2% reduction in slots revenue to purses at Calder. At the conclusion of the meeting, the resolution was immediately e-mailed to Gulfstream management.

"I have to believe we're closer to an agreement than we've ever been. No question it's not a perfect document, but it's a document which allows racing to continue and grow in South Florida and is acceptable to the horsemen. We're anticipating that Gulfstream will agree. However, as of (noon May 9), I haven't heard anything back from them."