Gulfstream Sets Quarter Horse Race Dec. 31

South Florida track to open Saturday program with 220-yard event for maiden claimers.

Going against a request from Thoroughbred horsemen, Gulfstream Park has scheduled a Quarter Horse event to open its Dec. 31 program, the first such race in the history of the Hallandale Beach, Fla., track.

The Quarter Horse race is the first on a 12-race card that will be followed by 11 Thoroughbred races. According to the Gulfstream entries posted Dec. 28, there are six entrants for a $5,000 maiden claiming race at 220 yards with a $12,000 purse.

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has asked Gulfstream not to run the Quarter Horse race because its contract with Gulfstream does not permit it to hold any races other than for Thoroughbreds through Dec. 31, 2012. Officials of the Florida HBPA were not available for comment late in the afternoon Dec. 28.

Gulfstream has held a Quarter Horse permit for several years. On Dec. 19 the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering issued Gulfstream a Quarter Horse license for two performances.

On Dec. 23, Gulfstream president and general manager Tim Ritvo said the track activated its dormant Quarter Horse permit because it is concerned the Florida legislature in 2012 might revoke any permits, usually for additional types of wagering, that were not active at Florida pari-mutuel facilities.

In a sense, Gulfstream maintained it was in a use-it or lose-it situation for a second permit. That would offer the prospect of increasing its maximum permitted slot machines from 2,000 to 4,000 if it later expands its Quarter Horse racing. Gulfstream has about 850 slot machines.

The scheduling of a traditional Quarter Horse race Dec. 31 alleviated concerns of some Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse industry officials that Gulfstream might use its Quarter Horse permit to hold pari-mutuel barrel racing. Since Dec. 2 Gretna Racing in Gretna, Fla., near Tallahassee has been using a Quarter Horse license to hold a controversial pari-mutuel barrel racing meet.

Gulfstream’s Quarter Horse license requires it to run one race Dec. 31 and one Jan. 1, 2012. Either can be a substitute race with another breed. Track officials said the Jan. 1 race will be a Thoroughbred race as a substitute.

Gulfstream officials were not available for further comment Dec. 28.

The Dec. 31 Quarter Horse race will have two horses that have raced this season at Hialeah Park, which is the only Florida track with conventional Quarter Horse racing. All of the race’s trainers and jockeys are part of Hialeah’s meet that began Dec. 10.

Hialeah general manager Randy Soth said his track advised Gulfstream on the logistics of holding a Quarter Horse race, and noted the two tracks have no agreement on providing horses for the race.

The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association has a purse agreement with Hialeah. That association’s president, Dr. Steven Fisch, said the organization was not contacted by Gulfstream concerning the upcoming race.

“We would like to be part of Quarter Horse racing at Gulfstream, provided it also would help the Thoroughbred horsemen and industry,” Fisch said. “We will not take any actions that would put us in disagreement with the Florida HBPA.”