The parent companies of Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course reportedly are close to an agreement under which Gulfstream would lease Calder's racing operations and the two South Florida tracks would stop their head-to-head weekend racing.
It is anticipated that Gulfstream's parent company, The Stronach Group of Aurora, Ont., and Calder's parent, Churchill Downs Inc., could announce the deal by the April 26-27 weekend. The deal would require approval by the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which has the purse contracts with both tracks.
On April 22 Gulfstream declined comment, and senior Calder officials could not be reached for comment. Officials of the Florida HBPA said the two tracks have told them an agreement could be pending, but they otherwise declined comment.
Others who are familiar with the negotiations said they understand that an agreement would have these key elements:
—CDI would retain ownership of Calder, including its casino.
—Calder would have racing 40 days a year, the minimum required for annual renewal of its casino license.
—Calder would have racing 10 weeks, probably in the fall, and Gulfstream would race during the other weeks. There would be no overlap.
The Stronach Group, CDI and the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering would determine the timing of schedule changes.
"The word is around that they are talking again, but none of (the horsemen) have seen details yet," Gulfstream-based trainer Henry Collazo said April 22. "You have to expect it will be better than what we have now where nobody is benefiting from (head-to-head racing)."
Collazo and Adam Lazarus, managing partner of Pinnacle Racing Stable, were both at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training April 22 and said there was considerable talk about a possible Gulfstream-Calder deal.
Gulfstream and Calder began head-to-head weekend racing last July and are scheduled to continue that schedule through June 2015. Until the end of this November both are scheduled to race Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
The Stronach Group and CDI have come close several times on deals that would have halted head-to-head racing. Thus there is some skepticism about the latest rumors of a pending deal, said Lazarus, whose stable has its horses at Gulfstream with trainer Bill Kaplan.
One factor this time, Lazarus noted, is that there is widespread concern that field sizes could become an issue for both Gulfstream and Calder in the spring and summer.
Thus far in April, both tracks have had several days with an average of more than eight starters per race. On April 25, the next race day in South Florida, each has eight races with 59 entrants for 7.4 average starters per race.
The main simulcast competitors have these averages, including also-eligibles and main-track-only entrants: Aqueduct Racetrack, 8.3; Keeneland, 11.3 for closing day; and Tampa Bay Downs, 10.3.