The Smile Sprint Handicap during Calder's Summit of Speed meet.

The Smile Sprint Handicap during Calder's Summit of Speed meet.

Coady Photography

Mixed Bag as Florida Tracks Go Head-to-Head

Calder, Gulfstream both claim some wagering success during July 6-7 overlap.

The first weekend showdown between Calder Casino & Race Course and Gulfstream Park had both tracks claiming some wagering success.

The racetracks, located about eight miles apart, raced head-to-head July 6-7 after failing to strike a deal on summer racing dates.

The weekend generated more pari-mutuel handle than some doomsayers expected, perhaps because of novelty and a big stakes day at Calder. It also provided evidence of the national attraction of the Gulfstream brand.

A review of Equibase charts for July 6 showed Calder with an all-sources handle of just over $4 million for 11 races. The last six Calder races were stakes, including four graded stakes.

Gulfstream on July 6 had eight races with no stakes. It had an all-sources handle of $2,153,818; on-track handle on live races was $113,925.

For its first eight races, including two stakes, Calder's all-sources handle was just under $2.1 million. That put the two tracks about even through the first eight races on one of Calder's biggest programs of the year.

Both tracks had eight races and no stakes July 7. Gulfstream reported an all-sources handle of $2,116,397, with $90,101 bet on-track on its races. A review of Equibase charts showed Calder with an all-sources handle of about $975,000.

"We are very pleased with the results of our first weekend of summer racing," Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo said. "Fans around the country showed their interest in the Gulfstream brand, even when it was not our winter racing season. As expected, we started to show the benefits that year-round racing at Gulfstream can provide for Florida racing and for the state of Florida."

Calder officials said July 6 they were pleased with their overall handle and with about $2.1 million in wagering on their four graded stakes. In 2012 Calder had an all-sources handle of about $4.5 million for 12 races on Summit of Speed day. Track officials were not available for comment July 7. The Calder July 7 handle, however, was 7% higher than the $915,000 wagered Sunday, June 30the last weekend day prior to head-to-head racing.

Gulfstream and Calder are carrying each other's simulcast signals. It appeared that many fans at Calder were betting Gulfstream races as part of their wagering menu and vice versa.

First post time is 12:50 p.m. EDT at each track. Calder races generally went off about two minutes before Gulfstream races July 6-7.

On July 7 Calder had 60 entrants and 55 horses ran in its eight races. Gulfstream had 57 entrants and 50 starters for the same number of races.

There are about 1,900 horses at the two tracks. Prior to July 6 there were about 650 horses at Gulfstream, with the remainder at Calder. Gulfstream expects that trainers will move additional horses from Calder prior to July 13.

Gulfstream is permitting trainers to race horses at Calder and then have them return to train at Gulfstream. With specified exceptions, Calder is barring the return of horses that ship to Gulfstream for a race.

In addition to other racing days, Gulfstream and Calder are scheduled to race every Saturday and Sunday through June 2014. Ritvo said The Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream, is ready to resume talks with Calder owner Churchill Downs Inc. with a goal of eliminating or reducing the number of head-to-head racing days.

Meanwhile, Gulfstream has applied to the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association to be the site of the Florida Stallion Stakes series in 2014. Calder has held the six stakes for 2-year-olds since the series began in 1982, and has applied to hold those races in 2014.