Calabrese Splits With Trainer Kirk Ziadie

Owner and trainer end successful partnership that dominated Florida racing.

Owner Frank Carl Calabrese and trainer Kirk Ziadie have ended a high-profile partnership in which they each led in wins at two recent race meets at Calder Casino & Race Course and at the first summer/fall meet at Gulfstream Park.

"Kirk did a good job, but we had some differences of opinion and I fired him," Calabrese said Feb. 16 at Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Calabrese declined further comment on Ziadie, who began training for him in 2012 and had been his exclusive trainer since the spring of 2013. The final race day for the ultra-high percentage Calabrese-Ziadie team was Feb. 8.

"I have gotten calls from several owners and I expect to be back as soon as next week," Ziadie said Feb. 19.

Ziadie, 45, is the son of Ralph Ziadie, who won six training titles at Calder during the 1990s and continues to train at both South Florida tracks. The younger Ziadie was the leading trainer in wins at Tampa Bay Downs in 2005-06. He led trainers in wins during the 2006 and 2007 Tropical-at Calder meets, and the 2007 and 2008 Calder meets.

The trainer said he had been in the hospital for two days earlier in February, and that may have contributed to the break-up with Calabrese. "When I got out I heard that Frank was talking with some other trainers," he said. "I decided it was time to walk away. I will re-group. I have done it before.

"I had a 41% winning percentage and 85% in the money with Frank."

Last year Ziadie told The Blood-Horse: "I'm the best trainer he has ever had. I enjoy working for Frank, and I respect him."

Calabrese, who has about 50 horses at Gulfstream, is using former Ziadie assistant Gamaliel Vazquez as his trainer. Through Feb. 17 Vazquez and Calabrese had one win in seven starts at Gulfstream. They had not run any horses at Calder.

Calabrese said he has not decided on a permanent replacement or replacements for Ziadie.

In addition to his training titles at all three Thoroughbred tracks in Florida, Ziadie is known for his disputes with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering and with tracks over medication violations.

Most notably, Calder banned him from its grounds for almost two years starting in August 2009. In 2009 he appealed a series of Florida DPMW suspensions and fines for medication violations. Calder barred him from its property that August for reasons it did not specify at the time.

Ziadie trained at tracks in Pennsylvania and Maryland before he returned to Florida in 2011 at Gulfstream. Calder reinstated him in September 2011.

Calder officials then said they told him to leave in 2009 because of medication issues and late payments to vendors.

Since 2012 the Florida DPMW has filed 12 administrative complaints against Ziadie on medication issues. Seven have been closed with fines or suspensions. The other cases are under review with no hearings scheduled, according to a Florida DPMW spokeswoman.

Calabrese is known to be hands-on and demanding, and has fired several trainers in Illinois and Florida over the past 25 years. Of that group, Wayne Catalano is best known and has a successful post-Calabrese record. Nick Canani preceded Ziadie as Calabrese's trainer in Florida.

Calabrese is an 84-year-old native of the Chicago area, where he owned a printing business. He sold it in 2004 for what he calls "a very good profit."

He moved his stable to South Florida in 2012. He has won about 20 owners' titles at tracks including Arlington Park and Calder.