Rumor That Stronach is Buying Calder Denied

Several Internet sites report that tracks' parent companies have tentative agreement.

Gulfstream Park officials said  April 25 that there is no truth to rumors that its parent The Stronach Group has reached an agreement to buy Calder Casino & Race Course from its parent Churchill Downs Inc.

Earlier on April 25 several Internet sites had reports, not naming sources, that the parent companies reached a tentative agreement for a sale of Calder at a meeting April 24 at The Stronach Group headquarters in Aurora, Ont.

CDI is not commenting on such reports, said Courtney Norris, the company's director of corporate communications.

After reports of the sale began circulating, The Blood-Horse contacted Gulfstream Park, where officials said there was no truth to them.

Bill Carstanjen, CDI's president and chief operating officer, met with Stronach Group officials April 24 on issues that included trying to find a way to call off or otherwise resolve the head-to-head weekend racing that Miami-area neighbors Gulfstream and Calder are scheduled to begin July 6.

"We understand that they plan to meet again after the Kentucky Derby," said Phil Combest, Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association president.

The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) will be run May 4 at Churchill Downs.

The Florida HBPA was not familiar with details of the April 24 meeting.

If The Stronach Group buys Calder, one issue to be resolved is whether CDI could find a way to retain the license for and continue to operate Calder's casino.

A Florida law requires a race track or jai-alai fronton to have a minimum number of pari-mutuel performance days to obtain and retain a casino license. To do that, Calder must have at least 80 race days each year.

Gulfstream, in Hallandale Beach, is eight miles east of Calder in Miami Gardens.

The two tracks are scheduled to have head-to-head racing each Saturday and Sunday from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014.

They set those plans and intensified what some observers are calling a war after they did not  resolve a dispute over racing dates prior to the annual Feb. 28 deadline set by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

The dispute arose because Gulfstream is determined to expand beyond its December through early April racing schedule.

Both tracks have confirmed reports that Gulfstream in February offered to buy some of Calder's 2013-2014 race dates. Calder considered the offers but did not accept them during what its officials said was a short time frame on a complex issue.

If Gulfstream buys Calder or leases its racing business, it would seek to cancel the pending head-to-head racinga  request that the Florida DPMW would undoubtedly find  a way to approve.

In a statement released April 22, the Florida HBPA and Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners Association urged Gulfstream and Calder to settle their differences and find a way to avoid head-to-head racing.

Overlapping dates can drain the local horse population and fragment wagering dollars, making it difficult for the entire industry to prosper, Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling said in the statement.

"It's more than troublesome that this dates overlap crisis distracts from all of our collective efforts to grow Florida's $2.2 billion-a-year Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry," said FTBOA executive director Lonny Powell.

He noted that Florida has been one of the few states to show an increase in foal numbers and that its three Thoroughbred tracks "continue to offer races that consistently feature some of the best competition on the national stage."

Powell added: "To place any of this at risk for a self-inflicted  dates overlap collision course causes us much concern and frustration. History has clearly shown there is no industry upside that comes from an uncooperative and intensely competitive dates battle like we're facing here in South Florida."