Eliot Schechter

Hialeah to Include Thoroughbred Simulcasts

The track will show and take bets on the full cards of Gulfstream and nine others

Hialeah Park will open its third Quarter Horse racing meet Dec. 10, and unlike its first two seasons it will include Thoroughbred simulcasts.

The Hialeah, Fla., track will show and take bets on the full cards of neighboring Gulfstream Park and of nine of the Thoroughbred tracks that Gulfstream imports. Under Florida law, Hialeah during its current meet can take those Thoroughbred signals only if it has an agreement with Gulfstream and with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
The three parties signed the agreement Dec. 2. None would provide details on the split of revenues on simulcasts at Hialeah. Randy Soth, Hialeah’s general manager, and Kent Stirling, executive director of the FHBPA, each said they felt that the terms are favorable to Gulfstream and the FHBPA.
On Florida Thoroughbred tracks’ intra-state signal transmissions that do not require a special agreement, the standard division of net handle proceeds at the guest track is one-third each for the host track, guest track, and race purses.
Gulfstream officials were not available for comment.
“We feel and they (Gulfstream) seem to agree with us that there a lot of people who live in our market and do not go Gulfstream but would come to Hialeah if we had simulcasting,” Soth said.
Gulfstream, in Hallandale Beach, is about 16 miles from Hialeah Park by the most direct route—which goes partly through congested traffic areas in Miami-Dade County.
John Brunetti, Gulfstream’s chairman and owner, declined to be interviewed for this story.
Hialeah will have Quarter Horse racing on 32 dates through Feb, 19, mostly on Fridays through Sundays. First post time will be 1:15 p.m. EST each day, with stakes races on Saturdays and some Sundays.
Hialeah has not had a Thoroughbred racing permit since 2003, and has not had Thoroughbred racing since 2001. It stopped running after Florida deregulated its racing dates—a situation that would have forced Hialeah to race head-to-head with Gulfstream or with Calder Casino & Race Course. Hialeah obtained a Quarter Horse permit in 2009.
By running Quarter Horse meets, Hialeah under terms of a 2010 Florida law, is eligible for a casino with Las Vegas-style slot machines.
However, in a suit in Florida courts, Calder and two other southeast Florida pari-mutuels maintain that the 2010 law’s provision on a Hialeah casino is in violation of the Florida constitution.
A circuit court and then an appeals court, both in Tallahassee, have ruled in favor of Hialeah. Calder and its co-plaintiffs have appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Florida, which has not determined whether it will hear it and review the appeals court’s ruling that was issued Oct. 6, 2011.
On Sept. 9, Hialeah announced plans for a $150 million casino that it hopes to open in November 2012. It has renovations underway on its existing building’s grandstand area, which would join a planned adjacent building as the casino site.
Hialeah Racing Season
As in its first two meets, Hialeah’s purse agreement is with the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association. Hialeah will pay average daily purses of $120,000, with most days having between eight and 10 races.
“Most of last year’s leading jockeys and trainers are back, and we will have more of the top outfits and jockeys,” Soth said. “The Quarter Horse people like coming to Hialeah, and as we keep running our meets, the quality will keep improving.”
Most of the 800 horses at Hialeah were bred in western states, with trainers in from Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. There will be more Florida-breds than in the two previous meets and more restricted races for them, Soth said.
Hialeah is the first Florida track with Quarter Horse racing since 1991. Soth said the Florida QHRA hopes Hialeah’s meets will provide incentives in Florida for breeding Quarter Horses for racing.
A Blood-Horse review of Equibase charts shows Hialeah’s average all-sources handle was about $17,000 per race in 2009-2010 and about $20,000 in 2010-2011.
Soth said he expects an increase in 2011-2012, but is not projecting how much. He expects part of the increase will be from fans that come to Hialeah for Thoroughbred simulcasts, and also want to bet on some live races.
Under its Quarter Horse permit, Hialeah can hold a mixed meet with up to half its races as Thoroughbred races. It has not scheduled any Thoroughbred races for 2011-2012.
A Florida pari-mutuel within 25 miles of a Thoroughbred track that is holding a meet can take the signal of that track and its pre-6 p.m. ET import signals only with a written agreement from that track. Hialeah’s agreement is for simulcasts on Wednesdays through Sundays through the end of Gulfstream’s meet on April 8. Hialeah will have simulcasts for the full cards of all available tracks.
In addition to Gulfstream, the line-up is: Aqueduct, Tampa Bay Downs, Parx Racing, Hawthorne, Fair Grounds, Turf Paradise, and Sunland Park. Hialeah also will carry Hollywood Park and then Santa Anita after the Dec. 26 shift in Southern California.
Hialeah will send its signal to more than 360 outlets, including tracks in several states and numerous ADWs, said Pete Aiello, its track announcer and director of simulcasting. For the first time, TVG will carry Hialeah Quarter Horse races.
Casino Lawsuit
Calder and its co-plaintiffs, Greyhound track Magic City Casino and Miami Jai-Alai, maintain that Hialeah cannot have a casino because it is not among pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that are eligible under a referendum that statewide voters passed in 2004 and follow-up votes in the two counties.
They have asked the courts to rule in favor of that constitutional amendment, rather than a provision in the 2010 law that authorizes a Hialeah casino. The two lower courts determined that the Florida legislature has authority to approve expansion of gaming and ruled that voters in 2004 did not expressly limit casinos to just two Florida counties.
In most instances, the Supreme Court of Florida does not take up a case in which one side has won in two lower courts.
If that court conducts an appeal it likely would require at least several months before issuing a ruling, said Michael Olin, an attorney who represents Magic City Casino and Miami Jai-Alai.
A ruling in favor of Hialeah would be almost universally interpreted as permission for its casino. But Olin said either side could consider an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or that some opponents could start a challenge using other issues, on which he would not elaborate.
The suit is attracting considerable attention because there is a widespread view that a victory by Hialeah would enable Florida counties to hold votes on permitting casinos without authorization by the legislature or from a statewide referendum.