by Tom LaMarra and Jim Freer
Ken Dunn, formerly of Calder Casino & Race Course, has joined the Gulfstream Park management team, the South Florida racetrack announced Nov. 2.
The announcement came two days after Gulfstream said president and general manager Bill Murphy was leaving that post effective Oct. 31. Murphy will assist in the transition before the Gulfstream meet begins in early January.
Dunn was president of Churchill Downs Inc.-owned Calder until April 2008. The release didn’t say what his title will be at Gulfstream.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to return to racing and to contribute to the great racing tradition at Gulfstream Park” Dunn said in a statement. “It is an exciting time for Gulfstream, and the customers can expect a great experience as the Village at Gulfstream Park moves towards completion.”
Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association executive director Kent Stirling said he and Florida HBPA president Sam Gordon met with Dunn and several MEC executives Nov. 2. Stirling said the executives — chairman Frank Stronach, chief executive officer Greg Rayburn, Dennis Mills, and Ron Charles — told him Dunn will be taking over Murphy’s duties.
“They did not specify any titles,” Stirling said.
“We are very disappointed to see Bill Murphy go,” Stirling said. “He would always sit down with us and say, ‘Here are my ideas. What ideas do you have?’ We always felt a part of the process in anything about running the racetrack.
“We always had a good working relationship with Ken Dunn (at Calder), and we look forward to continuing that.”
It's the latest in a sort of "musical chairs" situation at South Florida tracks. Hialeah Park, which is set to reopen in November with Quarter Horse racing after being closed for eight years, has hired former officials from Calder and Gulfstream.
Rayburn, in a statement, said that “with the new meet around the corner, and with the grand opening of our retail center, we are very pleased to have someone with Ken Dunn’s qualifications and reputation to solidify Gulfstream Park as the destination track for winter racing in North America.”
On Oct. 30, MEC, still making its way through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy process that began in March, said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that Stephen McCasey, chief operating officer for East Coast operations, had resigned effective Oct. 28. The filing said McCasey’s employment agreement, dated April 17, 2009, called for a base salary of $200,000 a year.