South Florida neighbors Calder Casino & Race Course and Gulfstream Park are headed toward another 12 months of head-to-head weekend racing starting this July.
Schedules the tracks set on Feb. 28 had no changes from Calder's preliminary plan, but one significant change from Gulfstream's early submission for the coming fiscal year July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.
Gulfstream will race three days a week, rather than its original plan of four days, during the eight months that are not part of the track's traditional December through March meet.
The expected return of head-to-head racing became official with the deadline for sending the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering final race date selections for the coming year. Florida pari-mutuels annually pick their own race dates, with approvals that are almost automatic from the Florida DPMW.
Gulfstream and Calder began head-to-head racing for the first time last July and will continue that schedule until the end of this June.
Following that, Calder in Miami Gardens, Fla., will have racing Fridays through Sundays every week beginning July 1. That is the schedule it set in a preliminary filing in early January.
Gulfstream, in Hallandale Beach, Fla., on Feb. 27 slightly amended its original filing and will have this schedule:
*January through March 2015—Wednesdays through Sundays.
*July through November 2014, and April through June 2015—Fridays through Sundays.
*December 2014—Thursdays through Sundays.
In its original filing, Gulfstream said it planned to run Wednesdays through Sundays in January, February and March in 2015, and on Fridays through Sundays during the other nine months.
The tweaked plan cuts Gulfstream from four days a week to three during the months that were not part of its schedule until last year. Tim Ritvo, Gulfstream president, said his track did that to help assure that during the summer and fall there would not be an excess of races, combined at Gulfstream and Calder, for the existing horse population in South Florida.
Gulfstream's plan for four-day race weeks was based on an expectation that Calder would not have year-round racing, Ritvo said.
Separately, Gulfstream has asked the Florida DPMW for permission to add Fridays to its race schedule this May and June. It currently is scheduled for just Saturdays and Sundays during those months.
Ritvo and Calder vice president and general manager of racing John Marshall each said the tracks late were close to an agreement a week earlier that would have prevented another 12 months of head-to-head racing. Neither would provide details of that proposed settlement nor discuss reasons the talks did not progress.
But both said the agreement would not have resulted in Gulfstream or its parent, The Stronach Group, buying or leasing any of Calder's operations. Calder is a subsidiary of Churchill Downs Inc.
Both track officials also said their companies are ready to resume negotiations with a goal of reducing or eliminating their dates overlap.
With the Feb. 28 filing date now passed, any changes in dates for 2014-15 season would require Calder or Gulfstream to obtain approvals from the other, as well as from the six other pari-mutuels in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market, and from the Florida DPMW.
The Florida DPMW alone could also approve a schedule change if it determines that it would have a positive economic impact on the two tracks, leading to an increase in state tax payments.
Gulfstream triggered head-to-head racing with its December 2012 announcement that it would have what it calls "year-round racing." It decided to keep its winter meet, with marquee horses and human connections, and add weekends during the other months.
In early 2013, it offered Calder various financial incentives to relinquish some weekend race dates. But negotiations broke down, resulting in the first 12 months of head-to-head racing.